22 September 2016 saw Edward Eagle marking the 50th anniversary of his first open heart surgery. Since then he has taken up trekking and parkrunning, and he tells us how parkrun is helping him to look after his heart…
I was born with a hole in the heart (ASD) and underwent open heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Sick Children (now part of the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust) to rectify the condition in 1966. Fast forward to December 2013 and I was having my second open heart surgery, a triple bypass, this time at the Hammersmith Hospital in London. Since then I have been hospitalised for a number of heart attacks and other cardiac events.
On 28 December 2016, I stood on the scales and weighed in at 128kg. Remembering that my cardiologist had said “lose some weight Mr Eagle or lose your life”, I took up trekking. I signed up for the 65-mile British Heart Foundation London to Brighton trek and on New Year’s Day last year, I walked my first training mile. As the days progressed, my distances increased, culminating in a 40-mile non-stop training walk.
Event day came in June 2017. I walked for 45 miles but I had become dehydrated and my heart started to race. I had to be rescued by the Kent Rescue Services. I was blue-lighted to Brighton General Hospital, they rehydrated me and after two hours I was ready to leave. After they discharged me I returned to the course and completed it! I have signed up for the same event this year as I have a score to settle. I want to complete it without the assistance of paramedics. This time I have taken backup measures though, as joining me on the walk will be doctors and surgeons from Hammersmith Hospital.
As well as increasing my activity levels, I’d also joined Weight Watchers. My team leader at Weight Watchers is a member of the Ealing Eagles Running Club and she suggested that I take up running to help with my overall fitness and weight loss as a way of improving my chances of completing my 65-mile trek.
So on 28 September 2017, never having run anywhere, I joined the Ealing Eagles Beginners Running Club. All my life I have been told that I should not over exert myself so on my first day I was a little apprehensive to say the least, I wished I had a defibrillator with me and someone who knew how to use it! The beginners course follows the Couch to 5k programme, and those first two minutes of running felt like a lifetime. Would it ever end? It did, only to be followed by another two minutes one minute later!
But some eight weeks later I completed my first ever continuous 5k at Gunnersbury parkrun. I broke down crying realising I had achieved what people had said I couldn’t. It hadn’t been easy, but I’d been determined. Running parkrun that day was a turning point in my life for it marked the point of recovery to recovered.
I love Gunnersbury parkrun, every time, without fail, I am always encouraged and cheered in at the finish. I am invariably the last person to finish before the Tail Walker, but my victory is in arriving at the start line. For me, Saturday morning cannot come around fast enough. I enjoy parkrun not just for the event itself but for the camaraderie amongst other athletes and volunteers. I have my limitations but participating in parkrun is not one of them.
I am a proud member of the Ealing Eagles Running Club and I wear my club vest with pride as I know how much effort it has taken me to obtain it. And I now have new ambitions; to run 10k and a sub 40 minute 5k and when I reach there I will have another horizon to look forward to.
My message to you all is this: look after your heart and your heart will look after you, and parkrun is doing just that. Looking after my heart.
parkrun’s PROVE project has been set up to encourage more people with disabilities or long-term health conditions to participate at parkrun. If you’re living with a heart condition we’d love to have you join parkrun UK’s official Facebook group for parkrunners living with heart conditions to share advice, tips, opinions and stories on all things related to parkrun.
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