Sunday, 2 June 2013

Running is the best medecine

So it's been a fairly weird few months, recovering from pneumonia and trying to get back to normal.  My friends and family know how active and impatient I usually am, but for once I have listened to advice, listened to my body and taken things really easy.

I got out of hospital on 6th February and my aim was to get back to sport by the end of March.  Initially I could barely walk around the flat  - the 1000m of altitude in Chamonix really made breathing so much harder than when I was in hospital.  It was also a long, bitterly cold winter and I was advised not to venture out when it was cold as my lungs wouldn't cope well with cold air.  Over a few weeks I started venturing out and gradually increased my walks from the stairs in my building, to the end of the driveway, to a circuit of my local lake, with stops at every bench.  I felt truly pathetic - I was used to leaping up mountains for goodness sakes!  Swimming felt good though and was a great way to ease myself back into exercise, as the humidity and weightlessness both helped.  A long weekend to Iceland (maybe not most people's top choice during recovery!), made me feel great too, as there were spas and steam rooms at every turn.

By the end of March I was still struggling with a persistent cough and the rubbish weather, plus being back at work full time was sapping my energy.  I was starting to get frustrated at my lack of progress.  Pneumonia effects people so differently, it was hard to gauge how long I would take to recover and I was probably comparing my fitness to that pre-illness.  Happily, just a few weeks later, things started to improve.  I attempted my first run, with husband Andy just in case I keeled over.  Surprisingly I barely coughed.  Within a couple of weeks I was already managing 10km and amazed at how little my lungs and legs seemed to complain, despite over 3 months of virtually no exercise.

I won't deny that I didn't have bad days, days when I struggled, when a cold meant my lungs felt like they were filling up again, when I panicked that the pneumonia was returning, when I felt angry and frustrated that my big running year was being eaten into, when the crushing tiredness returned and I simply had to go back to bed.  I didn't touch a drop of alcohol for over 2 months and needed 10 hours sleep minimum.  I didn't feel like me for a long time.

My next goal was easily defined.  Medical certificates for the North Face CCC race had to be obtained and submitted by the end of May.  So with the help of my best running buddies at the Chamonix Ladies Running Club, I ran regularly and started cranking up both the mileage and altitude.  Amazingly, my doctor signed my certificate, almost without question.  I couldn't believe it!  Who knows if I will make it across the finish line, but at least I'll make it to the start which, 4 months ago seemed highly unlikely.

I ran my first race on 19th May, the 18km Trail de Vallee de Joux and loved every muddy minute of it, then 24km in the snow with the ladies last weekend.  I have made great new friends through the running club, trained with British sprinter Dwaine Chambers and the Chamonix Alpine Endurance team and had my butt kicked on my first road-biking outing of the year as my lungs coped poorly with the hills & cold.  I am finally satisfied with my recovery speed, can see how far I have come and have stopped beating myself up about bad days.  I am pretty sure few people would try to do so much so soon after returning from a serious illness.  Quite frankly I am happy to be alive, but also determined to make the most of each day.  And I am lucky to have such great support around me to help me do just that.

It's just as well I am feeling so good as a group of us are planning to run the Everest marathon next year - see our Facebook page  But more about that later!

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