How a keen runner has adapted his hobby

Sean Doyle out running

Sean Doyle, 47, from Huddersfield, was a keen marathon runner. Since his heart attack, he’s had to make some changes, but inspired by Heart Matters, he's still out running.

Back in May 2013, Sean collapsed on the way to a 5km Parkrun in nearby Greenhead Park. A blocked artery caused a heart attack, which led to a sudden cardiac arrest.

By chance, Sean’s GP, Dr Emma Spencer, was running that morning, as was nurse Dinah Cooper. They performed CPR until paramedics arrived to take him to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

In the ambulance, Sean suffered a second cardiac arrest and was put into an induced coma when he arrived at the hospital. He had a stent fitted too, but within a week he was allowed to go home. “If I hadn’t been at that park on that day, with those people, I wouldn’t be here,” says Sean. “Things are meant to be for a reason.”

Back at home, Sean didn’t want to give up running but realised he might have to scale down his expectations. “I remember looking at Heart Matters and there was the guy who was a football referee on the front cover. I thought: ‘He’s not giving up what he used to do’, and neither am I,” says Sean.

Running is my way of escaping

“Running is my way of escaping, but obviously you’ve got to listen to the advice you’re given. I was walking within a week and tried to do as much as I could, maybe a four or five-mile route every day.

He was helped back to fitness by cardiac rehab. At first, his activities were restricted to those that kept his heart rate low, such as gentle step-ups. Running was not permitted. Twelve weeks later, Sean had a stress test (also known as an exercise ECG). His doctor was pleased with the results.

“The consultant said there was no reason why I shouldn’t go back to running,” says Sean. “But he said no more marathons, no more personal bests, no more than 40 miles a week and don’t get your heart rate above 135bpm. I bargained him up to 140bpm.”

Sean rejoined his running club, the Holmfirth Harriers, and is back doing Parkruns. “I’ve been doing the Parkrun religiously, but my wife made me walk the first one,” he says. “That got my worst time ever, but we did a collection and raised £700.” The money helped buy a defibrillator for Greenhead Park.

Sean has done a few 10km runs too, including one to raise money for the local air ambulance service and another for Kirkwood Hospice. But mostly, he’s just running for fun. “It’s a form of escapism,” he says. “It’s keeping you fit and you can forget about all of your worries as you plod along. Although I can’t do half marathons anymore – about 10 miles is the most I can do at once – I can still do a fair old pace, especially with the medication I’m on.

“My trainers tend to last about 600 miles, and I’m now on the fourth pair since my heart attack.”

Parkrun

Founded in 2004, Parkrun arranges 5km runs in parks around the UK. They are free, weekly and timed. There are almost 3,000 Parkrun clubs, with nearly 650,000 runners taking part. The aim is to get people outdoors and active, so all ages and abilities are welcome. Do it for fun or challenge yourself to improve on your personal time each week.

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