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Posts by Paul Willgoss

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No Middle Ground?

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, Mar 10, 2016

We’re a funny bunch, us ACHDers/GUCHs (Grown Ups with Congenital Heart Disease)—we live in a world that can be very different from the world that others experience.

I’ve tried explaining this a couple of times, at conferences or at work—to give my colleagues some insight in to what come across as being inconsistent, moody, temperamental. Some of them get it, some not so much—so what do you think?

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Why Wait for the New Year?

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Dec 21, 2015

I’ve had a lousy year with injuries, illness and generally being run down – none of it cardiac related, just the wear and tear of getting older and having had an amazing year of running in 2015.

I know I’m lucky; a lousy year for me is three half marathons, a stack of 10ks and the odd 5k, plus odd bits and bobs including two long distance walking paths.

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The Difference Between Running and Walking

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Sep 25, 2015

I’ve been injured.

I only wish it was a normal running injury—a sprain, a pull or a twist. Unfortunately, it was a knock-down smash to my knee.

Yes, it hurt more than it looks, and it hurts more when I try and run. Which is a bit awkward when you’re trying to train for a marathon.

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Enough of Being a Good Guy

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Jul 13, 2015

I’ve written before of how personality types have been mapped to the superheroes of both DC and Marvel Universes—but what about the dark side? Who are our personality-matched supervillains?

Why are supervillains important? And our matched personalities more so?

Because if superheroes are the best of us—ideals that we can aspire to—then supervillains are the warning, if not from history, then from the pages of the comics and graphic novels.

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Testing Complete, Preparations Begin

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, Apr 30, 2015

Six months ago I was told that my cardiologist was a little worried about my pulmonary valve. It’s a standard problem for us Fallot’s patients and quite frankly I’d be worried if they weren’t worried. As I said in a previous blog, I was going to be tested.

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Adventures, Old Friend

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Mar 13, 2015

“Adventures, old friend!” is the cry of Don Quixote de la Mancha to Sancho his squire, and whilst one friend has called me the “Knight of the Woeful Countenance,” I hope my grasp of reality is somewhat firmer than Don Quixote’s. There is something important about living your dreams and tilting at windmills.

I’m still in the middle of the testing cycle that I mentioned a couple of blogs ago. I’ve been MRI’d, done the 24h ECG, and have the exercise test on Monday. Having just run a half marathon, I’m not exactly sure what it’s going to show but hey ho! Some of us would decide, probably rightly, that this wouldn’t be the time to seek out new adventures, but I tried that for a whole month and got bored and tetchy.

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New Year Inspiration

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Jan 09, 2015

This is less of a blog, more of a thought experiment—so please bear with this slightly nutty Brit, and hopefully we’ll go somewhere interesting

Who inspires you and why?

Think about them, their characteristics, and their approach to life—what makes them chime for you.

Seriously, close your eyes and think about them.

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Testing, Testing

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Nov 12, 2014

"You’re looking forward to that test..."

An immortal line from my manager, as I sent her the dates of the 24-hour ECG and the cardiac MRI, and bemoaned the lack of a date for my exercise test.

My cardiologist is doing what they all should do and is checking a marginal difference in my pulmonary valve and ventricles from last year. The changes are being set against the fact that I’ve run my two fastest marathons this year, and knocked a chunk of my course time for my favourite ultra.

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Taking Your Scars International

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Aug 22, 2014

One of the delights of the international GUCH/ACHD community is that in this age of social media an idea can be communicated from New Zealand to Norway, with sidesteps to the U.K. and Finland, in the blink of an eye.

The New Zealand congenital heart charity Heart Kids NZ launched a campaign to highlight the facts that many of us have scars, some more than one and that it is fine to show them off.

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Not Your “Normal Holiday”

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Jul 02, 2014

Is my passport in date?
Yup, I’m legal to go to Switzerland

Is my travel insurance still OK?
Yup, travel insurance can be a pain in the backside for GUCHs, but I’m still covered by the travel insurance that comes with my bank account.

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The Post-Marathon Post

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, May 19, 2014

The running magazines in the U.K. have two approaches to advising runners after they’ve done a marathon: 1) You’ve done it, now go do something else (probably shorter), and 2) You’ve done it, now get faster!

I’m in neither. I’m this one: I’ve done it, after six long years I’ve done the London Marathon, I’ve smashed my personal best (PB) by 12 minutes, I’ve got the medal, I’ve got the t-shirt and I know what's coming next…

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The Long and Lonely Miles

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014

It’s getting close to the culmination of six years of desire, frustration and agonising waits…

The London Marathon decides its entry on the basis of a ballot (at least for ordinary mortals), and after six years I’m finally in—which has given me a refocus on training plan-based running and a desire to test myself and to do it right in ways that some of my running exploits don’t always allow.

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I Hate CHD

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014

This is a Facebook status I see a fair amount... and I’m never sure about it.

I understand how people need to hate CHD, need to feel the anger that only hate can bring to put CHD in its place. And that, I think, is the key, that CHD is almost a person—it's visceral, it does things to people, and it can be hated.

