British Heart Foundation

My Story (warning its long)

I’m 52-year-old fit and healthy male but in the last 6 months my world has turned on its head.

Last year I was training to run a marathon and during training runs I started to get stomach cramps, specially during the long runs. Its common for runners to get stomach cramps but being a seasoned runner and knowing my body, it felt as though that something was not quite right.

I went to see the GP and initially I was told that it’s a dehydration issue, specially the cramps were occurring during long (13 to 20 mile) runs so I was advised to hydrate myself better. I explained to my GP that I am a seasoned runner and do understand the hydration/cramp issue but these cramps are not normal, I was hydrating well and taking electrolytes during my runs.

My GP reluctantly referred me to the gastroenterology and the visit proved inconclusive as gastroenterologist could not find anything abnormal. I arranged to see my GP again as my marathon was approaching fast and I was still suffering from cramps. I explained to the GP that during my last run I felt little light headed and could not run afterwards, had to walk back home. Fortunately, this time around the GP asked for an ECG done, did not hear from the surgery so I thought it was all clear. Around 10 days later got a call from the GP explaining that they saw something in the ECG report which may be nothing but as I was running the marathon soon they thought it was best to have further investigation hence they will be referring me to specialist/cardiologist.

A few weeks later visited the cardiologist, he also performed an ECG and strangely nothing flagged on the ECG so he informed me that my ECG was normal. I was baffled by his response, told him that ECG done at the surgery showed some abnormality. Anyway, cardiologist said as you are running marathon soon so its best to get angiography done. I guess you can understand what I went through when he suggested angiography. At that time, I was at peak of my marathon training, averaging 50 Miles per week, so it felt strange to have angiography done, beside I had not experienced any typical angina symptom whatsoever.

Long story short, angiography detected a severe narrowing of my LAD, I was asked to forget about the forthcoming marathon and was booked for the angioplasty. I guess you can suspect the frustration felt, I had done 200 miles that month, including two 20Mile runs and the angiography revealed the severe narrowing of my LAD, how comes this was possible?

I really struggled to accept the outcome, kind of went into the denial mode. I requested if the angioplasty could be performed after the marathon, which was only 4 weeks away. The cardiologist was not keen but perhaps seeing what I had been doing he threw me a lifeline. He suggested that he would be discussing my case during their forthcoming meeting and he would like me to go through a stress test and only then he could decide next course of action.

A week later I went to do the stress test (treadmill), completed the test with ease, achieved max HR180 and no sign of angina or any other symptom whatsoever. The HR and BP came to normal range within 5 minutes or so, I left the hospital feeling extremely optimistic.

Couple of days later got a call from the cardiologist. He explained that he reviewed my test results with his team and they came to the conclusion that its best that I cancel my trip/marathon, It was a devastating news for me.

I had no option but to accept the decision, after all it was for my betterment. I explained to cardiologist that I am booked to run my next marathon towards the end of the year, he assured me that the angioplasty will be carried out at the earliest possible slot.

A month later I got the angioplasty done (two arteries got DES) and the third was quite narrow and towards the end so it was just ballooned, stenting the third blockage was not a possibility.

Post process recovery was normal, started walking within couple of weeks and soon got invited to a cardio rehab classes. I guess I was looking forward to that as I was keen to bring some sort of sanity back to my life. During the initial rehab assessment, the nurse picked up that I was quite fit and she kind of prescribed a little bit challenging exercise programme for me.

I started to make some progress and I think around week 3 i started to have short walking session on the treadmill. I was comfortable with my progress and the rehab sessions were getting better and better, I started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. The sessions and recovery was so encouraging that I felt little ambitious and asked the rehab nurse that If I could set myself a small target, I would like to run 5k when I do my last rehab session. She was kind of astounded at first but reluctantly agreed that we review the target on session by session basis. Last day of my rehab session I completed the 5K treadmill run (nonstop) in 30 minutes, at relative ease and without any complication. Naturally I was delighted with the progress made thus far.

Post rehab session I attended the follow up appointment with the cardiologist. We went through the progression made thus far, told him about completing the 5K without any complication. He seemed satisfied with my progress and suggested that I can return to my running but gradually increasing the load. Being a seasoned runner I knew how gradually I need to build up my mileage.

