CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — It’s been two years since Athena Ryals tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, but the symptoms never really went away for her.

“Difficulty breathing and the chest pain and stuff, and the exhaustion,” Ryals said she experiences. “Mostly it’s been like admitting to myself that things are different.”

But that isn’t stopping Ryals from competing in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon Race Weekend. She’s running in the 5k.

“It definitely took me a while, but I just got so tired of being tired all the time,” she said.

A 5k is shorter than races she ran before catching COVID.

“I can’t do everything that I used to be able to,” Ryals said.

As a result, she felt defeated whenever she ran out of breath running shorter distances.

“When I started training for this 5k, I could briskly walk for about a quarter of a mile before I got too tired and too short of breath,” Ryals said.

Now, she’s trained herself to be kinder to her abilities instead of focusing on what she can’t do.

“What I can do, is I can run for half a mile, I can run for a mile now, I can do more errands today than I could a month ago,” Ryals said.

Ryals said she is thankful that her body is allowing her to run at all.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back to where I was before I got sick, but knowing that I can do a 5k now is just a lot, it is really important to me,” she said.

While she’s competed in obstacle races before, this race is not about competing but crossing a finish line she didn’t think would be possible.