Listen to your heart…

Written by Rob Ostler

My name is Rob and I am currently 35, I have always enjoyed sports, more so endurance sport! I used to cycle a lot and also run a fair bit too. When I was 28 I was training for a Olympic distance triathlon when I started to notice that when i did the run part of training my heart rate would randomly increase to well over 200BPM, my heart would be pounding, I would feel completely out of breath and weak… It was so random at the time that I figured that maybe I was just a bit fatigued, dehydrated or something minor, so minor in fact that I didn’t tell anyone because it didn’t seem worth it (not even my wife who is a nurse or brother in law who is a doctor). Over some time I started to notice it more and more and it got to a point where the episodes were lasting 10/15 minutes, which left me exhausted… If you think 200+ BPM for 15 minutes is like hill sprinting for 15 minutes!

After discussing with my wife and family, I decided to go the GP and got referred to a Cardiologist; several months of inconclusive tests I was put through something called an Electrophysiology study at Frimley Park Hospital. The study is basically an electrical test of my heart to find out if and where I had an electrical issue. The study concluded and diagnosed me with a condition called Atrial Fibrillation (AF). At the time I was given options on how to proceed either medically or surgically. I decided I was too young to have heart surgery and took the medical approach which was simply 1 pill which i should take as and when an episode happened. I also gave up running, in fact I gave up most exercise.


Around a year passed and I had done very little in the way of training or running and I had sadly become quite unfit. I was given an opportunity to help with the London marathon 2014 with the Southern Navigators (father in law is a member and a great competitive orienteer).I took the opportunity, had a fantastic day on the finish line, spoke to and congratulated 1000’s and 1000’s of runners. It sparked something in me to want to get back to what i loved doing. Running. At the end of the London 2014 was an option to enter the London 2015 in a volunteers ballot, so I figured ‘What the hell, Ill never get in anyway….’

I remember the day clear when i got the email to say that I had got a place! Damn I had to get back into training…

I got touch with a fantastic charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young or CRY as the call themselves. The charity is aimed at young adults between 14-35 and offers help, advice, screening and all sorts for preventative Cardiac issues in people that don’t know the have a cardiac issue. I decided to use my London place and raise money for the charity and in return they helped me train and stay positive. London was a great journey and I landed a 3.45 with no cardiac issues on the day.

Roll on to Brighton marathon 2016, training did not go quite to plan, I had a few episodes during training but nothing I wasn’t used to and the pill in the pocket approach worked as it should although it knocked me for six everytime…

Brighton marathon day came and I unfortunately had the biggest episode to date. It started at mile 9 and I regrettably was too wrapped in in marathon fever to stop and quit… I carried onto mile 14 with a HR of 235 and ended up in a st John’s tent where I was very close to having something called Cardioversion (defib to shock heart back into correct rhythm ). Thankfully I didn’t need to have this and my AF settled down. This was the end of the Brighton marathon 2016.

At now 34 I felt it was time to see the Cardiologist again and go for the surgery to get fixed once and for all. I didn’t stop running this time though, I just made sure I was sensible and got to know my condition so i could manage it better in the interim before the operation.

February 2017 I went for a ‘Cryo Balloon Ablation procedure’ which in effect is a procedure to freeze the pulmonary veins at your heart to isolate the electrical pulses which were causing my AF. It’s quite clever stuff, going in through my groin and up up into my heart through my veins! While I knew this was a pretty serious procedure , I hugely underestimated the recovery time and it was a good few months before I was feeling semi normal again…

Since the procedure I have had maybe one or two minor episodes in the early days which was normal but in the last 12 months I have had no issues at all thankfully and have been discharged from cardiac care. I also completed the Brighton Marathon 2018 with no issues in PB of 3.32, it was an emotional day for me, especially when i passed the 14 mile mark and saw the St Johns tent.. It was a mental battle 2 years in the making and I beat it. Since the surgery I also have a Half marathon PB of 1.32, 10 mile PB of 1.12, 10 K PB of 42.40 and a 5k PB of 19.45…

I think its safe to say I’m fixed for now but i continue to raise awareness of undiagnosed cardiac conditions and you all may have seen my CRY badges on my BVR T-shirt and Vest. Undiagnosed Cardiac conditions is a serious matter and can be devastating if affected. Every year people suffer some kind of cardiac issue they didn’t know about and unfortunately sometimes its fatal. I strongly urge anyone within the club and outside the club for that matter, between the ages of 14-35 to go onto CRY’s website and see where the next local screening is, its free and could save your life.

Visit the CRY website

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