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The Starting Line

The prognosis for heart patients with viral myocarditis isn’t good. Survival isn’t guaranteed; and no one expects you to survive and run a marathon three years later.

When I left the hospital, my goal wasn’t to run a marathon. Marathon runner wasn’t on my bucket list. I was winded getting from my bed to the bathroom. I wasn’t a runner. I was overweight and unhealthy, and that’s why I ended up in ICU with congestive heart failure in the first place. But it’s hard to live along the Boston Marathon route without thinking about running a marathon at least once in your life or in my case, being annoyed at the inconvenience of road closures on a work day. 

I thought that the Boston Marathon was about running a marathon. That’s only part of it.

Until I participated as a spectator in the 2011 Boston Marathon, the spirit of the Boston Marathon was over my head. It’s one of those experiences that you have to encounter firsthand to understand. It’s much deeper and more profound than language can communicate.

What I expected was to be impressed by the elite front runners. And I was very impressed. They’re world-class competitors and should be celebrated. I mistakenly assumed that the world’s most famous marathon was an ode to their incredible athleticism.

The elites are not the spirit of the marathon. It was when the charity runners came through carrying flags for the fallen, and supporting so many other causes that I was actually moved to tears. I wrote about it in detail in my first book.

When I felt the emotion in my bones, that’s when my desire to run the Boston Marathon surged but I was certain that I had missed my opportunity. I had a failing heart and it took 55 minutes for me to walk under a mile to find a spot to watch the race. I had to rest for a bit on a park bench to catch my breath. I couldn’t walk a mile, let alone run 26.2 miles.

At first, my goal was much more simple. I didn’t want to die, so I made some lifestyle changes. A few of the changes were the obvious ones that most heart patients have to make. Fried foods? Gone. Processed foods? Gone. Cheeseburgers and fries? Gone.

I knew I had to be more active.

I’m not sure you can call what I did at first running. I looked more like a blob consuming space over a short distance. At least no one was ever in my way mainly because anyone could hear me wheezing a block away so they had plenty of time to move out of the path. If I was in a foot race with a sloth, the sloth would have beat me.

I kept doing it. I’m a stubborn guy. When I was younger, I ran track to be with a girl I liked. I was good at running, but not good at running and getting good grades. Like the character Danny Zuko in the film, Grease, I lasted part of one season. I didn’t get the girl anyway.

I continued to put one foot in front of another and eventually I started doing it in rapid motion. When you do something long enough, you become known for that thing. In other words, I continued running and along the way, I became a runner. A Pathetic Runner, for sure, but I was a runner.

The key to staying consistent with exercise is doing something you enjoy. Hockey is my #1 sport – to watch and play. I joined an adult hockey league at the local recreation center. Most amateur hockey leagues have a ‘no hit’ rule but after showing the guys that I was the “Bobby Orr” of the Framingham amateur hockey circuit (aka beer league), a much-younger defenseman cross-checked me in front of the net. I ended up with a broken rib, a broken finger and dislocated my right shoulder. After a rotator cuff repair surgery, I decided watching hockey might be a better pastime than playing it and started to focus exclusively on running.

From my new book.

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1 comment:

kendallvon wrote 1 week ago:
That's really inspirational, Dave! Thanks for the great read.

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