Multi-talented athlete Derek Yorek is back in action after COVID-19

On November 20, Derek Yorek finished a hard competition called the Bentonville Biathlon, which involved a virtual trail run followed by 90-minutes of the toughest rock climbing anywhere.

“Climbing is much more difficult after a hard effort!” wrote Yorek on his Facebook page. “Good times though!”

Newsflash: Yorek, who ran for Adams State from 2002-2007, completed the Bentonville Biathlon only scant weeks after contracting COVID-19.

Austin runners may remember Yorek from when he lived here from 2008-10, making his mark by winning the Keep Austin Weird, Run for the water 10 miler, CapTexTri, and Elite Congress Ave Mile. A larger audience remembers that in 2015 he led the Boston Marathon with a crazy 4:27 sprint-to-the- front first mile (captured on national sports news) before fading to a more pedestrian 3:04 finish.

Yorek, who will be 37 on December 3, now lives in Bentonville, AR with his wife and two daughters. He is a CrossFit Coach at DualCities CrossFit, a personal endurance Coach, and serves in the Army National Guard.

“I ran a 2:50 (27 miles) at the Omaha Marathon for the National Guard marathon team trials at the end of September,” said Yorek. “This was three weeks after recovering from Rhabdo (the breakdown of damaged muscle which results in the release of muscle cell contents into the blood), so to say I was out of shape is an understatement.  I do not believe this is where I contracted COVID-19. I believe it was about a week later.”

Not long after that—aware of a sore throat—Yorek went to get tested. “I had not been tested at all, so honestly I just wanted to have a negative test to show. I did not believe that I had COVID-19 when I went to get tested. Two days later, when the results came, I was proven wrong.”

Although he did not develop a severe case, Yorek reports that it has taken a long time to regain full lung capacity. Over the course of the first few days his symptoms included body aches and an annoying cough, which worsened, but never to an alarming level.

“I’ve had many flu viruses that were much worse,” commented Yorek. “I never got a fever but was extremely fatigued from simply walking to the kitchen. For me, about 9-10 days in was the peak, then things slowly, very slowly, I started coming back to normal. The cough hangs on longer than you’d like, and it is taking my lungs quite a while to come back. I’m still not all the way back, but am getting closer every day. I was working out regularly again about a week or two after the peak.”

So what does someone who is used to being in peak health and fitness learn from this experience?

“There certainly is a silver lining here,” said Yorek. “Getting COVID right after having Rhabdo really put things into perspective. This entire pandemic should make everyone look at health—both physical and mental—as a priority. Athletes tend to put performance first, and most Americans tend to put their ability to make money as the priority. In my opinion, most things in life, including high performance jobs and races, are absolutely dependent upon your overall health as a human being. So, eat right, train correctly, be a good person, and then pursue those individual goals. I simply hope that we don’t go right back to how we were before this pandemic. Hopefully we’ve all learned some valuable lessons!”

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