999 – My Race Against Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Around 9.30 on Sunday morning, May 13th, 2018, I stood on the start line of Bracknell’s Half Marathon. It was my first. I remember chatting excitedly with my fellow runner mates and discussing my plan of attack for the run. I remember the excitement in my stomach and the sea of faces eager for us to start—and then nothing!

2hrs 48 minutes later, I crossed the finish line and collapsed from an idiopathic Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

I remember nothing of the run, nothing of the ride to the hospital, and little else other than a couple of flashes of noise and the sound of me shouting at the man who had pinned my hand to the floor and taken my bra off!

That poor medic was saving my life but I had come around blind, confused and fighting hard.


My next memory is teatime.

I opened my eyes to my two grown up children at the foot of my bed and me apologising for fainting and scaring them. It took days for the information of what had happened to me to sink in.

I kept forgetting what I was being told and repeating the same questions.

I was so confused about what had happened.

The next two years are a blur.

A sudden cardiac arrest is a major trauma to your heart and brain.


The medical team could find no reason for the electrical fault in my heart (idiopathic) and as a plan B, implanted a defibrillator.

I couldn’t read a book, I couldn’t remember song lyrics or events or even words sometimes. My memory was patchy and erratic. It felt like having my memory wiped and each day or week something would return to me, a bit like a computer rebooting.

That memory wipe also wiped all my coping mechanisms I had built to cope with undiagnosed ADHD so I had to relearn them too!

A Plan

white paper with note
Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

Like many people post trauma, fatigue days meant a fair bit of time laying on the sofa, for me, with my dog Hugo. Lying there I hatched a plan and a year later, almost to the day, I re-ran the same half-marathon just, to prove to myself I could and to try and jog my memory (lol I still don’t have any more memory of it).

I knew my family were worried about this decision but they also understood my stubbornness and my need to not merely survive. I believe wholeheartedly that life is for living and I was determined to carry on living on my terms.

It was agreed that my son would run with me for which I am truly grateful and proud. I was actually scared but determined on the day and having my son with me meant I wasn’t alone and my poor husband had some comfort.

He had tracked that original fateful run on his bike and so was there for it all.

It was hard for him, I think, to release me back into the wilds of the world after nearly losing me but he continues to support me in all my endeavours. I went on to run 5 half marathons before I swapped running for walking.

Bonus Life

a super bonus machine in close up photography
Photo by Darius Bright on Pexels.com

I had initially taken up running at 46 to help with my mental health, never meaning to run any events. I joined Bracknell Forest Runners and got caught up in the excitement of the run and at 49 signed up for that first half marathon. I loved running but at about 53 I think I just lost the drive and switched to walking my dogs in the woods to clear my mind and exercise.

It works the same!

Fast forward to now when I can celebrate 6 years of bonus life.

I am blessed I know.

I was here to see my daughter marry and here to support my family through their highs and lows. My life is great and I am eternally thankful for the very quick thinking of my heart hero Alison, an A&E nurse volunteering at the finish line.

My Numbers

My run number 999 caught her eye and she saw me collapse. My husband says she was at my side as soon as I hit the ground and started CPR. In total I think I was only “down” for about 11 minutes.

I received excellent care from Berkshire Lowland Rescue who were also volunteering and provided the defibrillator that gave me the two shocks to bring me back. Thanks to the race organisers including Chris whose pre-race planning ensured all these people were on hand.

For those of you that believe in signs they contacted me after to say that not only was my race no. 999 but my actual finish place (before disqualifications) was 911.

I make no apology for this lengthy post, I’m so bloody pleased to have the opportunity to type it!

There is a point though, I would not be here without the help of quick thinking individuals who knew CPR and who were not afraid to use the defibrillator (which is actually a thing!!)

So, please please learn CPR and don’t be afraid to use it!

Ed: Claire’s powerful story of surviving sudden cardiac arrest and her determination to reclaim her life is truly inspiring. If you were moved by her journey, please leave a comment below sharing your thoughts and support. You can also help raise awareness by sharing this post on your social media channels. Every share helps educate others about sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of CPR training

3 thoughts on “999 – My Race Against Sudden Cardiac Arrest”

  1. I was delighted to read your story and your happy ending.My son Steve Baddick suffered a cardiac arrest on November 11 th last year in his house .Luckily his wife Helen was able to administer CPR and the ambulance arrived within 10 mins and shocked his heart.He spent 6 weeks in Morriston Hospital Swansea 3 weeks in ITC and 3 weeks in the cardiac unit where they inserted a difribulator.We will be eternally grateful for the care he received and recently we celebrated his 50 th birthday.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story! I too suffered my cardiac arrest running my first half marathon last year, April 1, 2023 at 34 years old. I was 400 m from the finish line. Mine was also idiopathic and I also have an ICD. I ran that same race again this year on April 6th and crossed the finish line. What a great feeling! It’s nice to know someone out there has a similar story. I’m grateful for the bonus year I’ve had and for by eating to watch my children grow up.

  3. Glad you are recuperating now, it takes a long time. I had mine apparently in Mile 25 of an off road trail Marathon. I set about trying to recover my fitness, having been told it was idiopathic, by doing short jogs followed by walks etc, and mixed with exercise classes at the gym but even 7 years on can’t run continuously for very long (eg just a few minutes). I am just happy to still be around and know how lucky I was that 3 fellow runners stopped to do CPR immediately and eventually an Ambulance found it’s way into the field where I had collapsed. Just out of interest a few months later I was shocked and ended up in a Hospital in another part of the country and they carried out an Angiogram and seemed surprised I had been told it was idiopathic as they found some blockages which they cleared with a double bypass. No issues aside from not running (I can walk/jog) marathons anymore.


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