Migraines and Running

The first time I experienced a migraine with aura, I thought I was dying (or at the very least, having a stroke).  By now it’s happened often enough that I know what to expect, but it still scares the sh*t out of me. Tuesday morning started off well – I woke up at 5:30am to run with a friend, worked on the weekly newsletter for my CSA, and had a really productive afternoon at work. Around 4:45pm, I was in the middle of sending out an email when my keyboard started to look like this:


About 20% of people who get migraines also experience an “aura” before the headache begins. Doesn’t that sound kind of freaky and new-agey? My aura usually involves scotomas or blind spots. They come on suddenly and last for about 30-45 minutes. And then the headache pain begins. Once the visual disturbances start, I have to stop whatever I’m doing (typing or reading is impossible) and lie down in a dark, quiet, cool place. It’s really scary (I always think I’m going blind or something) and it totally ruins my day. I can forget about running for at least 24 hours.

Luckily I didn’t have any plans for Tuesday evening and was able to sleep and eat 1/2 pint of this:

Sweet Scoops Coffee with Cookie & Cream – soo good! It’s frozen yogurt so it’s a bit less calorie dense than ice cream, but whoaa it tastes just as good as Ben and Jerry’s. Promise.

I still don’t know what triggers my migraines. This is an exceptionally stress-free week at work, I didn’t eat anything out of the ordinary, I’ve been sleeping well night…it’s very frustrating. After the aura and pain, comes the migraine aftermath (called the post-drome) where I feel drained and sort of hungover. Even though I wasn’t feeling quite myself, I thought an easy run might make me feel better. I logged 8 miles in Central Park on Wednesday night and while it wasn’t awesome, it made me feel semi-functional again.

I felt almost back to normal on Thursday, so I decided I would attempt the evening tempo workout with my running club.

  • 1.5 mile warm-up
  • 6.5 mile “horseshoe” workout
  • 1.5 mile cool-down
  • Total: 9.5 miles – not bad for a work night!

The tempo began at w. 72nd street. From there, we run up the West side, through the 102nd st transverse, and down the East Side. At the 3.25 mile mark (near Cleopatra’s Needle a.k.a. the Obelisk), we turned around and picked up the pace about ~25 seconds per mile. It “sort of” looks like a horseshoe – on a map – that’s where the name comes from!



My workout buddy and I kept things comfortable-ish on the first half and then pushed it on the way back. Unlike Saturday where I felt like I was in the “red zone” or “OMG I’m dying zone” the whole time, this pace felt controlled.

The paces were probably slower than they should have been (7:40 average for 1st half, 7:16 average for 2nd half), but I knew going into this workout that I was going to remain very conservative. The main goals for the tempo were to execute it properly (i.e. run negative splits) and give myself a confidence boost. Hopefully next week I can cut those average paces down a bit!

After my cool-down, I headed directly to Ali’s Run for the Rabbit Fundraiser where I proceeded to 1) buy a really cool t-shirt and 2) re-hydrate with water gulped from the store’s bathroom sink and a glass of wine. Classy.

Running a late Thursday p.m. workout and then again Friday morning is always a tight turn-around, but I have dinner plans this evening, so it had to be done. Luckily Susan agreed to meet me on the Bridle Path and I was able to knock out another 7.5 miles before work. You might think I’m joking, but I literally cannot drag myself out of bed in the morning unless I’ve got a buddy waiting for me…

I’m not sure if it’s the mental confidence boost or if the migraine has finally left the building, but I’m feelin’ pretty good today. Let’s hope this positivity sticks around…Have great weekends! I’ll be back on Sunday with an announcement!

  • I’m so sorry to hear about your migraines and I’m sorry you go through it… but it sounds like you still did a great job getting the mileage in.  Wish I could have been at Ali’s event : )

    (those were boobs)

  • Anonymous

    speaking of boobs, how are yours holding up after last night?

  • My tits are sore as balls.

  • I am the same way with morning runs. I posted it about my issue yesterday and I saw you and Susan making plans on Twitter and I totally was going to try to join you if it was a little earlier. I can not get out of the bed in the morning without having someone to meet.

