DAVE Coales hasn’t given up hope of racing again after being struck down by a heart problem which he initially feared could have ended his running ambitions.
The 47-year-old former Team Bath AC chairman hasn’t raced since a below-par performance in the Casterbridge half marathon in Dorchester held at the end of May which followed his slowest ever marathon of 3hrs 13mins 17secs in London.
Following months of worry at his inexplicable decline, which his local GP initially attributed to asthma, Coales was finally told in June he was suffering from an irregular heart-beat and to stop racing and running hard immediately.
“The cardiologist told me this is not an uncommon problem for long distance runners or cyclists,” said Coales.
“Apparently a valve at the top of the heart gets worn out and he believes that is now causing my irregular heart-beat. He told me immediately to stop racing, though I had done that anyway after the Dorchester race but I could keep jogging lightly.”
Coales has since undergone an echo cardiograph and an MRI scan and was this week due to see another consultant from the British Heart Institute,
“We are going to talk about the way forward now and what options I have,” added Coales.
“Apparently there is an ablation procedure available which could correct the irregular heart-beat. In layman’s terms they microwave your heart-beat back into place and it only requires a local anaesthetic.
“That might give me the opportunity to return to racing in the future.”
It is a glimmer of hope that Coales is only too ready to hang into after a frustrating period in which the medical experts struggled to diagnose his problem.
“I knew something was up as early as the Clevedon race on Boxing Day when I was well below my best for no apparent reason as I hadn’t been ill or injured beforehand,” explained Coales.
“I went to the doctor and I was told it was down to asthma, even though I had never experienced symptoms like that before.”
When Coales suffered his slowest ever time in the Bath half he returned to the doctor but was again told asthma was the issue and was recommended to take stronger inhalers to combat the problem, even though peak flow tests didn’t flag up any issues.
“In the end it became a battle of nerves because I kept telling the doctor something else must be wrong as I just didn’t feel right and taking the inhalers actually just made it worse,” said Coales.
“It wasn’t until the end of June when I finally got an ECG that the surgery called me and said the doctor urgently wanted to talk to me about the results that I knew something had finally been found.
“If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical.”
Thanks to private insurance cover from his employers at Rotork, in Bath, things have moved quickly since then and from despairing that he would never race again, let alone get back into the shape that saw him clock personal best times of 71mins 28secs for the half in 2011 and 2hrs 36mins 46secs for the marathon just two years ago, Coales is more optimistic about the future.
“I believe it is going to be a long process but hopefully now I can get something sorted and be back racing properly again next year,” said Coales.
“I am still only 47 and I don’t want to stop yet.”