Heart attack survivor plans marathon

Martin Gardner posted on Jan 25 2021

Heather was a novice runner five years ago, and started her journey through a Couch to 5k programme. Now she is encouraging locals to join Trinity Hospice’s Couch to 5k to find their love of running, while raising funds so people across the Fylde coast can access outstanding hospice care whenever, and wherever they need it.

Heather was 14 miles into her training for the London Marathon when, in January 2020, aged 48, she suffered a heart attack. She was devastated it cost her place in the running event, and was determined to find her running feet again.

Heather, who lives in Staining, said she, like many runners, entered the ballot for a marathon place every year and was surprised to receive an email confirming her place in the 2020 event.

She said: “I picked myself up off the floor, and decided that I would support Trinity Hospice because, you never know, one day I might need it.”

Heather’s training was going well, and she had reached 14 miles when, in January, following a trip to Sheffield for her mother’s funeral, she started to feel unwell.

She said: “I had been driving for two and a half hours, and when I got out of the car I just felt stiff. My back was aching, and I thought I must have been tense on the drive home. Helen was pulling my arms out in front of me and up in the air trying to help me loosen up, and we got in the car to go to the shops.

“I started to feel really ill. It’s a feeling I would never wish on anybody. I was clammy and grey and I had this crushing feeling in my chest.

“We went to the walk in centre, and even with everything I was feeling, I was so focussed on my training that I went up the stairs, rather than the lift. Everything I did, the marathon was in the back of my mind.”

Nurses administered a medical spray – GTN – to open up her arteries, and gave her aspirin to thin her blood. They called an ambulance, and Heather was admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where doctors confirmed she had suffered a heart attack.

Heather said: “Everyone who came in I asked when I could go running again.

“Fortunately I didn’t need stents or anything, just medication, so I was allowed home the next day. But before I left the doctor came in. He said he knew I was training for the marathon, but that the answer was no.

“I was OK. It wasn’t until the next morning at home, when I came downstairs and saw the bag of medication I would be on, and my training calendar on the wall, that it hit me. I’d had a heart attack, and I wouldn’t be doing the marathon.”

Heather started to attend Cardiac Rehab at the Vic, but due to lockdown only attended three sessions. It was all she needed.

Therapists helped her to focus on her breathing, and how she was feeling, and, knowing she was desperate to get running again, got her to jogging, ready to begin marathon training once more.

Heather said: “I wanted to get to where I was, and I decided to mark a year since the heart attack with a marathon here in Blackpool, ending at the hospice.

“What better way to close this chapter, and this awful year, than to complete what I set out to do.

“I must admit, there are times when it’s been so cold and wet when I wonder why I didn’t make it a half marathon. But I’m up to 16 miles in my training – more than I did before my heart attack, and I’m feeling good.

There are people at the hospice who would love to go out for a run, or are desperate to feel the rain on their faces – they don’t know if they will feel it again.  So when I’m at my 19th, or 23rd or 26th mile, and I feel like I can’t go on, I know that thinking of them will get me to the end.”

To sponsor Heather, visit

To find out more about Trinity Hospice’s Couch to 5k, and to sign up to the 10 week programme, visit www.trinityhospice.co.uk/couchto5k.