Running a half marathon is a huge achievement by anyone’s standards, but doing so with a congenital heart defect that makes even walking difficult is nothing short of heroic.
Yet this is exactly what 60-year-old Acton resident Edward Eagle will be doing on Sunday 29th September this year, when he lines up at the start of Ealing Half Marathon. Having undergone two open heart surgeries, and been hospitalised for a number of heart attacks and other cardiac events, you would think that Edward would be entirely justified watching the race from the sidelines. But he has done that for the last three years, and this year he wants to be part of this award-winning race and feel for himself what it’s like to cross that finish line.
Edward’s journey to the 2019 Ealing Half Marathon started at the 2016 race, where as a spectator he cheered on the athletes as they ran by and soaked up the fantastic atmosphere for which the event is known. He saw everyone smiling and having a good time and felt it was something that he too would like to do.
“Watching the event in 2016 and seeing the runners at the back giving it their all really inspired me,” explains Edward. “I have to admit to feeling a tiny bit jealous of them taking part in this wonderful community event. Their efforts in the race turned to huge celebration at the end, and really showed that they had done something worthwhile. I thought if they can do it, so can I!”
Clearly for Edward this was not going to be easy, as his heart rhythm disorder means that his heart does not pump blood and oxygen effectively – something that most athletes take for granted. However, with lots of encouragement, Edward signed up to join local running club Ealing Eagles in May 2017. He started their Beginners 0 to 5K programme in the September and graduated in November 2017, completing his first ever continuous 5K and, soon after, his first 10K. He was doing things he had never thought possible. The support of the club meant that he never ran alone and he was feeling fitter and healthier than he had in a long time.
In September 2018 Edward volunteered at Ealing Half Marathon on one of the water stations, which he found to be a fantastic experience. Seeing all the runners go by just strengthened his resolve to run Ealing Half Marathon himself. His role as a volunteer earned him a free place at the 2019 event and, as such, he is now just over four months away from taking on his very own 13.1 miles.
He has also recently completed his 50th parkrun at Gunnersbury and regularly volunteers at The Ealing Mile, organised by Ealing Half Marathon Legacy CIC.
Any hiccups along the way Edward just takes in his stride, such an enforced break from training following his latest heart procedure in April. He is looking forward to resuming his running in May, cheerfully stating that his body will remember what to do. If a positive outlook can get you places then Eddie is going to go far, as he is clearly not one to sit at home feeling sorry for himself.
In fact, in 2016 Edward was invited back to the children’s hospital where, aged seven, he underwent his first open heart surgery. As a guest of honour, he celebrated 50 years since his life-saving operation and spent some time talking to young patients in a similar position to the one he found himself in all those years ago.
“You’ve got to put a positive spin on things,” he admits. “I am alive! If my experience can give just one person the belief that heart surgery is survivable and a full life can be lived afterwards, then I will be happy. I would have laughed out loud at anyone suggesting I run a half marathon, but nothing’s impossible if you put your mind to it.
“It may take me a long time, but my Ealing Eagles friends will be waiting for me at the end and cheering me over that finish line. It’s an incredible community event, made even better by being a closed road race. The camaraderie amongst the runners is superb and the support from the spectators and volunteers is amazing. I can’t wait to be a part of it all!”
As for expected finish time, any time is a guaranteed PB for Edward. The victory for him is arriving at the start line. As he rightly says, the longer you’re on the course the more time you have to enjoy the event – and there is no doubt he’s going to relish every minute.
With four and a half months until this year’s Ealing Half Marathon, and with running fever in the air, now is the perfect time to sign up and train for a much-loved race in West London. For complete beginners starting Couch to 5K to more experienced runners, there is still time to get to the start line this autumn.
For anyone who has been inspired by the recent Virgin Money London Marathon and other spring races, Ealing Half Marathon is a superb autumn goal with a guaranteed #EalingFeeling. The event will welcome 7,000 runners from over 25 countries to its 8th anniversary race on Sunday 29th September 2019. The race starts and finishes in Lammas Park and takes in parts of Central Ealing, Montpelier, Pitshanger, West Ealing, Hanwell and St Stephens.
Go to www.ealinghalfmarathon.com to register and for further race info. You can also like the Facebook page www.facebook.com/ealinghalf and follow @EalingHalf#EalingFeeling on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with all the latest news about the Ealing Half Marathon.