How one man used sports as his inspiration to recover

WaltDisneyMarathonWhen Mark Suchlandt left his home on Sunday Aug. 11, 2013 to head to the Calgary Sport and Social Club for a dodgeball tournament, he didn't feel like anything was wrong with him.

However, soon after the first match started, his health situation changed entirely. At the age of 35, Suchlandt suffered a heart attack.

"The game had just started," Suchlandt, now 36, says. "I ran to the line and I went from feeling great to head-to-toe nauseous. I was dizzy. I could barely stand up."

SuchlandtFinishLineFor Mark Suchlandt, the most rewarding aspects of marathon running is having fun, setting goals and socializing with people who have common interests. Here he is crossing the finish line at the January 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. He ran two half marathons that weekend.

 Photo courtesy of Mark Suchlandt
Suchlandt's friends told him they wanted to call an ambulance, but he told them he was fine.
"Some of my friends suggested I could have had a heart attack," he says. "Well, I can be stubborn sometimes, so I said 'no I will drink some water and rest.'"

While some noted Suchlandt could have had a heart attack, it wasn't obvious to others.
Jessie Meier, Suchlandt's friend and dodgeball teammate (but that day opponent) says that when Suchlandt fell down and sat out for a few games he and his teammates didn't think too much of it.

"We said 'silly Mark, he probably hurt himself again.'", says Meier. "It wasn't till later we realized something serious happened. It's great others were aware and got him to go to the hospital. I found out he had a heart attack two days later."

Suchlandt points to an unhealthy lifestyle as the chief cause of the heart attack. Suchlandt, who is 5-4, was overweight at 171 pounds (ideal range is 117-143 pounds).

Because of this lifestyle, his youngest sister, Sara Suchlandt, claims the heart attack could have happened sooner.

"I believe if he didn't take up marathon running it would have happened even earlier," says Sara Suchlandt .

Finding running

Suchlandt discovered his passion for running in 2011. He began this pursuit during a difficult time in his life.

"I had a bunch of health ailments hit me at once (including a gall bladder surgery and leg growth surgery), and I was going through a break-up with a girlfriend," Suchlandt says.

"I needed something I could control and I needed a way to clear my head."
Friends encouraged him to give running a try.

Suchlandt heeded that advice and decided to register for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Florida in January 2012. He completed two half marathons (13.1 miles). He enjoyed the experience so much he participated in the Disneyland event in September 2012, and Walt Disney World again in January 2013.

To date Suchlandt has completed five half-marathons, four 5K races, and he made it through 22 of 26 miles in the Walt Disney World full marathon (26.2 miles).

"I am no elite athlete," Suchlandt says. "I may never win one of these races or place high. For me, races are about setting goals, having fun and meeting other people who share my interest. I feel so happy when I run."

Comeback

Suchlandt was in the hospital for a week after his heart attack. He went into bypass surgery on Aug. 15 and ended up going into cardiac arrest during the surgery, which resulted in him spending a couple more days in the hospital.

He says allowing this incident to destroy his life wasn't an option and he went into cardiac rehab to work towards returning to running and dodgeball.

By completing rehab, which required many hours of exercise over a 15-week period, Suchlandt dropped to 147 pounds.

"I always try to step out of my comfort zone and take risks," says Suchlandt . "I just had a desire to get back on the treadmill again and go to the gym to run after rehab was done. I never doubted for a moment that I could come back."

Photo1 copyMark deeply appreciates the social aspect of marathon running, which is why it was a thrill for him to run alongside his two friends Amanda Jensen and Chloe Inbrigston during the Disneyland Half Marathon in September 2012. Pictured here is Amanda (left), Chloe and Mark against a Disneyland backdrop.

Photo courtesy of Mark Suchlandt
He has improved his running times as he gets closer to his comeback race, which is the Jugo Juice 10K race as part of the 50th Annual Scotiabank Calgary Marathon.

"What comes with getting better is realizing I will never be as fast as I was but I will do what I can to finish the race," he says. "I'm excited. I don't know what will run through my mind as I cross the finish line but I am ready for it."

After this race, Suchlandt definitely wants to keep running marathons. He wants to return to Walt Disney World in the future to complete the full marathon.

For now, he takes pride in living a healthier lifestyle, which he says was fueled by a desire to return to running and dodgeball.

"With him committing to improving his health, I have been able to see a certain colour in his cheeks and a spark in his eye that I had not seen in quite some time," says Meier. "It is inspiring how he has used a desire to return to sports as a springboard to living a healthier life."

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