Sam Weygood couldn’t run much as a youngster. Sport of any kind was out because he had a condition called aortic stenosis. The valve in his aorta did not work properly allowing blood to leak back into his heart.
When Sam was young he had to avoid all kinds of fitness activity to keep pressure off his heart. Sam reckons his mother could tell you that this was not an easy feat to achieve with a boy who wanted to get out there and have a go.
When Sam got sick, it took much longer for him to recover than it would a person without his condition. By the time he turned 30 things got worse. Sickness became more of a factor; he was always tired, running more than a k was impossible without stopping for a long rest to recover. When he was 32, his cardiologist found that the aortic valve had packed up completely and his heart was slowly filling up with blood. The prognosis was for long-term damage or for heart failure.
Two months after that diagnosis, Sam had open-heart surgery to replace the ‘dicky’ valve with one made from titanium. Sam says that the first week of recovery was very scary because he developed arrhythmia when they restarted his heart (for non-medicos such as me, this means irregular heartbeat). They reset his heartbeat using electric shock treatment.
Ten weeks down the track and Sam was in fine form. The new valve in the heart gave him a new lease on life. He was told he could engage in any form of fitness activity with the exception of contact sport. Sam fell in love with running, as we do. His first parkrun was Aldinga Beach (SA) in August, 2017. The aim was to beat 30 minutes. He ran a sub-25.
In October Sam did a 10 k trail run through Kuipto Forest in 57 minutes. He’d had a dream of competing in triathlons and completed the Moana Triathlon in November and followed that up with the short courses at West Lakes and at Victor Harbor in February, 2018. Sam’s next challenge is to complete a sprint-distance triathlon later this year, hoping for a sub hour thirty minutes. He set a pb for 5 k parkruns at Victor Harbor a few weeks ago with a more than respectable 21:48. He regularly runs the Moana course—somewhat tougher—in the low 22′s.
The operation on his heart has changed Sam’s life in so many good ways. He says that he has lots more energy to play and run with his kids. He pays tribute to his wife, Hannah, for her terrific support through the whole thing. This was not easy on Hannah with two young kids, having to deal with the risks to Sam through the operation and nursing him during his recovery. Hannah has supported Sam all the way through the operation, recovery, encouragement to train and by attending early morning races when Sam has run.
Sam describes Hannah’s support as ‘outstanding’.
These days Sam and Hannah are Event Directors at the picturesque parkun at Moana in SA. parkrun means a lot to both of them as it’s something that brings the community together for a non-judgemental form of exercise. Sam says that parkun is great because everyone is cheering for each other.
They are both regular runners and volunteers at Moana and they are bringing up their children hoping that they follow them into parkruns when they are older.
Sam’s story is an inspiring one of overcoming adversity, of a willingness to work hard to achieve fitness goals and the importance of parkrun to the lives of people in our communities.
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