hen the call came, Elliot Giles assumed it was the beginning of the end for his father Donovan.
With pre-existing heart and lung conditions, which means his lung capacity is already at just 60 per cent, he and his family knew full that a Covid diagnosis was a realistic death wish.
After 10 days suffering at home, when the ambulance came to take him in, he stood up, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he collapsed on the floor. Moved into a hospital ward, his breathing was so laboured he was unable to speak to his family.
The doctor in charge of his care rang his wife, who in turn relaid the message to Elliot and his brothers. It was a clear one. The hospital in Birmingham was stretched beyond its capacity and, if his condition worsened, they had already made the decision not to put him on oxygen.
“The reality really kicked in then,” said the middle-distance runner. “You just expect the worst. We couldn’t see or hear from him for days. All we had was the doctors say he was very ill and couldn’t breathe well. Your imagination plays out the worst.”
But somehow he defied the doctors’ expectations to make a full recovery and return home, something both the medical experts and his own family are not fully able to explain.
“They were dumbfounded,” said the middle-distance runner. “It’s just one of those few Covid-19 success stories. The only thing is he was already on a lot of steroids to keep him alive so I guess his body was in fight mode. That’s the only logic, that or it’s something of a miracle.”
The family’s happy ending goes beyond it. Recovered and coaxed by his sons, he has decided to go on a health kick which resulted in him being bought a tricycle for Christmas, which Giles converted into an electric trike. And with it, he has launched his own electric bike company – VanderVolt, a play on his dad’s middle name Vandervelt.
“It sounds a bit German and, when you think of German, it springs reliability so maybe it’s a bit cheeky,” said Giles. “But it all stemmed from how expensive electric bikes are.”
Instead, he sources the materials required to convert a regular bike into an electric one from overseas and now either sells kits to people, fits the bikes himself, or else has two friends – who he has employed, such has been the success of the venture – carry out the service.
“The beauty is that we’re not ripping people off,” he said. “It’s a budget alternative to extortionate bikes, and it all took off from two Facebook posts. If you don’t take a swing at something, you’ll never know. So, it’s exciting to see what will happen.”
And conversely, Giles believes the venture has aided his running. Before, he would overprocess before training or a race. Now there is no time and the acid test comes on Friday night in Kalsruhe, Germany, when the European leg of the World Indoor Tour gets under way as Giles looks to continue the momentum of last season, which included three personal bests and ranked him inside the world’s top 10 over 800metres.
“I feel I’ve an open mind now and I can just roll with it,” he said. “It’s a bit like a super power! It’s just freed me up.
“Life is now not just running. Don’t get me wrong, running will always be No1 during my career but, when just running, I had blinkers to the bigger world out there. Now I’m learning how to make a business and it seems to be helping to make me run faster.”