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COVID19 has affected my running ~ Mary Lewis

I have always had a bit of a marmite relationship with running. Some days I absolutely love it and some days I really do hate it. I love it because of the invigorated feeling I have afterwards and the fact that I have got out into the fresh air with just myself and my thoughts. Plus it's the only form of fitness I can fit around my family of five and a full time job. I hate it because some days it is like running through mud and over the years I have begun to struggle more with my breathing. I have even lost a kidney along the way!

At 40 I set myself the goal to run the Bath Half Marathon - eight Bath Half Marathons later I then set myself the goal to run the London Marathon. For me the London Marathon is my ultimate running challenge. Over the years I have watched it on the tv and said to myself that perhaps one day I could do that too. I applied a few times and never got a place but then this year I was offered a golden bond place with the amazing Dorothy House charity. Training began in earnest in January of this year and I slowly started to build up my stamina and confidence over the following weeks. It wasn’t easy and the cold dark evenings after work were sometimes quite a struggle. By mid March I had built up to 16 miles and was feeling good about running. But then just as the whole country was put into lockdown I caught COVID 19.

For the first few days I felt lousy with flu like symptoms and a nasty cough. After that my breathing became more laboured and I completely lost my sense of taste and smell. However I had still got off very lightly all things considered and was back at work (from my bedroom!) pretty soon afterwards. What really struck me was though was how tired I was feeling - especially in the mornings. It felt like had been drugged when I woke up and everything I did seemed such an effort. I had now stopped running for 3 weeks - I was just too exhausted. Mentally I really wanted to get back to training before I lost all the fitness that I had built up before lockdown. The London Marathon had been cancelled at the end of April but at that point I was still aiming for an October race instead. What shocked me more than anything having been up to 16 miles before COVID I now couldn’t even run to the end of the road. My legs simply just wouldn’t move. They felt like lead. It was an effort to put one foot in front of the other.

That was just the start of what has been a huge up-hill struggle both mentally and physically to get back to running again. Starting from scratch I alternated between running a short way and walking - covering only about 3km in total. Very slowly I gradually built up more strength in my legs but it wasn't easy and I quite often felt like giving up completely. I began to question why I was even bothering when it didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. My running speed had reduced considerably. I was never very fast in the first place but running a 13 minute mile now seemed good. I walked up hills and jogged down them. For a while it didn’t look like I was improving but very gradually with the help of Kerry as my running coach I began to build up my confidence as well as my distance.

I am now up to about 6 or 7 miles albeit very slowly and I am throwing some exercises into the mix too. I like the excuse to stop for a while and the change from running on my legs is as a good as a rest! My running speed has also increased slightly to 12 minute miles. The London Marathon is now October 2021 so I have over a year to get there. I am not sure how long this COVID tiredness will last but very slowly I am beginning to enjoy running again and perhaps by next year when the big race finally takes place I might even ‘love' it!


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