Yes, there are times I hate the way CHD impacts my friends, cutting their health and lives short. Yes, I scream at the night sky in rage as another friend dies.

But do I hate CHD?

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The Worldwide Adventures of a Little Yellow Man

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Dec 06, 2013

If we can do this with a little yellow man… what can’t we do?

It’s between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so it’s that odd time of year where it’s dark, dank, and chilly and generally we all need cheering up. So this is unashamedly a positive blog, about a silly little thing of no consequence.

About a year ago the organisation I am very proud of being the Vice Chair of, the Children’s Heart Federation, started a fun “competition” where all people had to do was take a little yellow man to as many interesting places as possible. That to me sounded like a job for the international GUCH community.

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London Calling

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Oct 07, 2013

A lot of people have bucket lists – those things we want to do before we give in, start pushing up daisies or go and see the deity of your choice. For me? Well, I am greedy and have a selection of buckets, one of which is my run bucket.

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What to Wear?

by Paul Willgoss on Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013

I got my annual cardiac check-up letter this week, and as I suspected I’ve been given a new cardiologist. My old one is retiring—and let’s face it, I’m not known for giving cardiologists an easy time!

So new cardiologist, new relationship…

I’m fortunate that with my advocacy roles I know most of the ACHD specialists in the U.K., so I know he’s an expert in us. First hurdle over, the rest plays out like internet dating. At least it can seem that way.

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Running is a State of Mind, Not a Fleetness of Foot

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Aug 12, 2013

I’m not sure where I’ve picked that comment up from, but it sums a lot of things up. A walk is, normally, easy-ish going. A challenge walk is less, or a lot less, easy—often with hills, quite often with big hills in. A walk, or even a challenge walk, will often have a couple of sit downs, maybe a defined lunch break…

A run is continuous pushing, limited breaks, lunch is taken on the hoof—if at all.

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On Getting Older, With a Smile

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Jun 14, 2013

We are more than our heart conditions, so let us have a good moan!

Normally this is a genuine battle cry for holistic medicine—and that’s holistic as in whole person, not in any new age, mumbo jumbo sense!

Usually, it’s a recognition that although we have our various heart conditions, some of us have attendant scars (physical and psychological), implantable technologies, occasionally funky bits and a level of knowledge about medical issues that leaves most general practitioners a tad confused.

For me, this last couple of weeks it’s been about the rest of my body not being able to do what the heart is ready and up for. I’ve been injured!

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Frustrations, Focus, Belief

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, May 16, 2013

One race cancelled due to the weather.

One event foreshortened due to an error on my part.

Thank you for the good luck wishes. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

It would be easy to draw the analogies to living with CHD, the sense of not knowing whether something is going to happen, and if it does happen—will it work as promised?

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Wish Me Luck

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Apr 26, 2013

Luck is intangible, but not insubstantial—please give me a smidgeon, for both my next big event and for something that could help ACHDers.

Last year I mainly concentrated on running, and I had a hellishly good year of it. This year is a bit different. With the distances for events I’m looking at being so long, or the terrain so extreme that my normal training routines aren’t up to scratch, my normal thinking just won’t cut the mustard.

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Avengers Assemble

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Mar 15, 2013

This blog is inspired by a conversation about my latest run, the Cambridge Half Marathon, and one of my many interests—personality models.

My mate expressed amazement at the consistency of my splits. Up to the point where I got tired, they were within 30 seconds of each other. This started a conversation about personalities that has ruminated on in the back of my head since Sunday and has come out of my fingertips now…

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The 12 Commandments of the ACHDer Runner

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Feb 18, 2013

There’s a “10 Commandments for Runners” floating around on Facebook; being me, I looked at them and wondered if they needed any adaptation for a bunch of ACHD runners.

  1. Thou shall never say “I am not a runner.” If you run, you are a runner.
  2. Thou shall not compare yourself to other runners. A mile is a mile.
  3. Thou shall not skimp on sleep.

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New Year, New You

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Jan 07, 2013

Happy New Year!

So, made any resolutions? They’re big business over this side of the Atlantic—the sales of diet books and get-fit-quick books are through the roof, and the sales of chocolate and sweet stuff have (possibly) plummeted.

I’ve been asked by a few people how to lose weight, and by more people how to do more exercise, normally with a conversation opener like “What’s the secret… ” or “How did you do…”

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Bah Humbug!

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Dec 03, 2012

I’m a scrooge… I don’t do Christmas, I don’t like the fake jollity and false bonhomie. I find most of the traditions mere marketing tools to get me to part with my money.

I won’t be having turkey. I don’t even send Xmas cards.

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Have I Changed?

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Oct 26, 2012

A month ago I joined a fairly small group of people; I became an Ultra-marathoner. I started at Point A and ran and walked the 31 miles to Point B.

Don’t let that flippancy fool you, it was hard work. A warm day, a long way, some minor navigational hiccups, a long way, excellent organisers, but still it was a long way… And I smiled for almost all of the 31 miles.

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Demon Bashing

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012

It’s getting closer, time has stopped being measured in months—or even weeks—and it’s just days now until I line up in Sherwood Forest and start running for 50 km (31 miles) in one go.

