Attacking heart disease one lap at a time | INstride

His wife, Jane St. John, didn’t mind when he joined a mostly women running group, consisting of female runners 15 years younger than he and in perfect physical shape. In fact, she encouraged him.

St. John, having run the New York City Marathon, understands athletes; more important, she wants her husband, Bob Woolford, to live a few more decades. “Bob’s goal is to be 100 years old and still doing Ironman,” she said.

Woolford’s father and grandfather died young of heart attacks; Woolford had his heart attack at 56. And, as sometimes strangely happens, he had always been in peak physical condition, had even been recently examined by his doctor, who had pronounced robust health.

But after transporting a 250-pound corner post in a wheelbarrow, he began to feel sick. He called a friend, who happens to be an emergency room physician, and they went to Bloomington Hospital. Woolford was indeed having a heart attack.

So after recovering (he now sports five “coated” stents), Woolford kept doing what Woolford does: running. While visiting during his recovery, friend Sue Aquila said, “Bob, you have no business running by yourself anymore.”

Woolford was soon running en masse — and hearing Aquila, as well as the rest of the running group, discuss the outrageously competitive and demanding Ironman Triathlon.

“I thought it was pretty crazy,” he said, after watching his first Ironman, in 2008. But ever the competitor, he spent the next few years training for it. Ironman is not for the faint-hearted, or for the faint-anything.

In 17 hours, participants must cover 140.6 miles. They swim 2.4 miles, bicycle 112 miles and run a 26.2-mile marathon.

“Triathletes are superior athletes because they train so hard in three (different) sports, which also keeps injuries down,” St. John said. “They are the kinds of people who do things with…

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