Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon 2009 (2 of 3)

It was my friend Joan who suggested I go for 21 km on the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. She knew I had taken a bet with friends for the first to finish the half-marathon among us. If you’ve read one of my previous posts, you already know that staying fit was our primary goal, that running was the form of exercise we chose, and the small bet was a neat trick to keep us focused on our goal and sustain our interest when the hard work began. While I was sure I could go 15 km if I had to, I had gone only as far as 13 km once and running 8 km more seemed like a gargantuan task. But I felt there was enough time to prepare so with a bit more prodding, I registered for the half-marathon.

I ran as much as I could during the weeks that followed. On lazy days, covering 5 km felt sufficient, but 10 km suited me just fine on regular days. Still, I wasn’t able to run the full distance of 21 km at least once as I hoped to.

One of the things that greeted me after a good 10 km run was a letter stating I needed to undergo a physical checkup, which included getting an X-ray. I thought that wasn't a big deal so I arranged for an appointment as soon as I could. I was only happy to obtain the results from Raffles Clinic that Friday morning, nine days before the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. I was certain I didn’t have TB to be worried about, which proved to be the case when I gave the results a quick scan. Later that night however, when I gave the results a second look, I was filled with disbelief when I read “Heart is slightly enlarged” as part of the interpretation.

I then spent a good number of hours surfing the Net and filling my head with information about Cardiomegaly, but not after I sent a quick e-mail to a close friend-slash-doctor back at home. To my surprise, I got a reply from him in less than thirty minutes. Here’s part of his reply:
..more often than not, especially in someone as young as you, it is usually just an incidental finding on x-ray, because the heart, at the point the x-ray was taken, rotated slightly and thus looked like it was enlarged -- in this case, you don't have anything to worry about. (If you want to imagine how this happens, look at your palm directly face up, then rotate it so that you only see the side. That's how you can have an illusion of an enlarged heart when in fact the heart can be of normal size, just that a different cross-section was captured in the X-ray.)

“But I am almost sure (95%) that there is no problem with you. But just to make sure, I want you to consult with a cardiologist so that we can rule out any cardiac problem.”
I made an appointment to have an ECG the very next morning.

“It looks normal,” the physician said on our second meeting that day.

The clinic had required me to consult with him first before allowing me to get an ECG. I couldn't get the reaction I needed from the nurse who conducted the actual test. I was in fact more worried when she had to run it twice, putting cold gel on the suction tubes on the second try.

“I don’t think you need to undergo any further tests,” the doctor concluded.

I thanked him profusely and told him I was relieved to hear that because I was planning to run the marathon. I think my statement had the desired effect as he proceeded to listen to my chest in three different places and then checked my blood pressure before finally dismissing me and sticking to his earlier assessment. Having read about 25-year-old Captain Ho Si Qiu's death in the same run two years ago, I had to be sure.

That didn’t stop me from spending another few good hours in the evening comparing my ECG diagram with as many as I could find on the Internet. I didn't know ECG images were so abundant online until then. I only gave it a rest when my friend replied to my e-mail and reiterated that my ECG looked normal and that I could run as much as I liked.

That wasn't the end of it though. On the succeeding days I ran slower and shorter than usual. If I felt chest pains I didn't know for sure if they were for real or if that was just my imagination playing tricks on me. It was difficult to get back into the groove after that finding; I had to get over it soon if I wanted to accomplish what I had initially set out to do.

Half-asleep on my bed two days after my checkup and seven days before the run, I realized I was not able to claim the race pack. To add to my anxiety, I was responsible for collecting the kits of two other friends who were flying in and decided on the last minute to join the run so they could experience how it's like here in Singapore. I thought that was the absolute sign that I should not be running in the Safra Bay Run & Army Half Marathon. But I thought better and decided not to give up. I sent an e-mail that very hour to the organizers asking for their special consideration. I got their reply the day after saying they were giving everyone who failed to pick up their kits a last chance. I could not and did not waste that chance.


To be continued...

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