“I ran with both of my sons and my best friends of more than 25 years. That was special”

Having heart bypass surgery made Michael Underhill determined to take up running again after 30 years. He explains how his running goals motivated him.

Michael Underhill, right, ran with his family and friends to raise money for the BHF

Michael, right, ran with his family and friends to raise money for the BHF

Michael Underhill, from Batley, West Yorkshire, hadn’t run for 30 years, but on the eve of his triple heart bypass in December 2013, he found himself making a big promise.

“The surgeon told me he was going to give me a heart as good as new,” says Michael, 53. “I asked him if I’d be able to run. He said I would. I told him I would run  the Great North Run, and that was my goal all through my rehabilitation.”

After experiencing mild discomfort one night in November 2013, Michael, a school learning mentor, decided to check in with his GP the next morning. He’d had a heart attack. “It came completely out of the blue,” he says. “I didn’t know I was having one until I went to the GP and the warning signs were picked up.”

Michael was admitted to hospital. He was told he’d need a triple heart bypass. This was tough news, but he says his wife Susan helped him through.

Race training

After surgery, Michael was invited to attend cardiac rehabilitation at Dewsbury Hospital. He told staff about his promise to complete the Great North Run. “When they knew my long-term goal, they were very supportive and encouraged me to go for it,” says Michael.

The Great North Run was my goal all through my rehabilitation

He aimed to do the run within two years and slowly began training. “On my first attempt I shocked myself and ran half a mile,” he says. “When you go through a life-changing experience, there’s a lot of thinking. You need time to clear your mind. Running helped clear my head.”

As the big day approached, Michael began training three or four times a week. Even while on holiday in Corfu, he’d get up at 6am to beat the heat and do a run.

Michael’s sons Simon and Chris decided to run with him, along with friends Gary, Paul, Andrew and Ben. “Without my friends and my sons, it would’ve been really tough,” he says. “But we helped each other and supported each other. Our motto was: ‘Start together, finish together.’”

The team aimed to raise £400 for the BHF. They smashed their target, bringing in £1,858. “It was unbelievable,” says Michael. “When you look back, you forget the pain. It was a brilliant day.”  

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