No Category selected Running and donating blood – is it in you to give?

    Running and donating blood – is it in you to give?


    I’ve been a blood donor for longer than I’ve been a runner.   I am told most folks don’t really feel any different after donating, but for as long as I have been donating, the morning after I have always been thirsty, and reaching for the top shelf of the pantry could produce a “head rush” like bolting upright from a lying position while bursting into an operetta.

    According to my conversations with clinic nurses, when you’re first “down a pint” you are dehydrated, which explains the thirst and head rushes.  You have to focus on fluid intake, but general blood volume returns to normal within a few days.  However, your blood is essentially diluted because your volume of red blood cells is not replenished for several weeks.  Red blood cells are those fabulous vessels that transport oxygen around your body, so you can see why you’d want them; having full blood volume without all of your red blood cells would be a bit like having a complete subway system without enough trains during rush hour.

    In talking with other runners, I’ve heard quite a variety of experiences, from one extreme where they didn’t notice anything at all, to the other where they’ve stopped donating completely while in training.

    My personal experience is that for a day or two after a donation, I feel lousy when I try to run.  After that, I don’t feel bad as such, but my level of effort to maintain the same pace is much higher.  When I am running at easy pace, it feels more like moderate pace.  Anything harder than easy pace and my legs start to feel like they’ve been filled with cement.  When I get into the really intense work, my lungs feel like sieves – unlike when I have asthma symptoms, I feel like I am still able to take big, robust breaths, I just feel like I am not getting anything out of them.

    However, this gradually gets better over time, so that in about 2 weeks, I am always back to my old self (your mileage may vary).

    Whether or not to donate blood is a very personal decision, and I would never judge anyone for their choice.  However, it is worth noting that according to Canadian Blood Services, someone in Canada needs blood approximately once every minute, and 52% of Canadians say they or a family member have needed blood or blood products for some sort of medical treatment .

    Giving blood is important to me, and not just because they feed me cookies (although that’s a big part of it). As a member of that not-so-elite 52%, I just happen to have first-hand knowledge of the life-saving power of my donation.  It doesn’t conflict with my training; I just make a point of knowing the affects of the donation for me, personally, so that I can time my trips to the clinic accordingly.  I joke with my husband that I am getting a 2-week period of “altitude training” without the expense and hassle of flying somewhere for it!

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    A runner for just over four years, Karen has already completed a marathon, two half marathons and a variety of 5k and 10k races. She describes her first marathon - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September - as "a nightmare." However, she met a very interesting person in the process - a man named Sydney who was running his 152nd marathon! Although the race didn't go as well as planned for Karen or Sydney, he showed her that no matter how experienced a runner you are, you can still have a bad day. "Does that mean we shouldn't bother to prepare, or maybe just shouldn't bother at all? Of course not!" says Karen. "In the end, it is what we make it." We like her optimism!


    1. Mark – thanks for sharing that. I have been deferred for iron a few times myself, and have known others who adjust frequency for the same reason. Low iron doesn’t feel good!

    2. Karen,

      You know all too well what my situation is and how much it means to me every time someone I know makes the effort to save lives by donating blood. Without people like you, people like me would not exist. Even knowing it will mess up your training for a week or two you still give and that to me is an amazing thing. Thanks for being so selfless and giving even when it hampers your running now and then.

      I think most people who do not donate – stay away due to fear. Those people I try to encourage… it is no more painful or scary than a normal draw of blood at the labs… it is just the volume of blood taken that is different. However no matter the volume difference, they do not take any more than is safe to do and they make sure you are fine before letting you leave.

      I encourage everyone to donate, even just once – to see what it is like. Saving lives, being a hero by blood donation is easy to do 😀

    3. Jayde – not quite the same as the lab – the clinic has gooshy chairs, TV, cookies and juice, and they treat you like a rockstar 😀

      Doonst – thanks for taking the time to figure that out and continuing to give!

    4. hahahaha nope not the same at all , I am jealous! I give blood every few days and I never get comfy chairs, cookies and juice! I get treated pretty well though, depending on who is working so that is something right?


    5. I used to give regularly, but a few years ago started to develop health issues that prevent me from going back (like Mark, but with other consequences). I’m on regular iron therapy now, but they reject me simply because of that. I wish I could go back because I know so many healthy people simply choose not to.

      My husband has had to decrease his frequency to every three months, and that works well for him.

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