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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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I’ve Been Afraid To Run

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I had my first good run in over two months. It was only 3.2 miles, but the weather was perfect and I felt great.

On March 30th, I ran 12.2 miles. It was a horrible run – I couldn’t breathe well from the beginning of the run. We’d just gotten back from a week of vacation in Mexico and I’d done 27 miles in the past five days. It was my third to last week of training before the Boston Marathon and I was planning on capping off a heavy week with a 15+ miles. After 12.2 miles, covered in a snail like pace of over 2:42:00, I called it quits. When I got home, I laid down on the ground to stretch and immediately couldn’t breathe. As in – not at all – zero oxygen getting in. After 15 seconds, I panicked and realized that if I didn’t figure out what was going on in the next 30 seconds I was going to be in serious trouble. I sat up and managed to choke down some air. After stabilizing, I told Amy what was going on. She tossed me in the car and drove me to urgent care, where I learned about bronco spasms and what a nebulizer was.

I took a week of antibiotics and tried again for a short run the following Saturday. I covered 3.2 miles (same as today) but couldn’t breath and my HR was at 170 within two miles. Crazy. I decided not to run the Boston Marathon (in two weeks) and began what turned into a bizarre and scary three weeks of investigation into all the things that could be wrong.

All the bad, scary tests came back negative. No cancer. No heart muscle damage. No pulmonary embolism. No lung impairment. After ten days on prednisone, I could breathe better but felt completely like shit. Every night I woke up after a few hours of sleep in a swimming pool of my own sweat. It got so bad that Amy put a garbage back under my sheet so I wouldn’t ruin the mattress.

I ran eight times in May – never more than 4 miles. Most of the runs were tentative – slow and careful. None felt normal. None were satisfying, except the four mile one in Tucson during our week off the grid. My weight went from 205 (before all of this) to 200 after the prednisone to 214 this morning. Clearly I was not finding any sort of physical equilibrium.

Today felt right. After two miles, it occurred to me that I wasn’t thinking about my breathing for the first time on a run since my shitty 12.2 mile run. I was just running, enjoying the morning, and smiling at the sunshine. I wasn’t scared of dying on my run anymore. I felt normal again. Well – as normal as I ever feel. Finally.

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