At 46, she was ready for her next triathlon. Then she caught COVID. Would she ever run again?

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DeLeslyn Sullivan slogged along the spinning belt of her NordicTrack treadmill, slowly pulling one foot in front of the other.

She could do this. She was a triathlete. An Ironman finisher. A 46-year-old, tough Georgia woman who had spent more than a decade running, swimming and cycling just because she loved it.  

She wasn’t fast, but she was strong. Well, she had been strong. 

Seven days earlier she’d been curled up on her couch, fighting off COVID-19. Now she wanted to show her coach, Lesley Paterson, that she was ready to hit the workouts. Certainly she could walk on the treadmill in her home office. 

DeLeslyn Sullivan with an Ironman finisher's medal. By age 46, she had spent more than a decade pushing herself to do first runs, then marathons.

I feel better now. I can do this. I’ll just see how long I can go.

Then her body showed her what COVID had done. 

Almost immediately, DeLeslyn was exhausted. She stopped for breaks, climbed back on the treadmill, stopped again, plodded along and refused to quit.

One foot. In front of. The other.

Two hours and two minutes passed. And when she stopped, she saw how far she had gone: 1.52 miles.

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