This article can finally be written. The author, a Lost Gonzo, held hostage the past 3 years by forces
beyond his control, is just now negotiating his release. It may take some time yet, but release is
inevitable. Here, in his own words, is his tale.
It all started from a chance conversation with a running arch-rival. "Why don't we run the Halifax
Marathon?" The year was 1988 and I was really feeling my oats. I had spent the winter playing
hockey for 3 teams, plus doing my training runs, which included some 10-15 milers with Larry and
speed work on Thursday nights. The fact that my speed work was an hour before a league hockey
game was no problem. I enjoyed the challenge. That, and being able to go out drinking after the
game, stay out late and still function at work the next day. The fact that my Sunday night hockey was
preceded by a 10-15 miler in the morning just helped prove to myself how tough I was. The other
guys my age playing hockey were dying on the vine. I kept my 15 milers to myself. Sunday night
hockey was hardly enough to break a sweat.
As summer approached, the hockey stopped, which was good. I was starting to dread the ongoing
intense exercise. I picked up more training runs and started to prepare for the racing season. People
who know me, know how competitive I am. I will compete or bet at any level. I love it. Road-racing
is the best. You get to compete with yourself every time you train or race, and then there's the public
competition, as well as the comraderie of racing against your peers.
I had been racing 5 years and was still managing to eke out some small PB's. The speed work Larry
and I had started on in 1986 was starting to get more formal and in fact take on a life of its own.
Thursday night speedwork was a race in itself. The stamina acquired from the workouts, plus the
feeling of accomplishment from continually testing the limits of your speed and endurance was a real
So the 1988 racing season was very satisfying. I set a PB in Tatamagouche and was putting in
consistent 10K races in the low 37's. The idea of bombing through a marathon on 30 mile weeks was
very tempting. The person challenging me had a competitive spirit that made mine look like jello. We
did run, starting at the back of the pack and doing 9:00 minute miles until halfway around the second
loop. We had lots left at 16 miles and continued to increase the pace, finishing in a respectable time.
The whole event was fun, and I had my first full marathon in my pocket. I thought that I would like
to train for one in 1989 and see just what I could do. I returned to my training after a week of soft
running, and started up the hockey again.
While on a Sunday morning run about 3 weeks later, I had an experience which scared the hell out
of me. I suddenly felt like the tar had been kicked out of me for no good reason, and I was being
forced to run through it anyway. It scared the hell out of me. Little was I to know that the feeling
would come to overpower my daily life as the next 6 months wore on. As the winter moved on, I
began to feel that horrible sensation every time I ran or played hockey. I dropped out of most of the
hockey and cut back on running for a month, but the feeling started to take over all my waking hours,
regardless of the activity.
Thus started a 3 month long quest to try and right myself, with visits to doctors, increased rest, tests
for an intestinal bug that I had sporadic problems with from drinking tainted water, visits to a
nutritionist, and finally, a blood test to check for mono. The test showed high levels of the antibodies
for the Epstein-Barr virus. The same virus that causes mono and that common misnomer, the Yuppie
Flu. What they told me was that I needed plenty of rest, minimal exercise, and a really good diet.
What they didn't tell me was that the virus can last for years and can be incapacitating in many ways.
There was no worry for the health of my family. Most adults carry the virus with them already. In
order for it to take hold, you have to wear your body down with a combination of physical and mental
abuse for an extended time. My problem was my own and the length of the road back was
indeterminate. I was still in OK shape, and had periods where days would go by where I felt OK most
of the time and so the thought of this continuing for say, the rest of 1989 and fading all the time didn't
seem so oppressive. I did a lot of sleeping and fought the concentration lapses at work, but I was
mentally strong. I would do what I could for this problem and keep my spirits up until I was
I am writing this article to help relieve the frustration built up over the last 3 years. But also to plant
a little thought in the minds of everyone reading this article. Look at your training schedule and match
it up with the stresses you encounter in your work and social life. Are you riding a thinning line in
which the tasks you have to accomplish each day/week/month seem overwhelming at times? Perhaps
they are. No one has a specific reason for this virus starting up. In my case though, no doubt the
warning signs were there. Check your warning signs. I wouldn't wish the last 3 years on my worst
enemy. I would gladly give up all memories and good times of racing from 1983 to 1988 to be able
to skip the utter, overwhelming physicalness of the last 3 years.
