The Heart of a Runner

Well, specifically the heart of THIS runner. Last night – literally just last night- I had pasta with marinara for dinner (I am 99% sure this is relevant). During tv time (Naked & Afraid on DVR if you’re curious), I began to have pressure and pain in my chest. I was sure it was heartburn or indigestion, except I have had heartburn and this felt noticeably dissimilar. What’s a girl to do when she doesn’t know what’s going on medically? Paging: Dr. Google! Dr. Google in the house!

Dr. Google told me that many women, some of them even runners (ohmygodohmygod) have heart attacks, think it’s heartburn, go to bed and DIE. Ah thanks, internet, you never fail to reassure me. I mused on this situation for awhile, really not wanting to get up and put actual pants on or deal with any of this in an adult way. Going to bed seemed like such a better idea. I realized though that I really didn’t know about my heart – I do have some PVC issues (premature ventricular contractions, aka palpitations) that while harmless can occasionally cause issues and I’d already thought about seeing a cardiologist before my half marathon this fall. (Did I tell y’all I’m running a half in the fall? No? Stick around because my entire life is pretty much geared around the half at this point even though it’s months and months away.)

Finally, I fell back on having to take the advice that I give to everyone else: it isn’t worth your life. Just go in. Better safe than sorry. Heaving a heavy sigh, I put on real pants and off I went. We have a dedicated heart hospital with its own ER and that place was totes lovely. Start to finish I was there only 1.5 hours. I was EKG’d and CT’d and blood-drawn and whatever else they did to rule out my almost-40 heart doing something inappropriate. The staff was lovely. 5/5 would recommend. I would tip 20% and be sure to thank my server. I wish everyone had access to a place like that in a chest-pain freak-out emergency.

The good news is that I am fine “young lady” as the sexagenarian doctor called me. (I realize that although “sexagenarian” means someone in their 60s it reads as someone full of the sexy. Language is fun.) Anyway – the bottom line is that I got the heart scan I’d thought about getting anyway before my half. I get to do a follow-up to discuss my PVCs (that I’d thought about anyway). Everything was normal and looks good. I can run without worrying about blowing something out because they didn’t see anything alarming- so I’m not just living in the exciting and dangerous world of my magical inventive medical anxiety.

Although my first thought was: I run so I’m healthy, it isn’t a blank check to immortality. Runners have heart issues and health problems – maybe less of them, but we do. For God’s sake, Trainer Bob had a massive heart attack at the gym and that guy looks like he’s never even seen a carb. What really convinced me was reading that so many women actively having heart problems do what I thought about doing: we pop some tums or some advil and go to bed, not wanting to bother anyone. Would we let our kids or our significant others do that? We deserve to ensure that we’ll be out pounding pavement for years or decades to come. Sure, *this* time it was some weird marinara reaction… thankfully. I only know because I went in.

I have the heart of a runner and I’m going to keep it that way – even if I have to meet the chatty staff at the cardiac ER to do it. Make sure you give yourself the same priority.



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