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Racing & recovering

Christian Brown had one goal in mind when entering last Saturday’s Wabash Run the River mini-marathon in Wabash — finish.
Some might argue that it isn’t a very significant goal. But in reality, it is.
Brown, the purchasing manager at M&S Industrial Metal Fabricators in Huntington, underwent heart surgery last September at   the    Cleveland   Clinic  in Ohio.

“About 20 years ago I was told I had a disease called mitral valve prolapse, which is basically a leaking valve and a heart murmur,” he said before the start of the race along the new river trail between the City of Wabash and the Town of Lagro.

“I was told at that time that it probably wouldn’t get any worse or get any better,” he continued. “But after periodic checks, it stayed pretty stable until last year when they found out it had gotten significantly worse,” he continued. “It was doing what they call regurgitating, so the blood was going back into my heart and it was starting to enlarge.

“I wasn’t really noticing it, but I think we caught it early enough. Through testing and things I had to do, I got approved to go to Cleveland Clinic through my insurance company, which is where I wanted to go because they’re known as the best as far as hearts.”

So almost nine months to the day of the surgery (it happened Sept. 10), Brown was running in the mini-marathon.

“It was a crazy, wild ride,” he said. “It was very emotional. I had some other things going on at the time. This was the least of my worries at the time.”

A runner before the surgery, Brown’s doctors advised him to stay active, but not to overdo it.

“They had me walking two days after the surgery,” he said. “When I came back, they told me to continue walking, so I was walking 20 to 25 miles around the city, as much as I could, slowly; taking it easy.”
Brown has run in prior mini-marathons in the past, but Saturday’s was his first since his surgery.

“I’m just excited to be here,” he said. “It is emotional. My daughter is nine, and I want to be around for her.”

While in the hospital, COVID was still an issue, so visits with family members were limited to one at a time.

“When you’re faced with, for me, some type of mortality, the option of that mortality really woke my eyes up a lot,” he said. “A lot of people may not think it’s a big deal, but it is for me. This is a big deal for me. I always told myself at least one more time. I didn’t realize this would be the one.”

He was encouraged to enter the mini-marathon by his friend, Adam Stakeman, who encouraged him to join him in running at the Wabash County YMCA.

In January, Brown got the clearance from his cardiologist to begin running again, so he started training for Saturday’s run.

His cardiologist told him “to get my Apple watch and to trust my body. I was obsessing about my heart rate on my watch. It was fine, but I just kept looking. He was like, ‘the best thing you could do is get rid of (the Apple watch) and trust your body. So I did that in January and haven’t looked back.”

During training, Brown added a few miles each week.
“I’m not going to overdo it,” he said of his race strategy. “I just want to finish. I want to come back unscathed. I don’t want to come back and find out I blew a valve.”

He is uncertain about future races.
“I will continue to run,” he said. “But I don’t know. I want to see how I feel. I ran 11 miles and I was OK.

“But with the crowd, the people, and the encouragement of coming back and seeing my family … it makes me emotional now just thinking about it.”
Brown finished the race in 2 hours, 25 minutes.