With so many athletes wanting to get back to exercise after having COVID-19, I wanted to share my own journey in case anything I try might just help someone else.

You can see all chapters here.

Chapter 2

Paying The Price

January 2020 and I was finding out what the price was that I had to pay. My breathing had got progressively worse since the Frolic in July, but I was still running around 30 miles (50 km) per week, although the early fatigue was very frustrating. Following several assessments with the asthma nurse and the hospital, it was established that there was nothing physically wrong but clearly there was an issue. Over the next few months I was put on different inhaler medication and eventually ended up with a daily steroid inhaler and a daily Montelukast tablet to help with breathing at higher exercise intensities. 

With the medication working well, I continued with 30 miles per week for the remainder of 2020 and had some decent runs in there, even comparable to my training during my best endurance year of 2017. I even managed to run an overnight trail marathon with little training – although it was super tough and I had to sleep on the coach when I got in at 05:00 so I didn’t wake everyone up! 

Much of the first part of 2021 was also solid training, although I didn’t ever feel good enough to race other than one or two virtual races. Then I made up my mind that 2022 was going to be my marathon comeback year, and started to take my training a bit more seriously. I even entered a few races and was looking forward to getting some form back. I knew it was going to be hard, and I knew my times would be off for a few months, but I was looking at a spring 2022 marathon so felt I had enough time to aim for a decent race – perhaps even a new PB.

Back To Racing

Then came October. I had the Bournemouth half marathon on the 10th October and felt good about it. It wasn’t going to be blisteringly fast or anything, but it was going to be OK. Most of that race went well apart from the primary hill, which just took so much out of me. I’ve done this route many times and this was definitely the hardest that part has ever felt. If I hadn’t been with decent runners at that point, I may well have done a bit of walking! Some alarm bells were starting to ring.

However, with a huge effort and pushing myself to my mental limits, I finished in a respectable 01:28:47. Although this was quite some way off my half marathon PB of 01:24:49, and my previous Bournemouth Half time of 01:26:50 in 2018, I was pleased enough with the huge effort I put in. The following week was the Great South Run 10 mile race, and I knew I would be going in tired.

The Great South Run was going so well! Good consistency at a decent pace until half way where I started to drop a bit. I was aiming to keep the effort hard but not exhausting, but fatigue was kicking in. It was strange as I would be running well and felt strong, and the next moment I was crashing and having to rally hard to keep my effort up. This continued until mile 8 where it really went pear-shaped. I had a searing pain in my right foot that I have never experienced before. My pace plummeted and I did all I could to hold onto some kind of speed while adjusting my technique to take pressure off my foot. I did an OK job of this as I probably only lost about 1 minute or so, but it hurt so much. The final 200m saw me put everything I had into the sprint finish, just wanting to get across the line and salvage something. Again, I put in such a massive effort over those last two miles, running myself to my absolute limit  – the pace just doesn’t reflect this though and I was working way too hard.

For me, it was a very disappointing race time of 01:07:06, not even ducking under to get 66 minutes. I’ve run this course in 64 and 65 minutes on a few occasions, so to be over 2 minutes off was a bit frustrating. The foot issue was annoying, but it was the fatigue that bothered me the most.

The next day, I tested positive for COVID-19.

The real battle had begun; not with COVID-19 at the time I had it, but with the post-COVID symptoms I’m still living with.

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