Although I had made good progress I was little concerned about post stents impact and marathon training hence I asked the cardiologist that I would like to discuss my post process marathon training with a heart specialist so would be grateful if he could refer me to heart specialist. I was not expecting a point-blank refusal, his response was that ‘you have CHD, not a heart condition’ so there is no need to see a heart specialist.

Disheartened by his reluctant but concerned about the impact of marathon training I called my GP and explained the situation. Again, I sensed the reluctant but I was persistent. I guess my persistent paid off and a referral to a heart specialist was made.

While waiting for the appointment I started to build up my mileage as my next marathon was not too far away. Gradually my 5K became 5M and eventually I was regularly hitting 10-12mile zone. My weekly mileage gradually went up to 30 miles per week and the plan was to return to pre-process/stenting weekly mileage.

The eagerly awaited heart specialist appointment came along, I was excited to discuss my marathon training plans as well as discuss my long term running ambitions. On the appointment day, I was sent for an ECG, Echo as well as a stress test but this time stress test was done on stationary bike. The session with the heart specialist was intense he went through the completely history/lifestyle etc. At the end of the discussion he delivered the devastating news, i have to seriously consider giving up marathon running, I could not believe what I was hearing. I came to see him to work out a strategy how best to go forward with my marathon training and here I was listening to the worst possible news for me. I felt as though that whole world has toppled on me.

He explained reasons behind his decision, the Echo showed some signs of a heart attack I had suffered but to be certain he referred me to have a cardiac MRI done.

I guess you can understand what I went through, this was the second time I was dealing with stressful news. I came to see the specialist to discuss how best to work out my marathon training strategy and here he was telling me I had suffered a heart attack, when/where/how? The heart specialist went to on to say a few more things but my head was spinning so much that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, I just wanted to leave the room.

The day of the dreaded MRI came, I must admit I was going for MRI with bit of optimism, kind of hoping for a miracle but it was not meant to be. MRI results confirmed my worst possible fear, no time for miracles.

Fast forward, I am trying to comes to terms with last eight months or so, during this period my world has turned upside down, its challenging to get back to some sort of normality, you just fear that worst is not over yet. I am little bit apprehensive about the future but determined to do what it takes to live healthy.

I was on usual aspirin and anti-coagulants post process drugs but now statins and candesartan has been added to the cocktail of drugs, a constant reminder that I am a heart patient for life.

I must admit that to date I remained baffled by the whole palaver, usual questions, “why me”, I have been very active and healthy 52 year old with no family history of CHD. When/how/where I suffered that heart attack, was it a post process or was it pre-process event?

When I found this website and read some really lovely posts here, it really encouraged me to join the community and share my experience. I am not sure if I ever get the answers I was looking for but hoping that my experience might help others in some shape or format.

I have accepted that I will not be able to return to my marathon running ever again but that has not stopped me from running. I still run 3 sessions a week but not exceeding the run over 10 Mile mark. I am not even sure if this 10Mile run is making my heart stronger or weaker?

I would like to thank you for reading this long and probably exhaustive post, i hope I didn’t bore you. I just wanted to put as much detail as possible, happy to answer any question you may have.

Happy and healthy New Year to you all.

12 Replies

Hello mandm and welcome to the forum. Thank you for sharing your experiences I am sure it must have been very painful for you to relive this but at the same time hopefully it has helped you too. I think your running is helping, whilst the news of heart issues is a shock to many in your case without the running, marathons etc. i think you may well have been in a worse position, the 10 miles you do now can only help strengthen your heart muscle and your arteries.

onwards and upwards



Hi Mark,

Thanks for your reply and encouraging words, yes it was a complete shock to family and friends and some of my close friends initially thought that it was a some sort of wind up.

Yes I do hope that running keeps the heart muscle strong, there was a time when I thought about giving up running. I went through this phase where I had this fear that I might get a second heart attack or might even drop dead during one of those runs. I guess I am not alone feeling like this, we all go through this but like I said, I am determined not to let these thoughts affect my passion for running.


Very frustrating when you have to give up something you love doing but I am glad to hear you can still do some running. A more restricted life is usually better than the alternative so enjoy what you can do still best of luck to you

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Hi Heather,

Thanks for your reply, I guess its human nature to accept limitations, specially when you are doing all the right things. I agree that it’s my running that has been a great source of positive energy for me, I have been using these sessions to overcome my negative days.


