If a year ago somebody suggested I rent a wheelchair to get around Bedford Park with a friend I would’ve laughed out loud. Fit and healthy, only in my early 40s, a busy mum of two wonderful teenagers with a responsible job in London, until ten months ago I was exercising six days a week and preparing for my sixth Half Marathon London Landmark with my running mates from the local running group, Transition Coaching. They were training for the London Marathon and I was so excited to know that I can run it too. Well, not anymore!
In March 2020 I attended an international conference in London and a week later I developed symptoms of what seems to be a mild cold, or the flu. I felt nearly normal and my only issue was a loss of smell, which was not considered to be a Covid symptom back then. I recovered fairly quickly and didn’t have to isolate according to the guidance at the time. I was back to my beloved running quickly, while my partner, who developed similar symptoms, took to her bed for a week, had severe body aches, a loss of smell and taste, and no energy.
I thought that because I recovered quite quickly, I was ready to start running as soon as my energy levels returned. We knew very little about Covid effects at the time and I couldn’t see that I was doing anything harmful. I wish somebody would tell me to rest for a few weeks, things may have been very different for me now.
I continued with exercise and my usual daily routine. Running was the thing that kept me, like many others, sane during the first lockdown with all the challenges of home schooling, working from home and lack of socialising. A few months later I started to notice that I was getting a little breathless while running but I ignored it. Being a busy, active mum means that we are used to pushing through not feeling 100%. But the breathlessness persisted and one day in June I woke up with sharp chest pain and breathlessness. I could barely walk.
After that scary episode, it felt like I entered periods of relapse and remission, like living with a chronic illness. The summer heat was draining, and when I did find the energy to run, it would wipe me out for days afterwards. Ten months down the line, it’s hard to notice any improvement. If anything, things got progressively worse. My exercise tolerance reduced dramatically, and even a short walk would wipe me out, and it’s not unusual for me to need a nap in the middle of the day, something unheard of a year ago. I’ve tried to hang on to my sanity; I know that sounds dramatic, but I can’t underestimate the negative impact Long Covid has had on my mental health, and this has been noticed by my partner family and friends, who know me as this calm, laid back person with no history of anxiety.
I would say what we are dealing with is unprecedented in modern times. Whilst we wait for this vaccine to make an impact, I would urge everyone to follow the guidance, socially distance, protect yourself and others. If you contract Covid, regardless of how fit and healthy you consider yourself to be, please allow yourself enough time to rest and recover, mentally and physically, because you may never recover your baseline of health if you rush back. I can only dream that one Saturday I will get my body back and will be able to go for a run with my running mates, or a nice long walk with my children not experiencing any pain and not worrying about my breathing.