After a quadruple heart bypass and a stent, Maartin Barac is very lucky (his doctors words) to be alive.
Maartin started his parkrun Voortrekker Monument in February 2016, accompanied by his sister. This was the start of his journey to improve both his and his family’s health.
Initially he was only able to walk the route at Voortrekker Monument or Botanical Gardens parkruns. After 4 months he was able to jog the route, slower than his walk time but he was ecstatic. It is also during this time that he decided it was time to give back to parkrun by volunteering with his daughter, who was 6 at the time.
Maartin, along with Wendy Yates and the rest of the team, helped to set up Valhalla parkrun when Voortrekker Monument parkrun was suspended.
He also started to realise that his childhood dream of participating in a marathon might just be possible. Not just a marathon, but the biggest of dreams, run and complete Comrades. There was a mental image of Bruce Fordyce running the Comrades burned into his mind and, during a documentary on the legend where he saw it again, it inspired him again like it had sparked that dream all those years ago.
He trained for the races and started by completing his first RAC tough one. But then he started to experience chest pain while running which was odd as he was getting fitter by the day.
On 1 May 2018, he ran his first marathon – the Wally Hayward and missed Comrades qualifying with 31 seconds. But those chest pains were still there and began to worry both him and his family. Maartin went to his GP and on the ECG, she noticed something wrong and sent it to two cardiologists. They both said there was nothing and the stressed ECG was done again both cardiologists saw nothing wrong. But the pain kept coming every time he would run, getting worse in the winter.
Maartin decided a second opinion was necessary and another cardiologist arranged an angiogram. While still on the theatre table, the cardiologist told him he would require, not a double or triple but a 4x bypass!! Imagine the shock, he came out of theatre as white as a sheet. Due to the high risk, Maartin was not even allowed to go home, let alone be moved to a hospital closer to home. And the doctors had the right instincts, as the chest pains started again, which resulted in him being moved into ICU.
Two days later he had a 4x heart bypass in a marathon surgery session lasting 17 hours.
Whilst in hospital he had to walk for short distances. One week after his surgery, he was discharged and sent home, instead of staying in for observation. Two days later, Paulien, his wife, accompanied him on his first walk outside. Within 6 weeks he was walking 11 km’s almost every day fast enough that Paulien was not able to keep up.
And a mere eight weeks after that marathon surgery, Maartin was back at his beloved parkrun, walking in the crowd. He still had to get a stent in the fifth artery and therefore needed to be accompanied on all his walks.
Training for the Comrades dream recommenced, this time with NO chest pain, although some knee trouble came along. Maartin was determined to qualify for Two Oceans and Comrades 2020. He had to run 3 marathons in 3 weeks but he finally made it, he qualified for both!
But then, here came lockdown. Covid 19 had hit South African shores. He did not have a treadmill and with his knee issue, he could not run in the garden (not for lack of trying though). So his wife sent him to the Spar every day. 8km away. He liked the running to the Spar. It was the coming back was very difficult. Running 8kms with groceries in a backpack for 8kms was not that easy – on him AND the poor groceries!
With the lifting of level 5 restrictions came the virtual runs, and the Irene Ultra virtual run had Maartin running to sign up. At that stage, exercise was only allowed between 6 and 9 am. He could do the 42.2km in 7 days. Which he did.
He got hooked on the virtual races. In rapid succession he completed the Legends of Comrades, the Unity Ultra with his family and his work colleagues, Run and Walk for Hope, Women for change race, a run hosted by his childrens’ school. And is still going to do the Spar Women Challenge and the Unity Ultra 2 again with his family and colleagues. He also did a challenge for charity running 8 km a day for 8 days. And is currently running for #Move4Malawi.
Although he will require a knee replacement in the near future, Maartin remains positive, and credits parkrun with saving his life.
“If it was not for parkrun, I would not have started running and would not have detected the chest pains and would most probably have been dead by now!”
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