Contracting COVID-19 was the push Darren Lamb needed to start running after he recovered.

Before 2020, Darren had tried running on and off, but the habit never stuck. He says in one of his prior attempts, he went out too fast and gave himself shin splints before he could even commit to forming a habit.

With the stresses of life and a breakup, Darren says he let himself go. But he also felt like he had little motivation to change.

Then the pandemic hit, and Darren came down with COVID-19 at the end of March. His primary symptom was difficulty breathing—at the worst point, Darren could only get out about two words per breath, and he couldn’t perform daily activities.

Even after he recovered, Darren’s breathing problems persisted. He works the night shift at a supermarket, and he was struggling to lift boxes and do his job.

This was compounded by the additional weight he gained will sick. But realizing how much COVID-19 impaired him and negatively impacted his health was the turning point. “I told myself I’ve got to lose the weight,” Darren says.

His dad’s example inspired Darren to try running again. “He ran to lose weight a few years ago and stuck with it,” Darren says of his father, which was a huge motivator for him.

So despite the fact that his breathing ability wasn’t fully restored, Darren committed to a Couch to 5K app and started running. “The wonderful thing about the app is that it gets you to do it slowly,” he says.

And this made all the difference. It allowed him to stick with the program, while also helping him to breathe easier. “Every day, things feel better and easier.”

It also helped Darren drop the extra weight quickly.

He says he was enjoying this new approach to running and it’s benefits that when the 5K program ended, he immediately downloaded the 10K program.

“I just kept going. I was really enjoying destressing from work—I run early mornings [after the night shift]. It’s become a part of my life now.”

Unfortunately, Darren’s running was derailed for a week late in the year when he was involved in a car accident. But taking time off to recover helped him to recommit.

In response to the accident, Darren says, “I decided to do a half marathon, and I loved it.” His dad even joined him for that challenge. Now Darren is hoping to get his partner running, and he has his sights on the marathon distance. He began training in December.

Darren plans to run the marathon distance at Running Grand Prix at the Bedford Autodrome. The race takes place in March 2021, which will be almost a year after he started running.

He’s also taken to the trails recently to train for the 26.2 distance, which Darren says has opened his mind to the possibility of doing an ultramarathon.

“Part of the reason I’ve been running is because I’ve got nothing else to do,” Darren says, but he also admits now that, “I think I’d rather go for a run than to the pub.”

This is partially due to the fact that running hasn’t just had physical benefits for him. “My confidence has improved and my outlook, too.”

For anyone who’s tried to run before, but really wants to make a habit of it, Darren says, “You’ve got to stay positive—the first month is hard.” But he reminds himself of the Rocky quote: “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.”