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A Question of Confidence

Mar 16

Posted by: ACHA
3/16/2012 2:45 PM  RssIcon

By Paul Willgoss

I’ve had a bit of a scare recently—a measurement went wrong and I was yanked in by my cardiologist for an urgent check-up. If the numbers had been actually been right then I’d probably be typing this while prepping for a new pulmonary valve. The full story is here.

Anyway, I’m not prepping for surgery, but it has had an impact. I’m a confidence runner. If I run and enjoy it, and I’m not thinking about the heart, I run and for me I run well.

It takes time for me to push the heart thing to the back of my running brain. When I got that call I was coming off a personal best (PB) streak—5 runs in succession and 5 PBs. Not just seconds here or there, but 90 seconds off the 5 mile PB, two minutes off the 5 km PB, 5 minutes off the 25 km PB, another 60 seconds off the 5 miler and two and a bit minutes off the 10 km.

That was probably never going to be sustainable, but it was a glorious fortnight of running.

That was then…

This is now.

I’m getting back into it, but I’m checking my heart rate monitor more often. Tentatively feeling my way back—back to being me. I know in my head the only thing that has really changed in between times is time, and I know that this sounds soft and I should just get my shoes on and race.

But sometimes living with a heart condition isn’t about the knowing stuff; it is about the feeling stuff.

And feeling is what I’m building on, so rather than racing for pace, I’ve jogged out a half marathon along a route I like—to start that building job—and gone to a local trail run mecca. Not to race and race, but to just test my legs in a terrain where I’ll be distracted by the views, the obvious trip hazards (that’ll be the trees, and small children) and less obvious (I’ve never overtaken a mountain biker before—they seemed quite nervous).

That run around Delamere Forest was purely for the love of running. I called it my “Run with Whimsy”—12 km of running (a few steps walked at the top of inclines). You can see it here.

I didn’t have a plan, or a route, or even a target distance. I ran from point to point looking for views, downhill when the legs felt tired and uphill when I felt good. Mud splattered and small children stared as I ran past, this oversized lunatic running past with sweaty hair plastered on his head and a huge grin plastered on his face.

And that’s what I needed—a run with smiles, a run to remind myself of everything I love about pushing myself.

So, now the long runs get serious—all being well it will be an 18 mile run on Sunday, with 15 miles the weekend after. Then I’m in “the season.” My first marathon of the year is on the 31st of March, the Excalibur Marathon—a walking one with 4,500 ft of ascent and a 12-hour cut-off.

And on the knowing side of things... Well, at some point that pesky pulmonary valve will need doing. And I know that if I can do these walks and run with my current plumbing, any new stuff should be an improvement.

That confidence is coming back… isn’t it?

Marathon runner, GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease), long-distance hiker, charity trustee, patient advocate and whisky lover—Paul Willgoss is all of these and more. A member of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire, his efforts both in front and behind the scenes for those with congenital heart defects have been recognized at the highest levels in his native U.K.

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