SASKATOON -- David Samual no longer takes running for granted.

In July, he struggled to take a breath while battling COVID-19.

“During the sickness, at one point, every breath was either, ‘Am I going to the hospital to get breathing assistance or am I going to be ok,’” Samual said.

“I have kids too, so I was thinking, ‘Do I say goodbye? When do I say goodbye before I can’t talk anymore?”

Months later, Samual celebrated two victories — beating COVID-19 and completing an Ironman triathlon - a 3.9 km swim, 180.2 km bike and 42.2 km run.

“It was one of the best moments of my life,” Samual said, referencing the moment he finished the run at the Broadway theatre.

“It was the only Ironman event where I was grateful to be suffering. Usually I’m like, ‘I want to get out of this hurt, I want to get out of this, just hang on.’ But this time, I was so happy to feel this. It was home for me.”

Samual was registered to compete in the Ironman event in August. But because of his diagnosis he was unable to compete. He decided to complete the event anyway when he recovered.

He swam at Harry Bailey Aquatic Centre, biked back and fourth to the casino and ran along the Meewasin trail.

While Samual was able to complete the distance, researchers are finding not everyone who recovers from COVID-19 has that capacity.

Dr. Chris Carlsten has been researching long-term effects of the virus at a COVID-19 recovery lab in Vancouver.

“Many people report that when they try to exert themselves, they’re not where they were before COVID,” said Carlsten, University of British Columbia’s head of respiratory medicine and director of the airway health program.

Carlsten has found most hospitalized patients he’s studied have lung abnormalities — such as inflammation and scarring.

He said scarring is irreversible and could impact a person’s breathing down the road.

“We’re concerned because some of these patients, many of them are relatively young, and while not all of them complain about shortness of breath, the scarring over time, as the individual gets older, may have more and more of an effect,” he said.

Samual said he hasn’t noticed any lasting COVID-19 effects since recovering, but closely monitors his heart rate and breath.

He plans to complete another Ironman triathlon in 2021.

“It’s my lighthouse in the distance. You finish one and immediately start training for the next one.”