'When I went out to beat a friend’s Parkrun time I had no idea it would lead to a HCM diagnosis'

15th December 2019

Mark has always been incredibly active, however, his recent diagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) has meant a change in lifestyle. He bravely shares his story with us.

I’m a runner, cyclist and dinghy racer.  I have run ultra-marathons and cycled from London to Paris in 24hours. 

When I went out in April to beat a friend’s Parkrun time I had no idea it would lead to a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosis.

I was on the third lap of three and well ahead of my friend’s times when I suddenly felt very faint indeed after feeling my heart “skip a beat”.  I had to stop and kneel down but soon felt fine and finished the run (still in a very good time too!).

When I got home, following a great breakfast, I downloaded my running watch and where I had felt faint my heart rate monitor registered a big drop in pulse rate. Scared I went to my GP.  After a full suite of tests and visits to cardiologists I was diagnosed with HCM and an exercise stress test showed that I had suffered a bundle-branch-blockage that had slowed my pulse so dramatically.  My heart was also significantly enlarged.

My cardiologist has told me I can keep exercising within reason but not competing and I must keep my pulse rate low, much lower than I was used to.  I can still get outside and keep fit. 

My sons are now getting tested for HCM and I have had a genetic test whose results I’m awaiting.

I have had no other symptoms at all bar that event at that Parkrun and I do know I am very lucky, by the one event I have managed to find out about my condition and manage it.

I currently manage my condition by avoiding heavy lifting and other activities that push my pulse rate up. The doctors have given me an absolute limit of 155bpm and have suggested I have an average pulse rate when I exercise of no more than 145 bpm, I also take an ACE inhibitor to reduce my blood pressure.

At the moment, this aside, my life goes on as normal though I know my condition will probably be more limiting in future.

If I’m honest, I really do miss my old life a lot where I could just push and push physically, but I am enjoying taking life at a, slightly, slower pace – the alternatives are much worse.

If you'd like to find out more information about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, visit here.