Friday, December 21, 2018

Book Review: Racing Heart: A Runner's Journey of Love Loss and Perseverance

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Racing Heart: A Runner's Journey of Love Loss and Perseverance in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine. This post contains affiliate links.


"We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
~ Joseph Campbell


Kate Mihevic Edwards was an accomplished marathon runner and triathlete who loved endurance sports. She loved athletics so much that she went back to school to become a physical therapist and opened her own practice where she provided care for athletes. Over the course of time, Edwards completed 13 marathons, including Boston. She started having issues with extreme fatigue during her races and eventually had episodes of collapse. Multiple workups and a visit to a cardiologist showed that there was nothing wrong with her.

Edwards continued to have symptoms of fatigue and syncope. She started to notice the onset of symptoms if her heart rate went above 150, but she became frustrated because she couldn't push her pace at that heart rate. It wasn't until the day she experienced symptoms on a short 5 mile run, where she felt as if she might die, that she noticed her heart rate was 240. Still not convinced there was anything wrong, her colleagues convinced her to seek medical attention. She went to urgent care, where the physician's assistant was concerned about her low heart rate. Edwards blamed that on her fitness, but the PA (who is the real hero of this story) called an electrophysiologist for further evaluation of Katie's condition. 

After seeing the electrophysiologist and a geneticist while undergoing a battery of tests, Mihevic was diagnosed with the rare, progressive heart condition called arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC). ARVC is a disease of the cardiac muscle of the right ventricle. Over time, scarring of the ventricle interferes with the electrical system of the heart and causes arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). Some of these arrhythmias can be deadly. ARVC is more prevalent in the athletic population--but is still VERY rare-- because increasing the heart rate as we do in endurance sports, speeds up the progression of the disease. 

The answer? Besides medications, pacemakers, ablation--Edwards had to give up running. Imagine that. Like many of us who run, Edwards is a self-professed perfectionist who runs to escape the crazies. Running is a coping mechanism for so many of us. Much of the book is Edwards grieving for the loss of running. 

I felt for her. 

Racing Heart is a quick read. It is an extremely personal tale of loss, anger, sadness, and finally acceptance. I admire Edwards for continuing to work with athletes and for volunteering at races. Being on the sidelines, watching an activity that you love, would be very difficult. I found a lot of inspiration in Edwards' story.  someone who has had to learn to live with a chronic, progressive illness, I understood Edwards' feeling of loss. While I am able to still run, I am not the runner I was before my diagnosis. I've learned to accept my limitations and to feel gratitude for what I can do.

Edwards' story also emphasizes the importance of listening to your body. There are a few lessons here for athletes. Even though Edwards kept having episodes of fainting and racing heart, she kept running through it. Athletes, and especially runners, are pretty stubborn. Edwards could have died during any of those episodes. There's a lot to be said for giving yourself grace. I don't think that as athletes, we do a good job of recognizing our limits.
Do you slow down when you're not feeling right or do you push through the pain? Do you see runners who are slowing down as weak? What inspires you?


For January, we're reading running fiction! Late Air by Jaclyn Gilbert is one of those rare fiction books about running that is so good, you don't have to be a runner to enjoy it. I've already read it and I can tell you that it's a book you won't want to put down. All.the.feels. It's a Kindle deal at $5.99.



I'm linking up with Fridays with Fairytales and Fitness


18 comments :

  1. Sounds like a great read. Thanks for the recommendation. My TBR list is growing and growing!I agree 100% with your statement about athletes not giving themselves grace. Trying to push beyond my limits has landed me in hot water several times.

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    1. I think it's our drive to push to the finish that also makes us push through the pain. It's a double edged sword.

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  2. oh wow. what an incredible story!!! I know I am often sometimes too cautious with running and if I was told to stop I'd be really bummed but I would likely listen... I don't know, maybe it's my age, though I'm not that old; i just think that we have to enjoy what we can do for as long as we can but acceptance (if you can't run, even temporarily) is pretty hard.

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    1. I agree! But listening to the body is also important.

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  3. Wow, sounds like an emotional read! That is wonderful that she continues to be involved even though she can't run herself. That sounds like it would be really difficult.

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  4. This does sound like a great read. One of my friends is going through something similar and has had a few ablations. It's really scary!

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  5. This sounds like a great read. Just based on your review of the book, I feel so bad for the author but I admire her for still staying involved in the sport even though she can't run.

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    1. I feel bad for her too. You can feel her anguish in the book.

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  6. I love that quote!
    I find myself pushing through even when it might be dangerous to do so. I think Im Going to start to change my ways though!

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    1. I'm the same--I tend to push through the pain. It's how we are...

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  7. I appreciate this review...all athletes, not just runners, need to accept that they are not bionic. I sometimes err on the side of extreme caution, and often feel chastised for not "pushing through the pain." I had a heart murmur in my teenage years, and that totally freaked me out. That said, there have been times when I ignored random little niggles which led to bigger problems, too. For the most part, if I have a gut feeling about something, I pay attention. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Her story was a great reminder to pay attention to what the body is saying!

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  8. I love the Campbell quote at the start of your post, although it’s a really tough one to live. So much of this story hits close to home. Luckily I haven’t had to quit running but my DVT sidelined me for many months.

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  9. Merry Christmas and wishing you peace, joy and happiness in the new year.

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  10. That sounds an interesting read. I very much listen to myself and if I don't want to run, I usually don't, as it's a sign something is up!

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  11. Wow that's scary! I feel like a lot of Drs blow you off when they find out you're a runner. I've gone to be checked for feeling breathless sometimes and possible runs of V-tach or rapid Afib but nothing happens when I'm actually in the office.

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