It does hit hard, but writing it down can be quite cathartic. I'm not a marathon runner in fact I don't run, but like you I thought I did all the right things exercised, ate a healthy diet slim etc yet I had a HA. I had triple bypass as 3 arteries totally blocked. I am doing well, but mentally I struggle with the aftermath started counselling just to talk it through which is helping. On this forum you feel your not alone and there is always others who have it much worse. If it becomes too overwhelming talk to your GP for counselling. It may just help.

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Hi Twobells,

Thanks for your reply, yep it did hit me damn hard. I could see that you went through some challenging time and found a way to overcome those challenges.

Thanks for suggesting the counselling option, I have not given much thought to this as I felt I have been coping well, like I said earlier, whenever I feel down I just go out for my run. It really helps me to clear my head. Its lovely to see/meet runners in the park so it really give you positive outlook and you do appreciate that you are still able to enjoy these little treasures in life.


Hi Mandm, I often ask myself why me and never get the answer. As for your running glad to her you are still running, I don't know if you were a professional runner or fun runner, why not try doing shorter runs like a half marathon as a fun runner that way you could pace yourself out more plus raise funds at the same time. I know when I go and take photos there is a lot of fun runners. If you have a moment do a google search for "Jarra Jim" a Dunkirk Veteran who at 93 did his last run, at 94 he didnt want to miss out and was pushed around in a wheelchair


Hi geordiedave

Thanks for your response, unsure if could call myself professional runner but yeah certainly was not a fun runner, somewhere in between perhaps, semi-professional .

I had been running marathons predominantly to raise money for the charities and yes you are right that I have been fortunate enough to carrying on with my passion for running. I agree I must limit the distance to safe zone, but it’s a mental challenge to overcome as the temptation is there to ignore the limitations.

I will do the a google search for "Jarra Jim".


Hi mandm65

I had a heart attack 8 months ago when out running 3 weeks prior to the heart attack I was struggling to run a mile. While out on Sunday morning I had no energy and stopped this is when I had a heart attack I was able to get back home and felt fine the wife said you need to see our GP on the Tuesday I went for a run again to see if I was better felt ok the following day went to see my GP then he dropped the bomb shell I needed to go to hospital immediately later that night they confirmed I had a heart attack on that Sunday. I felt why me I have been a competitive runner for 30 years don't smoke light drinker was told that's life nothing I could have done. I had 1 stent fitted and feel great what a difference it has made l was lucky because my cardiologist is a runner and is sympathetic I have also been told I have not done any damage to my heart and they put this down to my fitness over the years. My cardiologist told me after 3 months they will have me back to do a stress test take to my max and see what I'm made of had this done and there are no issues so carry on running. The letter I had was different they did not advise to do a marathon for a while and no competitive racing.

But regular exercise protects the heart.

And if I accept the risks then carry on

I feel great even 10 years younger when it comes to running. I'm surprised how many people I now here of that have been in the same situation good luck with your recovery and listen to your body.


Thanks for sharing your experience, this really is interesting and encouraging to read that you could have a heart attack without any damage to the heart, wish I was in that boat.

You are indeed fortunate that your cardiologist is a runner and am sure he understands the frustration you are going through and I am sure his take on your situation probably different to a non-runner cardiologist.

I would be keen to know which stress test they will do (bike/treadmill) and what would be you’re your max HR, am sure you have record of pre-process max HR.

I don’t think any cardiologist would advise us to do a marathon or competitive racing after such an event, it was my decision as I am firm believer in listening to the body.

Stay in touch and keep me in the loop as you make progress.


Hi mandm65

I had the treadmill test I went up to 165 then my legs could go no faster.

The test started at a gradient then they up the gradient and speed I went to gradient 19 during the test my BP heart rate and ECG are monitored then I had to see the consultant for the results and was told my BP, heart rate and ECG where fine. I had no chest pain or shortness of breath. I don' have any issue with my medication. Been on treadmill tonight doing intervals 5:27 minute mileing not a fan of treadmills but it's safe place when I out on the road I take it easy. I'm not bothered on doing any more marathons done enough of them.

What are the next steps for you.


Bravo, that’s a very impressive, whats more impressive is 5:27 minuet a mile intervals, well done you.

Very pleased for you that test went well, it’s a very good sign when your vitals return to normal after the test and you don’t feel any chest pain or shortness of breath. What your cardiologist suggested to you? Has he/she given you some sort of plan or parameters to work with?

Yep i am off the marathons scene too, like you, done enough so now i just want to concentrate on shorter distances.


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