The heart to run and live healthy

This article is about my husband Terence (Terry), fondly referred to as ‘Runner with a Big Heart’ by his close band of runners and friends. As he turns 50 this April, I’d like to share his journey of transformation from a heart attack survivor to a marathon runner, inspiring others to lead healthier lives.

It was on our marriage anniversary day in 2013 (February 2) that Terry had a pain in his chest and felt uncomfortable. We were on our way back from a church service, and we stopped at our family physician’s clinic for a checkup. As I waited in the car for want of parking space on a crowded Saturday evening, I got a call from the clinic, asking me to come over immediately. I knew something was wrong.

The doctor told me that Terry’s ECG showed that he had suffered a heart attack, maybe a day earlier and that he should be admitted at a hospital immediately. As a diabetic, Terry probably did not show the classic symptoms of a heart attack – pain in the left shoulder, breathlessness, sweating and
dizziness. Angiography confirmed blockage in three coronary arteries, one a 95% block. He underwent an angioplasty, where two stents were inserted, and a balloon angioplasty cleared the third.

I thank Almighty Lord that Terry was lucky to get medical treatment on time. He was awake throughout the procedure, but in a state of shock even after being discharged from the hospital. While recuperating, listening to our son Adrian’s emotional talk, Terry realised he has to remain healthy for the sake of his family too. He promised to himself that he would get fit, soon.

Overweight by nearly 20 kg, after the angioplasty, Terry had to follow a new diet regime. It helped him shed around 15 kg in three months. He also met a rehabilitation physiotherapist who advised him to start with 10 minutes of brisk walk, at least four times a day and then gradually increase the duration as well as speed, while maintaining an average heart rate of 130 beats per minute (bpm).

After following the fitness schedule religiously and tracking his heart rate with the help of a monitor, Terry knew he was getting fitter. He had never run before his attack, so he had to be very careful and took all precautions before his first run. In a few weeks, Terry could jog one km easily. Within a couple of months, he could jog five km at a stretch, and there was steady improvement in his heart rate. Then there was no looking back. He ran longer distances, joined a running club to stay motivated and focussed. In October 2013, eight months after his heart attack, Terry ran his first half Marathon (21.097 km) organised by Pune Running Beyond Myself. I fondly remember some of the placards we had displayed there to cheer the tired runners, which read, “There is Beer at the Finish Line”, “Success tastes Salty, not Sweet”, “Your place in History is almost secure”.

As he never wanted to see himself as a `heart patient’, a recipient of others’ sympathies, Terry kept up his determination. Within a year of his heart attack, he dared to run his first full marathon (42.195 km). His cardiologist was initially sceptical of this idea, so he took advice from a senior cardiac rehabilitation specialist at the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai. In January 2014, he ran his first full marathon at the Standard Chartered Mumbai event. He completed it in 5 hours and 22 minutes.It was a memorable as well as an emotional moment for Terry, and as he crossed the finish line, probably no one noticed the tears of joy on his sweat drenched face.

I am glad, in this strenuous journey, he was not alone. His two great buddies, Richard Alphons and Joy Abraham had assured me they would be with him and that he would be fine. They ran their first full marathon along with him in 2014 and they continue to be with him on practice runs and running events.

I remember the difficult 5-hour long wait for Terry to complete his Mumbai full marathon and tell me he was okay. On their return, at the Pune railway station, we surprised our husbands with garlands and sweets that left onlookers wondering who these great men were!

By now Terry has run over 20 half marathons (best time 1 hour 58 minutes) in and around Pune, Goa, Hyderabad, Bangalore and the Mumbai Marathon (best time 4 hours 40 minutes) consecutively for the last five years. So far, he has logged over 7000 km of running. Far away in Switzerland, inspired by Terry’s example my sister, Priscilla ran the Geneva Marathon, twice.

These had been exceptional years for Terry as he changed his life with dedication, determination and willpower. He was also fortunate to have the able guidance of his coach who pushed him to his limits and was with him while Terry ran his first marathon. Besides losing weight, running has helped
Terry keep his blood pressure under control and he hasn’t taken any medicine for diabetes for the last four years.

He is part of the Pune Road Runners Group (www. puneroadrunners.com). Terry now motivates people to achieve allround fitness by running and also through his lectures to corporate executives on the importance of staying fit.

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