    And my friend has awful migraines and I feel so bad for people who get them. I know they can be debilitating.

  • Ali

    Yay! So glad you’re totally migraine-free and feeling better. I was worried about you! Also, that photo is amazing. Self taken in a locker room, wearing a sweat shirt? You know all the keys to my heart.

    I’ll miss your running company this weekend!

  • Liz

    I am the same way with mornings…I SOOOO wish I could get up and out on my own!!

    Glad you are feeling better! 

  • Oooh an announcement??

    What size shirt did you get? Ali wrote that they run small and I think you and I have the same build…

    Anyway, glad you’re feeling better! That froyo sounds delish.

  • Ugh, I’ve never had a migraine, it sound awful. Your brain might not work right, but at least you’re pretty on the outside! XO

  • Page

    Oh man, that migraine sounds no bueno. But the good news is that shirt is super cute, you got a good run in and you got to run with Susan. Winning.

  • AR

    I have no idea why I just liked that comment…but I did.

    And I stand by it.

  • AR

    I hate migraines. Especially when you start seeing spots. And more so when you puke too.


  • Anonymous

    lol, i know…that’s why i was going to wait till Sunday!!

    i didn’t want to upstage kristan and will’s nuptials…

  • Ida

    I get the aura too- I see spots and then my hand goes numb. I wear contacts, so at first I think it’s a dirty lens, then when the hand goes I think I’m having a heart attack! At least the aura gives me time to take meds and mitigate the pain.
    Love the shirt!

  • Anonymous

    yeah, i had some weird hand tingling as well. it is so scary!! 🙁

  • Ugh, that is so scary! How did you deal with it at work? Glad you’re ok, friend. And sad I missed you at Ali’s event! Next Wednesday – sweat squad, matching T-shirts?

  • Anonymous

    yes!!! done and done. it might be my last morning run in CP 🙁

  • Rachel @ I’m Loving Today

    I get the SAME migraines with aura as you do. I’ve never had a migraine without them, and the first time it happened I thought I was going blind! as soon as those spots start forming, I try to prepare myself for what’s to come. I’m sorry you have to deal with this issue too, as I know firsthand how horrible and debilitating it can be. I’m glad you were able to get out running in time, though. Also, that I Heart Sweat t-shirt is fantastic!

  • I had a migraine once and it was the worst experience of my life (that actually might not be an overstatement…).  I blacked out at one point…I remember thinking I was diabetic (since my mom is) and so I called my parents from a pay phone (this was seventh grade and I was working as a basketball scorekeeper…) to bring me something to eat.  I remember blacking out again and my parents taking me home to lay on the couch where my sister’s faint music from the floor above killed my head!  I started vomiting and finally my parents took me to the ER where I vomited the entire time until they took me back and gave me morphine.  Hoooooorrible!

    That was a long story….I can’t imagine getting them more regularly.  More importantly, I don’t believe people when they say they “have a migraine.”  Really?  You’re still functioning?  I think you have a headache, take some Tylenol.  

    Last night was so fun and this morning was fabulous as well!  Thanks for meeting me, it’s really the only way I’ll get out of bed to run early as well…especially if it’s my day off!

    Have a fun weekend!

  • gonna go all doctor-y here – have you ever kept a headache journal? mind give you so clues as to what your triggers are. I’m sure your doctor has told you that though!

  • Anonymous

    Oh man! Your migraine experience sounds awful 🙁 my mom uses to get them when she was younger (30’s) and had nausea like whoa. Luckily my stomach seems to hold up okay – the visual disturbances are what freak me out the most.

    Anyway on to happier subjects-I really hope we can coordinate one more am sweat squad meet up before I move. And then frolicking in BK 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Actually, I really need to start writing down when/where the attacks occur. I just realized that the auras (usually) only happen in the summer months. Maybe it’s somehow related to season or temp?

  • uuuuuuuuuuuuugh. i used to only get auras (very freaky but i think i’m lucky because mine just look like rain on a windshield. my lil sis actually goes blind during hers!). no headaches at all. until last month. i wanted (and thought i was so i called my mom…at 4:30am) to die.

    it happened again this month. two days before my period (which was when it happened last month) so maybe it can be related to hormones? migraines suck. i hope mine isn’t period related. i don’t want to go through this every month!

