It’s been an age since I last blogged, life gets in the way and with a new full-time job (that was a shock to the system after working part-time for nearly 10 years) blogging wasn’t really a priority.

Since my last blog in January things have been difficult. Marathon training was going well and by mid-Feb I was starting to feel like my old marathon self and training suggested that I was probably close to 2016 PB pace, but then I got ill.

Not just your cough and sniffle ill but properly ill: fatigue like I’ve never felt before – wanting to sit down or go back to sleep within 10 minutes of getting up on a morning despite a good night’s sleep. The overwhelming sense of both physical and mental tiredness was definitely having a negative impact on my life, I struggled to find the energy to get up and get showered, getting through the work day incredibly difficult and I certainly didn’t train.

An eventual diagnosis in March resulted in the discovery that my liver wasn’t working properly, basically, it wasn’t doing its job of storing energy for me which means that at any point my energy levels would just fall off a cliff.  It was frustrating because it was unpredictable, and at times it felt completely debilitating. Some days going to the local Co-Op after work felt as tiring as running an ultramarathon, a real physical challenge. This wasn’t being training tired this was something else.

While waiting for the diagnosis I ran the Silverstone Half Marathon, the illness meant I didn’t get the PB I was hoping for and I had to fight to go sub-1:50. But I was still hopeful of running my Spring marathons.

Then came the Ashby 20. By this time I knew what my illness was but I was still in denial. As a result, even though I wasn’t racing it I ended up consuming eight gels to make it round the Ashby 20 – that’s not good as normally I’d run a 20 mile training run I’d normally have just water.

It was that run that made me realise that I needed to withdraw from the Manchester Marathon and the London Marathon. Making the decision was incredibly difficult, and there were more than a few tears but once I’d made it and told some people (so I couldn’t back out of the decision) I felt like a weight had been lifted.

No more hard training runs, it was time to focus on feeling healthy.

Focus on the journey marathon trainingFor a long time I ran only easy runs, starting at 20 minutes and building up to an hour. In recent weeks, I’ve been throwing in some fartlek runs and introducing some intervals, and I’ve done the Rocket 5k and the Silverstone 10k, with times of 23:47 and 49:21 respectively. I was more impressed with my 5k time as having not run anything hard since February I had no idea how my body would react. I’d been sandbagging a bit when I said I would be happy with 25:something, but really I wanted 25:00 so to run 23:47 was felt like an amazing achievement. The 10k time was great as well, but to be honest, it didn’t feel as good as the 5k because having run the 5k I thought my 10k would be around 49:20 to 49:30 if everything went well. I slowed quite a bit after 5 miles of the 10k, in fact, I ran that section slower than I did when I used to run a 51:50 10k, so there’s room for improvement.

Anyway, moving forward at least I know what is wrong now. I still have days when my energy levels crash so I’m still learning how to manage my condition – I’ve learnt that eating soon after a race is very important, and fuelling for a race will continue to be a work in progress. So if you see my after a race, feel free to check I’ve eaten or I’m about to.

So the plan over the next couple of months is to focus on some short races, targeting races of up to 10k to get some fitness and speed back. Where I can I’ll race them, and if I’m not up to it then I’ll treat it as a fun run.

Those that know me know that I’m generally a very positive person. And while I admit there have been some low moments I won’t let this liver issue bear me. These days I’m thinking of it as more of an inconvenience than an illness, and I’m taking it one day at a time.

In the meantime, I’ve got into the New York City Marathon in November which I’m really excited about. I can’t say at the moment whether I’ll race it but I will definitely be starting and finishing it as part of my mission to do all six World Marathon Majors. The New York City Marathon is my comeback, and on the way there will be plenty of comeback PBs – look, I’ve a 5k and a 10k comeback PB already!

I expect it will be a rollercoaster of a ride over the next several months, but so be it. The joy in running is that I get to run, I don’t have to run.

Until next time…

Kassia Gardner