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Since our recent two-week-long winter hit, it seems everyone is walking around with a cold, runners and non-runners alike. In fact, it seems like more runners have one.

That's not unusual, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, especially if you've been training harder than usual. Several studies show marathon runners are at increased risk because immunity drops.

If colds are viruses and the weather has nothing to do with catching one as we are told, how come a patch of bad weather hits and all sorts of people come down with colds?

"Damp, cold or drafty weather does not increase the risk of cold," the sports medicine college says. "According to most cold researchers, cold or bad weather simply brings people together indoors, which leads to more person-to-person contact."

The evidence that high-mileage runners are at increased risk comes from a study of 2,311 people who ran the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon. In the week after the race, one of out seven runners became sick, about five times the rate of those who trained for the marathon but did not run it.

And during the two months before the marathon, those who ran more than 60 miles a week doubled their odds for illness compared with those who did less than 20 miles a week. A South African study found similar results.

"The immune systems of marathon runners have been studied under laboratory conditions before and after running 2-3 hours," the sports medicine college paper found. "A steep drop in immune function occurs lasting at least 6-9 hours. Several exercise immunologists believe this allows viruses to spread and gain a foothold."

What about running with a cold? These are the American College of Sports Medicine's very conservative recommendations:

"If one has common cold symptoms (e.g. runny nose and sore throat without fever or general body aches and pains), intensive exercise training may be resumed a few days after the resolution of symptoms."

"Mild to moderate exercise (e.g. walking) when sick with the common cold does not appear to be harmful."

"With symptom complex of fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, and swollen lymph glands, 2-4 weeks should probably be allowed before resumption of intensive training."

"In general, if the symptoms are from the neck up, moderate exercise is probably acceptable and, some researchers would even argue, beneficial."

As runners, we have learned to obey the first maxim -- listen to your body. You know when it's time to back off, when it's time to push.

Luck of the Irish?

The Shamrock Run through the Old First Ward, which kicked off the running season, was held on a gloriously warm sunny day. Not so fortunate was the March 21 St. Patrick's Day Run.

Race director Charles "Yogi" Olskey passed on running on thick snow that covered and coat of ice from the night before.

The race is reset for noon April 4. If you were registered before, your entry is still good. If not, call 824-6709.

USA Track hurts field

USA Track & Field has reduced the chances of the Ford Buffalo Marathon attracting an elite male runner interested in trying to earn the $1,000 bonus for winning the race in less than the record time of 2:22:35. The national sanctioning body has opened the qualifying window for the Olympic Marathon trials on May 3, the date of the Buffalo race, but only for one marathon -- the national championships in Pittsburgh.

On May 4 and after, runners can qualify for the trials in any certified marathon. But not May 3 in Buffalo or Cleveland. Only in Pittsburgh. At least one elite runner considering the Ford Buffalo Marathon has said he will probably pass up Buffalo because he wants to qualify for the trials.

Running shorts

Ken Hans, race director for the Greater Buffalo Track Club's Half Marathon on Grand Island on April 11, is looking for volunteers to help with traffic control. Covering 13.1 miles is a big job. Call Hans at 692-7576 to help out.

The Leukemia Society is extending its successful Team in Training concept to bicycling and is looking for riders to take part in a 100-mile ride at Lake Tahoe on June 7. Call 635-9111.

Upcoming races

Around the Bay, 30K, Hamilton, Ont., 9:30 a.m., today, 905-679-2219; St. Patrick's Day Run, 5K, South Buffalo (rescheduled) noon, Sat., 824-6709; Greater Buffalo Track Club Half Marathon, 9 a.m. April 11 692-7576; Town of Tonawanda 5K, 11 a.m., April 18, 876-7424; Ellicottville Earth Day Run, 5K, 11 a.m., April 18, 699-2345; Buffalo Philharmonic A.C. Six-Hour Distance Classic, Delaware Park, 8 a.m. or later for a shorter run, 838-5166, April 19, 838-5166.

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