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  • Writer's pictureKatie Brown

How to handle pulling out of an sporting event due to illness…

Last Sunday I had to make the tough decision not to start Rutland Swim; I’d been feeling unwell for a few days on the run-up and just blamed work stress/pre-event nerves. Then on the day of the event, my 4am alarm went off and I lay in bed feeling hideous. My head was pounding and my throat was sore, I decided to get up, throw on some clothes, take a couple of paracetamol and hoped for the best.

On the journey to Rutland Water, I started to feel sick and dizzy, I considered if it might be nerves and tiredness or my mind playing tricks on me. I was still determined to take on the event, I headed over to registration and collected my timer, swim hat and kit bag. We then took a short stroll to look over at the choppy water, realization dawned on me that actually, it wasn’t the right choice.

I was quietly relieved, as much as I love open water swimming and that feeling of complete peace and freedom it brings me, I knew it wasn’t worth the risk…

I watched G walk onto Rutland Belle (with this event you take a boat ride across to the start line) and then I took myself for a gentle walk to consider the situation and my choice. After 10 minutes I was feeling overwhelmed with feelings of weariness and complete lack of energy. I watched the boat in the distance and accepted the feelings of disappointment, I’m only human and I need to allow myself to feel like this from time to time.

With sport, there are times when you can just push through, for example, if it’s a running event and you start to feel unwell, there’s always the option to walk or pull out. With open water swimming, I was putting myself in danger by attempting to take on a challenge in ill health. I was fully aware that there would be people on the course that could help me, but my fear was that this would undo my confidence in the sport. Plus it would cause unnecessary drama and potentially hold up volunteers, who might be needed for a genuine emergency.

After a brief snooze in the car, I waited at the finish line for G and let me tell you this if you ever want a boost? Watch people finish a sporting event, the looks of joy and accomplishment are so uplifting, even more so when the person you’re waiting for arrives (having set a PB no less). I quickly remembered that it’s not about the cost of entering the race, it’s not about the training or the kit, it’s about remembering that there’s always another chance. Sure, the event might be a one-off or impossible to defer for a future event. But, what’s more important – Your health or a medal? I know what I’d choose.

How to handle pulling out of an event due to illness…

  1. If you know in advance, contact the event organizer and ask to defer to a future event if possible.

  2. Should you find yourself feeling unwell on the run-up, make rest an absolute priority, chances are you might be able to recover in time – Most viruses are 24-72 hours.

  3. Accept that actually, you can do “anything” but not everything.

  4. Trust your instinct, only you know how you really feel and a “Did not start” is not the end of the world, I promise you, it really isn’t.

  5. Set another goal, then use the time and between events to focus on better health and improved performance.


Onwards and upwards my friends!



how to handle pulling out of an event due to illness
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