  • wow, so glad you posted this. I get migraines with aura where I see lightening like flashes on the sides. I also get migraines where intense pain is in certain parts of my head and that is usually followed by vertigo. It’s nice to know i am not alone. 

  • Anonymous

    Ugh. I used to suffer for migraines almost every week for years before I was diagnosed with celiac. Now I only get them occasionally and can usually get rid of them with yoga inversions. Yes, hanging out upside down can help once in a while 🙂

    Great seeing you at Ali’s event! Hope you have a wonderful weekend

  • Ada

    Ugh migraines are the worst. I get the same type of auras before mine also. I also tend to get the taste of gasoline in my mouth right before. Some common triggers are red wine, beer, chocolate,excess caffeine, lack of sleep, cheese, and hormones. You should track what you what you’ve eaten before you get one.

    can’t wait to hear your special announcement!!!

  • Definitely could be – here is something from the Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/headaches/AN00751

    I would definitely keep a record of when/where they occur and also the context around the headache – was it a really sunny day? did you run that day? did you sleep less? eat something different? et

  • I wish I had some sort of helpful or encouraging info to share with you but I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a real migraine (and I think if I did…I’d be sure…right?). Anyway, I’m sorry – that sounds really awful! I’m glad things are better now, though, and that you got some quality workouts in.

    Ali’s event sounds really fun and I love those shirts! I hope she sells them online so I can represent up here in New England.

    And I’m the same way with morning runs. I’m getting better (slowly!) but it’s just so much easier for me to sleep and run later unless I have someone out there waiting for me. Have a great weekend!

  • Corey @ runner’s cookie

    Wow that does sound scary…I’ve never had a migraine but that does not sound like fun. At least you know what you need to do and what to expect until it goes away, but definitely a bummer – I’m sorry Megan. Cookies & Cream with coffee sounds like an awesome cure though 🙂 And you bounced back with some great runs! I love it when runs feel speedier but also in control. Hope you have a great Sunday, and love the shirt!

  • Keri Bond

    Love your shirt! Sorry about the migranes…my mom gets them and she also has mentioned auras before…

  • Jen A

    Meg I get horrific migraines too! Bummer! I always have to lay down in a dark room with no noise whatsoever!

  • Christine

    Yikes about the migraine, but you still had a great week of training! 

    So happy I got an I Heart Sweat shirt too! 🙂

  • I’m totally the same. I get the “aura”, too. It’s usually about 30 minutes before (same as you), but just a few bigger spots. Migranes make me completely worthless for around an hour and a half minimum. I just sit at my desk or go to a dark conference room with my head in my hands. MISERABLE.

  • Ugh, that sounds terrible. I can imagine how scary the auras must be – I have never heard of that before.  Glad you ended the week on a positive note. Almost 1 month till the race! What is this big announcement?!

  • Karen

    Migraines were always my fear.  Not sure how many guys hang out here but mine were always triggered by monthly hormonal changes.  Once I figured out why I got them there were less fearful.  And, yes, it is a two day illness.  The migraine and then the after shockwaves.  So as suggested by someone else.  Keep it as part of your diary or log and you may uncover the reason.

  • i’m lucky to never have had a migraine, and i can only imagine how truly scary it is when one comes on. health problems are so mysterious to me, especially for people who generally take very good care of themselves as we do. i’m glad you’re feeling better!

    i miss you!! i was thinking about a post-work drink/40 carrots venture sometime this week…

  • Totally understand the migraines as that is exactly what mine are like.  They got bad last year (about 1-2 a month for months) and then they just stopped. I haven’t had one since February of this year.  I began chiropractic care for my neck about a year ago AND realized that they were hormonal.  BUT, I also realized I hadn’t had any soy products in awhile (veggie burgers/sausages, etc) and made the connection.  I have read that soy can cause an increase in estrogen and that made sense to me with regard to the hormonal changes.  I haven’t eaten any soy products since and I’ve been migraine free. I’m not saying that this is your issue, but I do hope there is a connection for you sometime soon as I this has greatly helped me!  Good luck!

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