Willliam McQueen was 60 years old when he was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation–a rapid and irregular heartbeat. The cardiologist told him to start exercising and check back in six months. McQueen had not run a race since secondary school, and was out of shape. Still, he started training for the Collegiate Peaks 25-mile trail race in Buena Vista, Colorado. Six months later, he completed the run and returned to the doctor as a trail runner. When the cardiologist was confused by his accomplishment, McQueen decided to switch to a specialist who believed in the power of running.

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Exploring Palm Springs. Photo: Colleen Finley

Now, the 72-year-old credits his success to advice from supportive friends and massages from his wife, RMT Colleen Finley. He believes in a simple and progressive approach to training. For 10 years he worked with a running coach, but now uses his experience. “Never increase distance, speed, or duration quickly. And always record everything so you are aware of your progress. Vary your distances and speeds and durations. Set goals that are reasonable, but worthwhile and stick to them. Have a support team” who can be a mix of both runners and non-runners.

Collegiate Peaks 50-miler. Photo: Colleen Finley

“I have a great group of senior runners as good friends. One still runs Ironman full distances and one does 100-milers. Being able to talk and support each other is a huge part of my happiness. I also have a group of younger friends in Europe who have run over here, and we keep in touch regularly–with the same support energy working across the Atlantic. Having my wife and many never-runners support me has been wonderful too.”

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Hardscrabble Mountain 10K in Westcliffe, CO with Tarahumara guests. Photo: Colleen Finley

McQueen has been on medication since his diagnosis, but this year his heart rhythms are completely normal. In 2014, McQueen did the 50-mile version of his first Collegiate Peaks race. McQueen’s current cardiologist reminds him after every appointment to keep running. Marathons and ultramarathons are his favourite.

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