'Running has changed me forever'

In July 2010 my life changed dramatically. I had been experiencing ‘heartburn’ for a couple of months and was referred for further tests.

I had gone to work as usual but looked ‘grey’ according to my dear friend and colleague who, thankfully, insisted I go
to hospital to get checked. I subsequently went to A&E and just when I was about to be discharged I had a huge cardiac arrest and was resuscitated twice. Talk about right place at the right time. I would not be here otherwise. My coronary arteries were in spasm and this time they snapped shut. I was in ITU for three days then transferred to the Sussex Cardiac Centre, part of the same hospital, the Royal Sussex County in Brighton.

The only option to repair my heart was coronary by-pass surgery. I was just 38. Two weeks later I had a triple by-pass. The operation was a technical success and thanks
to the swift action of all the hospital staff I had retained nearly all of my heart function. My wonderful mum then nursed me back to independence.

I knew I needed to exercise once I had repaired my heart. I was completely unfit and hadn’t regularly exercised since school. I met a cardiac personal trainer, Toby from Fitclinic, via the cardiac rehabilitation programme and the exercise began. Running came a little while later. Toby was involved with Sussex Heart Charity (SHC) and its annual sponsored walk. Feeling better I claimed a five-mile walk was ‘nothing’. I was challenged to run it and in May 2011 my running began.

I did my first half marathon, Brighton (of course) in February 2012 and recently I ran half number eight, the Three Forts Challenge, off road, over the beautiful South Downs. Running has become as normal to me as eating and drinking. It gives me so much more than just a cardiac workout. I have more focus, concentration and determination. I have met some amazing people at the start line of races. I recently met a woman at a race who was facing the same surgery as me. We ran together for ten miles and swapped numbers at the end. Last year I was part of a group of people with cardiac issues and Fitclinic trainers completing the Three Peaks 24 hour challenge in 21 hours 51 minutes, running down Ben Nevis and raising over £13,000 for the SHC.

I have two more half marathons lined up for this year and a sprint triathlon. Next year is the big one; I have a Brighton Marathon place, how better to mark five years of health and fundraise for SHC? My best friend is always at the end to cheer me on, she is happy to be getting her weekends back now I am moving up to bigger and fewer events!

Women’s Running has given me some great tips, I wish I had found it sooner; I might have posted quicker times. I am so thankful for another chance. Running has changed me forever and I’m so glad my health issues haven’t stopped me from getting fit.

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