From coma to PB: an extraordinary marathon journey

Ellie Brain

From Runner's World

Pete Simpson was only 500m from the finish line of last year’s Virgin Money London Marathon when his heart stopped beating and he collapsed. He was given emergency CPR on the side of the road and taken by ambulance to hospital, where he was placed in an induced coma overnight. Tests later found his heart had stopped because of an iron deficiency and an undiagnosed case of anaemia.

Pete, now 33, was eager to return running to alleviate stress and the maintain the social bonds he’d created through his local running club, Edinburgh AC. He was also determined to give the London Marathon another go.

He designed a training plan that included shorter races in Scotland his friends and family were running so he could measure his progress. The plan comprised three 10Ks, two half marathons and one full 26.2. He logged his progress in his blog.

While keeping frequent hospital appointments and undergoing tests, he gradually upped his distance and pace at the races. In October 2019 he was third in the Loch Rannoch Marathon, so it was clear he was back on track.

Through his running club, Pete then secured a place in the 2020 London Marathon. Not to be thwarted by the cancellation of the race because of the pandemic, Pete began to look for a virtual marathon he could run on London Marathon weekend. 'Ultimately, the key reason I wanted to do it on London Marathon weekend was to get a sense of closure, finally laying the ghost to rest exactly a year after it had stopped me in my tracks,' Pete said.

At 7.30am on April 26, he lined up to run a marathon by completing 19 laps around Edinburgh Meadows, without a crowd or start and finish line. However, the lack of running company and cheering spectators was offset somewhat by the uniqueness of virtual racing. The most poignant run of Pete’s life was taking place alone, in his local park, and without any passers-by recognising the journey that had taken him to this point.

When Pete finally hit ‘pause’ on his watch, it read ‘Fastest Marathon! 2:48:41’, a triumphant moment on which to end 12 extraordinary months. ‘BOOM’ he texted his brother, alongside a photo of his watch.

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