The Ultra is so beyond anything I’ve ever done before that the nerves are beginning to jangle; the old demons are trying to resurface.

The nerves are runner’s nerves—how will I do, will I make my target time, will I get injured in the last couple of days, how should I carbo-load…

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Bringing the World Together

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, Aug 16, 2012

Two captains stand, as their players surround them in a circle, arms linked as the captains talk of friendship, love and those not here.

Two teams, who between them have kept the finest cardiologists of Europe (and beyond) busy for many, many years.

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Going Ultra, and a Request for Inspiration!

by Paul Willgoss on Thursday, Jul 19, 2012

It’s becoming real. In a little less than three months I’ll be in a coach heading to the start line for my first ultramarathon. Going beyond the 26.2 miles of a marathon for anyone must be one of the less sane things you can do, but the trick (I am assured) is continual incremental progress, building slowly and surely towards that fateful day in October.

Like so much in the lives of us ACHDers, we need to be more aware of the planning and make sure that changes are built in so that any issues are noticed, monitored and checked out.

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Halfway, a Very Hard Run, and Some Fun

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Jun 22, 2012

Forgive me—I’m in a contemplative mood. Put it down to how far I’ve come and how far I have to go…

First up, I’ve just done my hardest half marathon.

And despite the vomiting, the aching thighs and suspicion I should do something easier for a hobby, I enjoyed it hugely. Trail running in the U.K. is normally organised by small groups who for very sensible safety reasons have time cut-offs that I couldn’t meet, so when Great North Run (who put on the largest half marathon in the world) branch out it was time to do something I’d always wanted to try… The full details are here.

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The Lusty Month of May

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Well, sort of (I’ll explain the reference at the end, bear with me)…

May is always a busy month, none more so than this year.

Marathons to run, awareness-raising to do, politicians to chat up (and not in a lusty way), nationwide reviews of services to participate in, more runs and walks to do… and the day job, and the arts course I’m doing for fun.

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What is this life if, full of care/We have no time to stand and stare.

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Apr 11, 2012

Two walks, two weeks, two completely different ways of enjoying the Welsh countryside…

One of the delights of living in Liverpool is that by train, bus or friend’s cars, much of England and Wales’ countryside isn’t too far away.

That said, it’s unusual for me to take two walks, starting within five miles of each other, around different parts of the same range of hills that are so completely different.

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A Question of Confidence

by Paul Willgoss on Friday, Mar 16, 2012

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.

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A Valentine to CHD Athletes

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Feb 13, 2012

My definition is an athlete is anyone who does a couple of things:

  1. Trains for something—has a goal in mind and works towards it
  2. Times his or herself—just to check for improvements
  3. Keeps going—also known as sheer pig-headedness

So, anyone who signs up for any event—be it a 5k walk in their local park, a 10k run, a half marathon or anything—really is an athlete. That we have a heart condition is just an added complication.

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BHAG This-A-Way, BHAG That-A-Way

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012

This is an unapologetic endurance athlete-type blog, which is why I’m starting off recalling an HR conference in deepest Yorkshire.

I had the pleasure of seeing a business guru do his guru-thing to an audience of suited women and men. Although most of what the presenter, Jim Collins, was saying went the way of much guru-isms, he did come out with something that made me think.

The BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal

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The GUCH Walking Club

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Dec 19, 2011

As others watch their flocks by night, a walking group leader starts the process of working out the routes for 2012…

I’d love to say this is a military-style planning exercise, with a sandpit, flags and a detailed breakdown of each potential walker’s preferences for walking, and in an some ways it can become that. However, at the core the GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease) Walking Club is a simple ethos—get out there and enjoy some of the finest countryside in the world (I freely admit I’m biased).

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Celebrating 40 Years

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Nov 21, 2011

I’m officially middle aged!

I’m 40.

My friends have done me proud with their range of useful, delightful and just plain weird gifts. Being one of the last of my friends to reach this significant milestone of life means they get the chance to reap revenge for the various insults masquerading as gifts they’ve suffered over the years.

However, a sizeable contribution to a new heart rate monitor/GPS watch was part of the present. Which, trust me, I will be abusing over the coming months. I say abuse, as it’s a waterproof triathlon watch, and all I’m going to be doing is running, walking and climbing, often for a long time, and in rain, dry weather, snow—actually, abuse is about right!

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A Doctor’s Note

by Paul Willgoss on Monday, Oct 31, 2011

The three little words in the title are almost designed to irritate and annoy…


As a school child, a doctor’s note was needed to “prove” my heart condition was such that I couldn’t play sports. I then needed another one when the advice changed and I was allowed to.

As an adult, I needed a medical exam with a note from my doctor to join the civil service.

As a half marathoner, I needed a doctor’s note to join the gym.

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Introducing a British Blogger

by Paul Willgoss on Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011

How to start?

At the beginning:
It was a dark and stormy night. As the small blue baby was born, little did the world know what was to come…

At the second beginning:
The surgeon came out and said that as far as he knew it was a successful operation, but the next 24-48 hours would be critical…

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The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.