Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running After Mono

I think I am finally coming out of this illness. I've had many ups and downs throughout this experience with mono, but I devoted the entire month of August to resting in the hopes of preventing relapses and returning to my normal, pre-mono self. With the exception of two weeks in July when I thought I was recovered, I was suffering from this thing for the entire summer. I've never had an illness last this long and I've never had a summer when I was indoors for the majority of it.

Getting Healthy
This illness basically came to me in 4 phases: initial sickness (severe sore throat), temporary recovery, relapse with original symptoms, and then dizziness + general weakness and fatigue. The 4th phase lasted the longest and I am still not completely out of the woods. I still occasionally get dizzy and feel tired, but these periods don't last for longer than a few hours. 

August was tough. I worked from home for the first three weeks, logging sick hours here and there when I needed to sleep or get away from the computer. August 17 was actually my worst day of the entire illness in terms of fatigue. I woke up, got out of bed, and felt like I couldn't even walk to the bathroom. Even sitting up in the bed was exhausting so I took conference calls lying down and logged the rest of the day as sick. It was the only day of this entire illness that I asked Greg to bring me breakfast in bed. I did make my way downstairs for lunch, but it wasn't easy. Thankfully, I woke up the following day feeling worlds better. The illness is so unpredictable that way. Since then, things have been progressing in the right direction. 

When I returned to work, I did nothing aside from work. No running. No going out to dinner. No errands. Just to work and home so I could make sure I had the energy to continue going to work. I ended the week feeling decent so I gradually started adding in normal activities like going out to eat and doing the laundry. A very experienced runner advised me to not start running again until I had a sustained period of feeling good and healthy. I resumed my strength training during the last week of August and I seemed to handle it well. Nothing too intense-- just some planks, push-ups, and working with dumbells.

The First Run Back
On Saturday, September 1, I thought I would celebrate the new month by trying to run. I had felt great all week, and the week before had been pretty good, although not perfect. I set out to run three miles. Goal: three miles, keeping heart rate in zone 2. 

I was sooo happy to be out there again. I was enjoying the run so much for the first mile. Greg was with me and it was good to be running with him. It was a snail's pace but that didn't matter to me. I was just happy to be able to run. The second mile didn't feel all that great. I had to slow down even further to keep my heart rate in zone 2. By the end of the mile, I knew I was done. I walked the rest of the way home. 

Initially I was extremely frustrated. I couldn't even run three miles at an 11:xx pace. I could accept that I had lost fitness, but what I couldn't accept was that I wasn't at a spot with my recovery where 3 miles was realistic. That run left me feeling extremely tired and crappy, so I spent the rest of the day on the couch. On the plus side, I did get out there and complete 2 miles without stopping. And instead of spending the day depressed, I just accepted that I wasn't ready to start running again. 

The Second Run
I explained to my sports psychologist that I had a crappy first run back. At this point, he suggested the run/walk approach, which I had considered initially, but I didn't want to accept as reality. He gave me a reality check and told me that I'm not on the same path I was before the illness. I would get back there, but I'm not there, and I have to first work through the illness before I can get back there. I have to deal with my current circumstances, and spending my time wishing I was my old self again doesn't do me any good. He urged me to make comparisons only to the recent past. I'm doing much better now than I was three weeks ago. Comparing to how I was three months ago doesn't help me.

I did the run/walk thing after my stress fractures and tolerated it well, so I accepted that it would be the best approach to being "out there" and feeling good for more than just 15 minutes. I arbitrarily decided on 8:00 running, followed by 2:00 walking. I figured that the walk breaks would allow my heart rate to come down so that it wouldn't be such a struggle to stay in zone 2. 

On Thursday (5 days after the first run) I felt well enough to test the run/walk approach. It worked! I felt good the whole time, and good for the rest of the day. I ran a total of about 2.2 miles and covered a distance of about 2.6 miles. This is slightly more running than the previous attempt, and I felt a lot better.

Runs 3 & 4
I woke up feeling good on Friday morning, which hopefully means that the Thursday run wasn't too much for me. However, I decided to save up my energy for my Sunday run, in which I would attempt to cover a distance of 4.8 miles. I joined Greg for the first 8 minutes of his long run on Saturday, and then turned around and came home. Today (Sunday) was a big day for me. My team was meeting at Burke Lake to run the 4.8-mile loop. They were all running multiple loops as part of their long runs, but my goal was to simply complete the loop, even if it meant a substantial amount of walking. 

4.8 miles completed!
I had my trusty Garmin programmed at 8:00/2:00 intervals, so I heard a beep whenever it was time to transition from running to walking. Greg was with me, even though he just ran 18 miles the day before. I was so grateful to have him there, because part of me was worried that my body wouldn't react well, and I'd need help. Thursday's run left me feeling pretty confident that I would be okay, but mono is highly unpredictable. 

It was a beautiful morning. 62 degrees with low humidity. And most of the trail was shaded. This was such an enjoyable run for me! Running somewhere that I don't normally go, with my husband, and feeling healthy. Such a nice feeling. 

We ended up doing 5 x (8:00/2:00) for a total of 4.1 miles. I had to really slow down on the last one to keep my heart rate down, so I decided I probably shouldn't try for a 6th one. We walked the rest of the loop for a total of 4.8 miles covered. Afterwards, we waited for the other groups to finish their second lap so we could say hi and talk to the coach.

Greg and I had a celebratory breakfast and then returned home. I felt good for awhile, but then I started to get a slight headache and some dizziness. I'm still a bit dizzy as I type this, and I hope it passes. Mono recovery is just so unpredictable. It's hard to know what's okay to do and what's not. And there is no established timeline for a full recovery. I've heard it can take up to a year. I've heard some people say six months. All I can do is try to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat healthy foods and minimize stress.

No race plans for me-- I'm completely focused on getting back to 100% health. Once I get back into the groove of normal training, I will start to think about spring racing. 


  1. Bless you heart! Who would ever think this thing would be such a beast to recover from. I do love your walk/run approach. It sounds like a really healthy way to return safely to running. And you've already been battling it for a few months; so maybe you are on your way UP! I think that seems like the case. Keep doing the right things and keep your chin up. I predict in a few months you will be stronger than ever. ((((HUGS))))

  2. Hi there! I stumbled upon your blog as I was researching running and mono, because I was just diagnosed with mono on Saturday. I was training for a tough mudder in October. So bummed about the diagnosis. As I was waiting for my labs to come back, I kept thinking..."I'll take tonsillitis or strep. Just please don't be mono." Ugh. I hope that we both recover quickly and get back to our pre-mono fitness. :) Feel free to stop by my blog as well and say "hi." I'm a newbie to blogging.

  3. I'm so glad your running again. Even though it's not where you want it to be, it's a step. I know you wish you hadn't gotten sick, but from this point forward it's about a slow move forward to full recovery.

    These are the times that I wish I could jump life ahead 6 months, just to confirm everything worked out alright. Unfortunately, life isn't about all the easy parts.

    Great to see you at the Lake, it was a beautiful day for a run and you'll have many more!!

  4. How long did it take for you to feel completely better? I am waiting for my lab results but am absolutely positive its mono. all i want to do is run but I know I can't. :( any advice?

    1. From the day that I first got the sore throat to when I felt 100% was three full months. But there were some ups and downs during that period, and I went running on the days I felt good. That was a mistake, though, because I think it delayed my recovery. If you stop running completely and wait till you are 100% better, then your recovery time should be shorter than there months. That sucks you have it. Hang in there.