The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of self-reported infectious episodes (IE) during 3 weeks before (pre-IE) and 3 weeks after (post-IE) a marathon race and relate these figures to training status, running time, socioeconomic and demographic factors. Two questionnaires, including questions about important factors for IE incidence, were given to a representative cohort of 1694 runners (17% of all finishers) in the Stockholm Marathon 2000.
Pre-IE incidence in the cohort was 17% with no difference between women and men. Post-IE incidence in the whole cohort was 19% with no significant (P>0.05) difference between women and men. The post-IE incidence in runners without a pre-IE was 16% (P>0.05 to pre-IE incidence). In the group of runners with pre-IE, 33% experienced an IE after the race also (P<0.05 to Pre-IE incidence). A logistic regression analysis showed that younger age and pre race health status and, for men only, experienced nausea during and after the race were depended factors explaining post-IE incidence. Younger runners were more prone to experience IE both before and after the race. There was no relation between training volume 6 months before the race, finishing time and socioeconomic and demographic factors and pre-IE or post-IE.
This study does not support the theory of increased infection rate after exhaustive long-distance running (“The Open Window Theory”) in recreational runners, but suggests that the sometimes experienced increased rate of infections among athletes can be caused by strenuous exercise too soon after an infection.