I had just signed up for a few Winter marathons and was just getting started on the training as I was trying to dip below my PR of 3h 43m. I also signed up for a 50k trail race to do while on a family visit in West Virginia (but that run was going to be just for fun).
It hit me fast and hard. I first felt that Covid had entered my system right after a track speed workout of 1 km repeats. It was a “very smooth transition” during the cool down run of the pain from the last 1km repeat to the pain that Covid hits you with. I went from sweating and slightly burning lungs to shivers, body aches with a side of a headache, all within 10 minutes. I went home thinking it’s just a cold. I isolated from society and after another day of worsening symptoms, did the self test which showed positive – training was put on hold.
Are Runners Better at Battling Covid Than Non Runners?
While there is some evidence that runners and active people in general are better at avoiding lung infections and Covid, we are certainly not immune. There are plenty of documented cases of ultra runners developing long Covid, and even having to rely on inhalers to continue their training.
My personal experience falls within the range of the most standard Covid experiences that I have heard of among my running and non running friends. Although it lasted a few days longer than others. Here’s the breakdown of my symptoms day by day:
Day 1 Covid Symptoms – Initial experience of body aches in the muscles and lower back and a little bit of fever-like feeling (although my temperature never went into the 99 range throughout my Covid experience).
Day 2 to Day 5 Covid Symptoms – Sore throat, slight sneezing and dry cough, along with continued but lessened body aches, and finally the most worrying symptom of brain fog. The brain fog really kept me from thinking straight. I took the first rapid test on the second full day of symptoms and continued to test positive.
Day 6 to Day 9 Covid Symptoms – Body aches pretty much went away, and what remained was a light level cold like symptoms with a bit of brain fog. I continued to test positive on these days.
Day 10 Covid Symptoms – This was the first day that I felt good enough to head outside while avoiding contact with people. A little bit of sore throat and occasional coughing remained as the symptoms. I did a very easy pace 20km bike ride on that day. However, when I tested again in the evening I tested positive.
Day 11 to Day 15 Post Covid Symptoms – I tested negative on day 11 and 12 (I was getting ready to travel so wanted to make sure I wasn’t a danger to society). I still was experiencing the very slightest of a scratchy throat, slightest feelings of a runny nose, and an occasional lung clearing cough was necessary. I did start walking a lot those days but was not really feeling up for a run – felt immediately exhausted if I took a flight of stairs too fast.
On the evening of day 15 I decided that the next day would be my comeback run.
How I Felt During and After My First Post-Covid Run
Over the last few weeks of zero running, I watched my Garmin Fenix 6 showing me the status of my training change from productive to maintaining to unproductive and finally landing on the dreaded detraining. I was very excited to go for that first run and to start to turn things around. I did make sure to keep it short and easy. I chose a nice woody trail run and told myself that 5k is enough. I did go over the 5k as I was really enjoying the moment.
I started the run at a very very relaxed pace and just wanted to monitor how my body felt. Although the pace was slow it felt right in the sense that something was telling me that I should not go much faster just yet. I did feel awesome mentally as this run was a signal that I could start ramping up the running again. As I started to put a few hundred meters behind me, I did have an occasional cough and I did have to clear the nostrils a few times but overall was feeling good. At kilometer 3 something loosened in my lungs and I had a stronger coughing/lung clearing session, but it was nothing strong enough to make me stop the run.
I went past my 5k goal by a little bit and even did one time sprint of a few hundred meters to see how that would affect me – no problems, all systems go.
I finished the run feeling a little more tired than I typically would feel after a 7 kilometer jog/run – see the steadily increasing heart rate above. My Garmin did tell me that my training status was STRAINED, and suggested a 22 hour recovery period.
Interestingly, my VO2 Max was still recording at the same level as pre-covid. It would adjust down the next day when I tried to run a little bit faster and longer. Perhaps my Garmin watch needed a little more data to assess that my lung capacity has been affected. It is currently at 51.
My Takeaways From the First Post-Covid Run
Overall it feels awesome to get back into running. I think for me the psychological benefits (running is my meditation) are more important than the physical. I feel that waiting out until I felt pretty good was worth it and that keeping the first run to an easy pace was a great confidence booster.
I’ve since had two additional runs and am feeling stronger with each one. The 50k I signed up for is in 12 days and I plan on stepping on the starting line. We shall see if I go all the way. I’ll make sure to post an update on the Runivore Twitter feed. I am also excited about getting back into the speed training and seeing if this is the year that I break my marathon PR. Wish me luck and I wish all those runners affected with Covid a swift and complete recovery.