Bad Family History? You Can Run But You Can’t Hide
By John Bingham
This year has been filled with a number of heart-wrenching moments for the Bingham family. First, in June, while doing her final track workout before competing in her fifth Senior Olympics, my mom-my 79-year-old, never overweight, nearly vegetarian, exercise-fanatic mom-collapsed and had to undergo emergency angioplasty. Her lower descending something-or-other was 93 percent blocked the doc speculated that she pushed herself to go another 25 steps of so, she probably wouldn’t ever have gotten up.
Then, in July, my 80-year-old father, who has been a heart patient since his first heart attack at 38, had double bypass surgery. (They would have done a third bypass, except one whole part of his heart no longer works.) Some main “intersection” in the front of his heart was 90 percent blocked.
In the following weeks, as both of my parents recovered, a very nice medical technician showed me the 10-percent blockage in my own heart-in the same lower descending doohickey that had nearly killed my mom. So, I am, at 59 a heart patient. And I am angry.
Come on! Don’t the 45 marathons I’ve run, 60 pounds I’ve lost, and thousands of miles I’ve logged over the last 15 years count for anything? Not according to my cholesterol reading, which was also found to be alarmingly high and, if left untreated, would contribute to additional blockages
Like many runners I thought a healthy diet and regular exercise would immunize me against all the nasty things that can happen to sedentary people. Wrong. Just because I stopped smoking and overeating and started running doesn’t mean I can skip physicals or outrun my genes. We may be athletes, but we’re living in human bodies.
As the year ends moth my parents are doing great mom is back out on the track and thing about race-walking a half-marathon next summer, while Pop is back to walking several days a week, riding his stationary bike, and making bread and pasta sauce. As for me, I am eating a little less of my dad’s bread and a little more of his pasta sauce. I’m seeing doctors, taking medication-a pill that fights off the cholesterol bestowed on me from food and family-and running ore often. Not training, per se, but running for my health. Running for my life.
And my running has a new dimension-a new meaning. Of course, it’s still an activity that I enjoy. But it’s also an activity that I now fully understand adds quality to my life, even if it might not add all the quality I want. I’m more grateful than ever for the gifts that running has given me, and I’m overwhelmed when I think of all the amazing people in my life (including my wife) I never would have me if I hadn’t laced up my shoes.
Waddle on, friends.