Manitoba Marathon runner recovering well

A 55-year-old man who collapsed during the Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg on June 19 is home and recovering well after receiving CPR on the race course.

A 55-year-old man who collapsed during the Manitoba Marathon in Winnipeg on June 19 is home and recovering well after receiving CPR on the race course.

Seppo Osala, a veteran runner of 31 years, tells Canadian Running he is feeling fine and has even been out walking three to five miles a day since he was released from hospital last week.

Osala was diagnosed two years ago with atrial fibrillation, which is when electrical signals in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) cause it to beat quickly and chaotically in an irregular, fast heart rhythm. It rarely bothered him though; the weekend prior to the Manitoba Marathon, Osala had run a hilly 10K in just 38 minutes. His goal was to place first in his age group in Winnipeg.

But during the race, Osala says he wasn’t feeling right, and around the 15K mark, he felt even worse. “I didn’t want to wipe out on the pavement and scrape my elbows and knees – or wreck my pace,” he says. “I headed over to a grass back, and once I got there, I just let myself go. I was just going to have a little rest, but I blacked out and hit the ground.”

When Osala came to, he saw Shawn Crockett, the man who performed CPR on him, standing over him. “This has never happened to me before,” were the first words Osala uttered as regained consciousness. It turns out Crockett and a fellow bystander, Will Krahn, had saved Osala’s life. Osala was taken by ambulance to the cardiac care unit at St. Boniface hospital, where he recovered. After his release, he returned home to Nipigon, Ont.

Osala says he’s doing much better, and credits his high level of health and fitness for his speedy recovery. “The doctors at St. Boniface said, ‘your heart is remarkable,'” Osala says. “The day after [the incident], my heart returned to normal size. I’m not on any medication either.”

He’s also filled with gratitude for Crockett, Krahn and another runner, Sandra Danberg, who called 911 from her cell phone. “I can’t thank them enough,” he says.

“The Manitoba Marathon, out of every marathon I’ve ever run, is probably the safest to run,” he adds. “There’s a paramedic on a bicycle within a mile. Probably within half a mile. I don’t see how anybody can go wrong if you want to run a safe marathon.”

What’s next for Osala? For one thing, he plans to return to running — he wants to run the Manitoba Marathon again next year, this time with Crockett and Krahn at his side.

“I told them, I can’t do it myself,” he says. “I want to run with both of them.”

And if he’s not as fast as he used to be? That’s okay with him as long as he can still run.

“I’m not going to let this defeat me,” he says. “This is just going to make me work a little harder. It’s just a bump of life’s road. It can be overcome.”

Read more about the runners who helped save Seppo Osala’s life.