In April, 1989, I started keeping track of everything I ate, how much I slept, how much exercise I got
and essentially how bad a day it was. This virus affects each person in a personal way, but basically
it's like a low-grade flu. Everyone knows how that feels. It's the constant every day, always in your
face, never going to go away fatigue that sets us Yuppie Fluers apart. The virus mucks up your
immune system which is such a complex beast. There is no start or stop, nor rhyme nor reason to the
effects a monkey wrench can have on your immune system. I have had 3 month periods of frozen feet,
3 months of swollen, itchy feet, 3 months of sore joints all over. I know other chronic fatigue
sufferers who go through a lot more daily pain than I ever had to endure. There are no pills to take,
tests to endure, time off to recover, casts to scratch. Just rest and time and your body and your
In my case the effects of the virus waxed and waned over 2-3 week periods. On a good day, you were
aware of the effects, the general fatigue, the legs with a hate for any stairs, the desire to sleep. But
it was possible to put a lot of this in the background and function as a relatively normal adult. These
good days could come in singles, or be strung together in clumps of days, with little dips. If this was
the worst the virus could do, and it was going to fade, it wouldn't have been such a curse. It was the
bad days that defined this problem and no amount of words on a page will ever put that feeling
across. Overwhelming is the only word I can put on it. Physically and mentally overwhelming.
There was no place to hide, no hospital to go to. No one to understand the depth of the fatigue, no
pill to take to make it all go away. Not today, not tomorrow, maybe not this year. This year! The
effect this has on your life, your wife, your kids, your job, you moods, your attitude, your spirit, is
intangible. You sit and you wait, and it hurts to wait. The calvary isn't coming today.
On top of the pain and frustration that comes with just getting out of bed each day, there is the fact
that ongoing exercise is not only no fun, it is extremely difficult. I used to view my life through the
eyes of a runner. I sincerely hope to get back to that point again in the near future. But the ultimate
frustration is the embarrassment of being "TIRED ALL THE TIME" How many times have you
heard that, and what's your impression of the person who says that. Yeah, pal. Me too. What's your
How many times do I have to endure my well-meaning kids saying "Are you really tired again, Dad";
"Don't bother Dad. He's really tired again". How many phone calls into work saying "I can't come in
today. I'm TOO TIRED". What a lame excuse! And to use it for 2 years!! Give me a F---ing break.
On the upside of all this is that 3 years have past. I missed 16 days, one at a time. due to fatigue, in
1989, and again in 1990. But from Sept./90 to Sept./91, I did not miss any. I consider that a personal
triumph to match up with anything I've done so far in my life. In 1989, I was running 2 miles a week
at 12:00 min/mile. In 1990, I was up to 4 miles a week at 8:00 min/mile and some doubles tennis and
sporadic hockey. In 1991, the miles are up to 10 and the pace is around 7:30. Add in some singles
tennis and some consistent hockey, and I'm a new man. The 3 month runs of assorted weird aches
are gone. I stopped keeping track of my daily status in April this year as the variations weren't
dramatic enough. I started waking up in the morning feeling that I had enough energy to last the day,
even with the regular exercise.
I used to have a set of priorities, family, health, career, etc. The past 3 years, the number one priority
was: How much energy do I have today, will this week last forever, will I make it to work tomorrow.
My entire life, and most of my waking moments revolved around fatigue. If you think I'm overstating
this, that's you're prerogative. I'm just trying to relate my experience as best I know how.
So I have been patiently waiting to write this article. If it seems whiney and self-indulgent, you should
have seen last year's draft. I wanted to wait until the cloud had lifted enough so that hopefully I would
come across as upbeat. I love to pick and nag and complain, but I hate to whine and that's all I've
been doing the last 3 years. Thank you for your time. To all those friends, Gonzos and acquaintances
who have shown concern in the past, thanks from the bottom of my heart. It was very lonely being
inside this head and any concern was like a little bit of downhill in a long uphill race.