As some of you may or may not know Boston will be my third marathon. But I didn’t finish both of the previous two. I’m sure most of you can tell that I love running, I have a huge passion for it and some would say a little obsessed. But all that almost came to an end during mile 25 of the Chicago Marathon in 2011.
I trained hard for Chicago in 2011 and felt that I was very prepared to break the 3 hour mark and get my Boston qualifying time. About 22 miles in I was starting to feel woozy and tried to slow down knowing that I could still get under the BQ time, but was not going to break the 3 hour mark. With about 1.5 miles to go I start to get really dizzy, stumbled and put myself on the ground. As soon as I laid there I was as scared as I have ever been for my life. I laid on the ground with many emotions going through my head. Could I finish? Would the cramps go away? Why can’t I breathe right? Am I going to be ok? There were moments that went by where I legitimately thought that I may die. During this same marathon there actually was a death caused by sudden cardiac arrest.
I am not sure how long I laid on the ground but eventually I had to be taken to an ambulance to get treated with oxygen and an IV. They took me to the medical tent and I was there until I was stable enough to gather my belongings and then call my family to let them know I was ok. My daughter was 2 months old at the time and my wife and her were in New Hampshire as I was running the marathon. I was scared for her because I knew she didn’t have a clue what had happened to me and was probably thinking the worst. I was scared for my parents who were in Chicago that day waiting for me in the meet up/celebration area to celebrate my accomplishment. It never happened in 2011.
Most of all this incident made me realize that life is precious and anything can happen at anytime. I had numerous tests performed on my heart and it boiled down to the fact that I have an enlarged heart. One thing I will never forget is the first two things my wife asked me once I finally got to talk to her after my collapse…”Are you ok? And “Are you going to do it again next year?” The support I felt at the time was amazing. I thought there would be disappointment all around because I had felt like failure for not finishing. It was my first DNF ever. That disappointment went straight to motivation as I felt the love and support of my family and friends. So I trained for and ran Chicago in 2012 and there I was able to finish and ran a 2:58:47 and qualified for Boston. I could have ran Boston in 2013, but pushed it off to run in 2014.
Not knowing what happened to me is scary and the fact that anything can happen at anytime no matter how hard one trains or how good of shape someone is in is always an uncomfortable feeling. Anytime I am out for a run and I feel any but of discomfort in my heart area it scares me. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then on a long run there are weird feelings.
I’ve decided to raise money for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation in hopes that if someone out there does collapse with heart failure that there will be the proper awareness and equipment around to save their life. Too often people young and old collapse and no one know what to do and way too often there is not a AED available to try and save the person. It can happen anywhere/anytime.
Two stories that hit me hard are those of Ryan Shay and Wes Leonard. Ryan Shay was a professional runner who collapsed during the Olympic Marathon trials and died. Ryan was a runner who grew up in Central Lake, MI and went to Notre Dame before turning pro. He was a running idol of mine who I looked up to and enjoyed following his career. I will never forget the day both my mom and dad called to ask me what happened to him and I looked it up and discovered he had died suddenly during the trials. Wes Leanord was a high school star from Fennville, MI who collapsed on the basketball court after hitting helping his team to a huge win in their regular season finale. Had there been proper training and an AED available for use maybe Wes would still be here.
These are just two examples that show that cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
In the U.S. alone, approximately 424,000 people of all ages experience EMS-assessed out-of-hospital non-traumatic SCA each year (more than 1,000/day) and nine out of 10 victims die. In fact, the number of people who die each year from SCA is roughly equivalent to the number who die from Alzheimers disease, assault with firearms, breast cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, HIV, house fires, motor vehicle accidents, prostate cancer and suicides combined. SCA is a life-threatening condition--but it can be treated successfully through early intervention with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), defibrillation, advanced cardiac life support, and mild therapeutic hypothermia. When bystanders intervene by giving CPR and using automated external defibrillators (AEDs) before EMS arrives, four out of 10 victims survive.
Please help me in raising funds for the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation so that they can provide the proper training and awareness to help save lives.