Written by Lee Masters
St Davids coast path marathon in the far western reaches of wales is a toughy but is well worth the trip from Bristol. This was to be my 37th distance event.
The majority of these were marathons, a couple of multidayers and Dartmoor Discovery & Beacons ultra both on 2 occasions so knew what to expect on my 2nd running of this gloriously scenic event.
The first half of the race went well, a gentle pace with the intention of having a good day out. At around 14 miles I was starting to struggle slightly with sore legs, I sent my other half on her way as I didn’t want to hold her up. Approaching the marshall station at 15 miles I decided enough was enough as I was really starting to struggle. The intention was to advise a marshal that I was pulling out and warm down in the 2 miles back to race HQ. As I approached the marshal station I had what I can only describe as severe heartburn. This was not a major concern as I had had this on and off for the past week but had no symptoms on race day until this point.
I sat in a hut at the marshal station (Whitesands beach – On any other day this would have been an idyllic setting for a breather) within 10 minutes my heart burn had become agonising and so the call was made by the marshals to get the medic who was on duties at the event on the day.
Within what felt like hours but was probably little more than 10 minutes I was led down & aspirined up by the paramedic and wired up to an ECG machine. The results looked a bit suspicious but at the time were thought to be due to the effort of running 15 miles with what looked like a chest infection. An ambulance crew was called in to be safe and I was transferred to the ambulance to be taken to Haverfordwest Hospital for tests. My ECG details were passed to the cardiac unit at Swansea Morriston Hospital for their opinion and my gentle journey to Haverfordwest was interrupted by a call from Swansea asking for blue lights straight to their unit (Watch out for the speed bump outside the hospital – brutal). This was a concern for me as even though I was on pain killers I was on my phone in contact with family & leaving messages with other colleagues who were at the event.
Swansea was a surreal experience. In short sign a form, catheter in arm, clot vacuumed out (& presented), stent fitted then wheeled to another room for cheese & pickle sandwich, chocolate cake and a much needed cup of tea. Had it sunk in that I had actually had a heart attack and I had watched the whole operation procedure on live x-ray, granted ex-smoker and diet full of snacks but I’m pretty fit & 41 years old. Even the cardiologist was a bit gutted for me. Just seems like I had a freak incident and was just very unlucky. Blood pumping due to the event which pulled a bit of plaque from the artery wall and caused the clot. (Don’t panic all you runners – this was a rare occurrence)
Swansea staff were superb and I was referred to as the athlete which was a nice touch but also made me a bit down as I immediately wondered if I would get to do events again. A few “inmates” couldn’t find any news articles in the local papers. We then collectively agreed it’s probably because normally heart attacks in marathons are only news worthy if the end story is bad news. Maybe I was lucky.
The last few weeks have been hard. Family, Friends and my good lady have been wonderful. Even though I’m the one who had the attack the thoughts of will it happen again, what do I do now, does he need babysitting have been through everyone’s mind let alone my own.
Despite various clerical issues & waiting lists (Long story and not going to get political here) I will eventually have more tests to confirm the damage done (Low EF a few days after for those in the know) and will be sent on a rehab course. Although I am a phone call away from support there is little (if anything) for family, friends. It is quite scary how much this affects those close to me & believe me they don’t know how much their support has helped.
I am spending a lot of my time at the moment going for walks. Guide is brisk walking and not get too much out of breath. I am hoping that as I seem to be doing this with no serious issues that my pre attack fitness has given me a head start on the way to recovery. I have also cancelled Outlaw triathlon & lakes in a day this year so that I don’t put pressure on myself. If I can get back to St Davids next year to finish the event (They do a half as well passing through my DNF spot) I will be a happy boy