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Running to Berlin, Weeks 10, 11 & 12: Covid Crushes Dreams

Covid struck, dreams shattered. The Berlin Marathon inches ever closer, and I’m scrambling to get healthy again. Read all about my return to training from covid in this report.

This report will look a bit different than the familiar format for Running to Berlin. I’ve done very little to prepare for a marathon over the past three weeks. Instead, I’ve been doing what I can to get back to full health. And sprinkled in a few jogs along the way, for a healthy dose of self-sabotage, just to make sure that covid crushes dreams of running fast in Berlin!

My previous report covered the lead into my catching covid. Be sure to read it if you haven’t. It gives you background information on my first few days of sickness.

Weekly Summary — Week 10

Covid crushes dreams of running fast in the 2022 Berlin Marathon. Training log snippet from week 30, 2022.
  • Total Distance Run: 31 km (19 miles)

I went out for my first jog on the eighth day after my first covid symptoms showed up. As you can see from the screenshot of my training log above, I followed up with jogs every day the rest of this week.

All of these runs were bad decisions. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m absolutely convinced that they did nothing for me beyond extending my body’s battle with the virus. 

What tricked me was that I was starting to feel OK-ish outside of running. I could spend an hour with the three year old without having to follow it up with an hour on the couch. But that did not translate to running. Instead, I felt horrible, dizzy and tired throughout the entirety of all of these runs. But, it did improve ever so slightly from day to day throughout this week, so I persisted with it.

Weekly Summary — Week 11

Training log snippet, week 31, 2022.
  • Total Distance Run: 31 km (16 miles)

My Sunday run was too much, too soon, and it forced me to start the following week with a rest day. The Tuesday run was a bit of a victory, as it was the first run in two full weeks where I didn’t feel ill. It made me optimistic for the rest of the week, and hopeful that perhaps I’d be back to normal training over the weekend.

Of course, everyone knows that the path to recovery is filled with ups and downs. Wednesday felt OK again. As a precautionary measure, however, I still decided to rest from running on Thursday, as it was an otherwise stressful day.

On Friday, I sprung for a bit of a longer run. While the feeling during the run was OK (-ish… if we’re being honest) my heart rate was completely out of whack.

Heart rate data from an "easy" run in scorching heat.

Despite the very modest pace (5:02/km or 8:06/mile) I spent most of the run in the upper part of zone 2, even veering into zone 3 at some point. For reference, before falling ill, I would’ve expected to spend at least 95% of this run in zone 1, and well below 140 beats per minute.

The fact that it was too much became evident within a couple of hours after the run. I started feeling tired, even ill again, and that lasted around 24 hours. Still a long way off recovered, then, and back to resting.

Weekly Summary — Week 12

Training log snippet, week 32, 2022.
  • Total Distance Run: 96 km (59 miles)

After no running over the weekend, I embarked on a new week with fresh hopes of recovery, and being ready to run again. The week started off well enough, and I was able to get in some jogs—at a very relaxed pace—without any signs of recurrent illness or fatigue. My heart rate was still elevated to the point that it indicated I still wasn’t 100% recovered, but I let my perceived effort and overall shape dictate whether or not I could train.

On Thursday morning, just over three weeks after falling ill, I went out for the first thing that resembled a workout. Another silly decision. The workout was just four times a km on, followed by a km float. But I let the pace drift for the entire run. And, to make matters worse, I went out for another jog later that night. Once more, my heart rate went bonkers. A surefire sign that I was overdoing it.

My general shape deteriorated somewhat the rest of the day, but not beyond feeling tired and the onset of a slight headache. Hopeful, I went out for another jog the following morning. My heart rate was still elevated, but not nearly to the same extent as the previous afternoon. I managed to spend most of the run in zone 1, and was hopeful that the punishment for my bad choices wouldn’t be too harsh. After all, I had a rest day coming up.

Come Sunday, I was feeling OK overall. Despite the past few days, I had decided to go for an easy long run. I needed the miles to maintain my hopes of at least doing the distance in Berlin.

For the first half of the run, I actually felt pretty decent. The pace was modest, but I was positively surprised by how it felt. My heart rate numbers even looked OK.

Heart rate data from a slow long run.

While the data looks good in isolation, here’s some context:

Six weeks ago, I ran a 36 kilometre long run with similar HR zone distribution. It lasted about twenty minutes longer, but was 8 kilometres longer. That means I ran 30 seconds faster, every single kilometre. That’s 50 seconds faster per mile. With near identical heart rate numbers.

Still a ways to go, in other words.

Towards the end of the run, I also fatigued quite badly. Definitely not back to full health yet. And, the long run might have been a bad choice in terms of getting there. But, I’m inching closer to full training week by week. Unless I take a turn for the worse, I hope to be back to marathon training volume in the coming week.

That means going back to regular, weekly training reports leading up to the race. Want to make sure you don’t miss a report? Sign up for the weekly Run161 Newsletter below!

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By Lars-Christian Simonsen

Lars-Christian is the founder of Run161. He characterises himself as a student of the sport who is always looking to learn more.