· running,mental health,health,recovery

It's six weeks today since that extraordinary roller coaster day at Comrades Marathon. A week or so after that, I'd had a brief moment of 'false' recovery. I got a little over excited whilst in the trail running heaven that is Cape Town, spending a long, crazy day running 20 miles over both Lions Head and Table mountains. I think that run finally pushed me over the edge. The following few days, I came back down to earth with quite the crash. The same symptoms I had been experiencing since struggling at the New York and Boston marathons returned, but this time, not during running. Feeling utterly exhausted, heavy-legged, restless, unable to concentrate and demotivated. Where I had previously been dragging myself out for training sessions because I knew I had another big race on the horizon, this time I had nothing on the calendar and absolutely zero interest in getting out there again.

It wasn't just that the energy wasn't there, but also that the drive and fire had disappeared. The drive to meticulously plan the long journey to a goal race, to get up early every single day and execute tough sessions to the letter, to push yourself beyond your perceived limits. I'd lost the motivation to do any of that.

All this was a bit of a Catch 22 really. Being physically active and getting outside to run has always been my way of staying well and (relatively) mentally balanced but I now had no interest in getting out there. This feeling is something I've read about other people encountering but not something I have experienced personally so came as a bit of a shock.

So I stopped running.

A week passed.

Then a fortnight.

By the third week, the negative thoughts and noise that spawn after a sustained period of inactivity were getting a bit much. After eighteen days without pulling on my running shoes, and knowing that I wasn't fully ready, I made a very tentative return to the roads (well, dirt. I'm in Uganda).

Now, perhaps you thought this was going to be one of those stories where as I ran, the weight lifted, positive energy rushed into my body and I felt as light as a feather? In fact, the opposite was true. Whilst it was indeed great to be outside and moving again, within a couple of minutes, that familiar fatigue returned; heavy legs, low energy and feeling mechanically defective. Now, in case any of this is causing alarm, I've had blood tests several times since the problem first appeared as well as tests for pretty much every tropical virus you can think of. Apart from the hilarious Dengue episode in Guatemala, all the results have come back absolutely fine. Admittedly, my medical experience is limited to a few episodes of Casualty and Shortland Street but that seems alright to me. So, in terms of identifying the issue and doing something about it, I'm at a bit of a loss until I can speak to someone with a bit more knowledge of this situation.

Perhaps the fire will return over time, perhaps not. Until then, I'm appreciative that I've got just about enough motivation to get off my arse and outside on the red dirt to run for a short while, for no reason other than I know it's good for me.

Getting out to run by the source of the Nile in Jinja, Uganda

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