My heart is broken :-(

Posted on: 09 Dec 2017

Let me introduce myself...my name is Jenny and I used to blog on here often.....!!! I won’t try and make excuses for my absence on here all year and just move on.

You may recall that I had a tough running year in 2016.  I was finding long runs very exhausting; struggled terribly in the Manchester marathon in April; and had such a bad time in the Snowdon marathon that I pulled out tearful and broken at half way.

I decided that perhaps 6 marathons in the previous 3 years (on top of quite a lot of personal stress) had possibly warn me out.  I therefore made a New Years Resolution for 2017 that I wouldn’t run any marathons at all during the year!  I would stick to half marathons at most; find some time to recharge; and would simply run for the pure enjoyment of it.

I entered the Bath half marathon to do with David in March and set out training for that.  Training didn’t go that well and come race day I suffered the (predictable by now) feeling that I’d hit the wall at only 5-6 miles.  Once again I felt that I couldn’t go on and pulled out of this run before finishing.  I also gave away my place in the Wilmslow half marathon a month or so later.  I was feeling like a failure and pretty crap about myself and my running.

I was still enjoying running but over the summer I even started to feel out of breath just doing parkrun.  Inspired by Libby saying that she had been diagnosed with exercise induced asthma I finally decided to go to the doctors .   I felt a bit self indulgent seeing my doctor because I was getting out of breath whilst running!  However, I have been running for long enough to feel that something wasn’t right.

I was expecting to be in and out with an inhaler and that my running struggles would be resolved.  Except he didn’t think it was asthma.  He checked me over and asked if I was aware that I had a heart murmur.  No I wasn’t and I was a little shocked.

Since then I’ve had blood tests, a scan, and an ECG.  It turns out that I have a condition called Tricuspid Regurgitation which means that one of the valves in my heart isn’t closing properly and allowing blood to go back the wrong way.  I also have a very low heart rate (50 beats per minute against the ‘norm’ of 60-100 bpm), however, I’ve always known this and it is acceptable because of my physical fitness. 

Thankfully my heart condition is mild however endurance running could potentially put too much pressure on my heart.  Therefore my doctor is checking with the cardiologist whether or not it’s safe for me to start marathon training again.

The symptoms of this condition include shortness of breath and decreased exercise capacity.  So it all makes sense now as to why I was struggling so much.  And whilst it’s good that it’s mild, from what I can gather there isn’t any treatment at this stage (Just regular monitoring).

I had entered Manchester again for next April and was due to start training with earnest in the next couple of weeks.  I’m seeing my doctor again next week so hopefully I’ll have some answers by then.

I can’t describe how I’m feeling right now.  I actually shudder to think about what the consequences could have been if I’d not listened to my body and not taken it easier this year.  Or if I’d not pulled out of those runs where I was feeling awful (Snowdon for example).  I also feel kind of vindicated in myself that there was a reason for my struggles and that it wasn’t just me being crap or lazy.  But my overriding feeling is of uneasiness of what my running future will hold.  Even if my doctor says that it’s safe for me to marathon train then the reality is that I’ll still struggle with the shortness of breath as my heart won’t be able to efficiently pump blood round my system.  So for example I’ll  probably have goodbye to that sub 4 hour marathon. There’s also a possibility that I won’t be able to do weights and therefore my beloved weekly kettlebell class would have to go.

I know that I’ll have to find new running goals.  I will probably hit the trails more and enjoy running with our gorgeous dog,  

The moral of this blog is that it’s so important to get checked out if something isn’t right.  It took me ages to get round to going to the doctors for fear of wasting his time.  And credit to him who is being so thorough.  If anyone else has been diagnosed with a heart condition I’d be very interested to hear about it. 

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