Why we ignore serious symptoms

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I spent almost two decades as a distance runner. Many of the elite marathoners I knew (and certainly the one I happened to live with!) obsessed mercilessly on every detail, every hill, every split time of every race, but not so much on the daily joys of just running itself. It was the destination, not the journey, that seemed to matter to so many of these elite athletes – especially during race season.

The members of my own running group could never be accused of being elite runners.

Our motto: “No course too short, no pace too slow.”  But over those decades, whenever my group was in training for a specific road race looming on the calendar, I could watch myself being somehow sucked into that seductive groupthink trap of running even when I was sick, running when I was injured, running because it’s Tuesday and Tuesdays meant hill work, running with an ankle or knee taped and hurting.

Getting to a more important destination (the race) became bigger to me than paying attention to those less important messages (don’t run today). In fact, I learned from other runners to deliberately mistrust whatever my lazy-ass self was trying to say.  I learned to ignore the messages my own body was sending me. Continue reading “Why we ignore serious symptoms”

Chest pain while running uphill

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

 Part 3 of a 3-part series about pain

runningMy initial heart attack symptoms struck me right out of the blue.  I was out for a brisk walk early one beautiful Monday morning around 6 a.m. when suddenly, I experienced a pain smack in the centre of my chest. It felt like a cross between crushing heaviness and a severe burning sensation that gradually extended right up my chest into my lower throat. My left arm began to hurt. I also felt like I was going to vomit, and I started sweating far more profusely than my walking pace warranted.

But a strange realization about my heart attack symptoms hit me much later, long after I was hospitalized for what doctors still call the “widowmaker” heart attack 

This was not the first time in my life I’d felt the chest pain symptoms I experienced on that spring morning.
Continue reading “Chest pain while running uphill”

Why we ignore serious symptoms

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Before my heart attack, I spent almost two decades as a distance runner. Many of the elite marathoners I knew (and certainly the one I happened to live with!) obsessed mercilessly on every detail of their last race, but not so much on the daily joys of running itself. It was the destination and not the journey that seemed to matter to so many of them, especially during race season.

The members of my own running group could never be accused of being elite runners. Our motto was: “No course too short, no pace too slow.”  But over those decades, whenever my group was in training for a specific road race looming on the calendar, I could watch myself being sucked into that seductive groupthink trap of running even when I was sick, running when I was injured, running because it’s Tuesday and Tuesdays meant hill work, running with an ankle or knee taped and hurting.

Getting to a more important destination (the race) became bigger than paying attention to those less important messages (don’t run today). In fact, I learned from other runners to deliberately mistrust whatever my lazy-ass self was trying to say.  I learned to ignore the messages my own body was sending me. Continue reading “Why we ignore serious symptoms”

On being a (former) runner

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

I felt like an archeologist last week when a friend showed me a well-worn  copy of a magazine article I’d written that, for some reason, he had been saving for years. It had been published in Runner’s World. As I re-read my guest column, it hit me that this was back in the publication’s heyday of iconic (male) writers like the 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot, and Joe Henderson, and Dr. George Sheehan, before the magazine published its Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running, and almost 20 years after I had first taken up distance running myself.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.10.19 AMWhile revisiting this essay I’d written, I was struck by its over-arching theme of loss. It’s a universal concept common to both heart patients mourning their loss of “normalcy” and to former distance runners mourning their loss of identity as runners. 

I used to be a runner, but I’m no longer a runner now. This was how I told Runner’s World readers my story of that surreal transition:  Continue reading “On being a (former) runner”