Elite runner and NHS doctor, Eleanor Davis, tells the story of how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her running career and what it was like working in the coronavirus wards
Eleanor Davis, 31, from Manchester, was training to participate to the London Marathon in April, while also working part-time as a trainee GP in a Care of Elderly Ward at Stepping Hill Hospital, in Stockport, when COVID-19 started spreading in the UK.
Things were looking good for Eleanor, who was hoping to run an Olympic-qualifying time in London. “I was in the shape of my life, and I was feeling really positive about making the time,” she recalls.
But when coronavirus hit country after country, the whole world sort of stopped in its tracks, and so did running. All of a sudden there were no races to take part in and Eleanor’s Olympic dreams were quickly put on hold.
But Eleanor did not stop. Her job became more challenging as the NHS battled through the first wave and she started voluntarily picking up more shifts to help meet the very high demand for care.
“I was moved to the COVID ward every now and then but even in my ward, we had quite a few outbreaks,” she says. “At the beginning of the pandemic, the hospitals weren’t prepared, and we didn’t have the testing that is available now.”
She explains that a lot of elderly people in her ward weren’t screened upon admission and then they’d develop a fever and so it spread around.
As work in the hospital became tougher and tougher, running started to play a different role in Eleanor’s life. “During lockdown, I lost the motivation to keep chasing times, because I didn’t have anything to work towards,” she says.
And so, running became a way to cool down after a long day of work. It became a way to process the day and keep her mental health in place.
“My training changed a lot as well,” Eleanor explains. “I started doing a lot more mountain running, because we live near the Lake District and so I did quite a lot of fartlek sessions, just out in the mountains exploring the wilderness, getting back to basics and enjoying running again.”
Eleanor came to running quite late, compared to the average elite runner. She started running in her twenties, as a personal goal to run a marathon with her dad – who is a big marathon runner. She ran her first-ever 26.2 in Paris, with a final time of 3:47. She quickly got the running bug and decided to run marathons as a way of exploring the world, running one in each major city in Europe. Each time, she’d shed 10 minutes off her PB.
Since she started training with a coach, she’s brought her time down to a whopping 2:33 and was hoping to go under 2:30 at this year’s London Marathon.
She was recently called up to run for Great Britain in the World Half Marathon Championships, which she unfortunately had to decline due to a stress fracture.
Despite the disappointment, Eleanor has found the bright side and is now looking forward to the future with a positive outlook. She recently explained on social media that the injury process for her is often one step back, two steps forwards.
“I like to think of it as a catapult. Without pulling it backwards you can’t get the momentum to propel forwards. Last year, after my stress fracture in March, I went on to get a 9-minute marathon PB in December.
“So, if you are injured, keep the faith, it may feel like you’re falling backwards but it won’t be long until you are catapulting through the sky again.”
We would like to take a moment to wish Eleanor a speedy recovery in the hope of seeing her run for team GB soon enough.
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