As an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Elizabeth Maslow has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic from the start. For nearly two years, she has been sharing the importance of the COVID vaccine with too many people to count — colleagues, patients, hospital employees, the media, and more. The long months, then years, of the pandemic have taken a deep emotional toll on her.
“The last patient I had who died from COVID was in his early 50s,” she says. “He had no other health issues, but he was unvaccinated.” In the same time frame, Dr. Maslow suffered the unexpected death of a brother, her only sibling. “Emotionally, this has been the worst time of my life,” she shares.
Early in the pandemic, Dr. Maslow started running daily in pursuit of better emotional health. She credits this with moments of joy that became increasingly hard to come by. “I would sprint in wide open spaces imagining that I was a plane on a runway – taking off, getting out, rising above,” she says. “The imagery provided an escape.”
Dr. Maslow eventually joined a running group at Adventist Health Glendale that included people of all ages and levels of expertise. In it, she found encouragement, community, and reasons to celebrate. She ran her first full marathon in November of 2021, and since then has completed another marathon, two half marathons, and many other 10Ks and 5Ks.
Most recently, Dr. Maslow ran the Santa Monica Classic 10K with about 20 others from the group. Her new pursuit has inspired her daughter – who also works in the hospital – to take up competitive bodybuilding. “Running has helped me be resilient,” Dr. Maslow says. “Endorphins are helpful in battling depression and anxiety. Any activity, really, can make a big difference.”
Dr. Maslow says she’s learned a lot about survival over the past couple of years. She has also learned that on the journey to resilience, the start is the most important part. “It’s OK to start small and see where it takes you,” she says. “It can give you energy, hope, and some control over your life.”