MEET OUR GLOBAL CHAMPIONS MARATHON RUNNERS
Michelle, 60, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
Since childhood, Michelle Crosby has enjoyed participating in sports and going on long runs. She ran her first Melbourne Marathon in 1982 and placed 10th overall, fueling her passion for challenging runs — despite experiencing near-fainting episodes for many years.
In 2002, Michelle was diagnosed with sick sinus syndrome and fitted with a pacemaker. The next five years were “a journey of more lows than highs.” She experienced leg fatigue while running and felt her mental health was deteriorating. In 2009, a new pacemaker gave her the ability to continue running, and the confidence to enter her third Melbourne Marathon, which she completed in less than four hours.
As a runner and a registered nurse, Michelle is passionate about encouraging people to achieve their goals. “My pacemaker enables me to continue to live an active and fulfilling life. One of my mantras is ‘as long as you move forward, speed does not matter.’”
ERNESTO LUIS ESPINOLA ESPINOSA
Ernesto, 42, received a gastric bypass to combat obesity.
At 280 pounds, Ernesto Luis Espinola Espinosa had class III obesity, insulin resistance, hepatic steatosis, and dyslipidemia. Exercising and eating a balanced diet were a struggle, and he needed to make lifestyle changes quickly. That led to a gastric bypass in 2015, a healthier diet, and regular exercise — especially running.
Ernesto now runs more than 37 miles a week, has lost 84 pounds, and looks forward to competing in long-distance races. He’s grateful for “this second opportunity” and feels running has shown him what he can achieve when he puts his mind to it. Ernesto also thinks his experience serves as an example for his daughters to never give up and always fight for what they want.
He hopes that sharing his story will inspire others to make the changes necessary to live a healthier, more active lifestyle. “Medical technology can change many lives, but it also requires us to do our part. In the end, the biggest change is in oneself.”
EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA
Shawne, 48, has an artificial pulmonary valve to manage heart disease.
Born with Noonan Syndrome, Shawne Flaherty was only three years old when she was diagnosed with pulmonary valve problems. Because she was so young, doctors were uncertain if she would survive the high-risk surgery to repair the value — and if she’d ever learn to walk if she lived.
Shawne went on to achieve much more. Running became her passion and outlet, and a local running community is now the cornerstone of her social life. In 2010, with the approval of her cardiologist, she began long-distance running. Since then, she’s competed in more than 28 half marathons and five full marathons, including qualifying for the 2017 Boston Marathon.
“My heart is strong and my lifestyle is healthy. My run times are getting stronger, and I am aiming for a second Boston Qualifier and repeat of the Boston Marathon.”
Shawne speaks regularly to running groups and charities. She hopes her story helps others pursue fitness, face obstacles, and tackle their goals.
Fridleifur, 47, has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to manage heart disease.
Fridleifur Fridleifsson went from an overweight office worker in 2009 to an elite runner who finished his first marathon in Berlin in 2011 at 2 hours, 48 minutes.
Other marathons with top finishing times followed, including the 2012 Chicago Marathon, the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the 2014 London Marathon. Fridleifur also holds course records in Iceland. Then, in 2015, he suffered cardiac arrest while sleeping. His wife, who is a nurse, started his heart while his son called an ambulance. Doctors said Fridleifur’s excellent physical condition was a lifesaver and that what happened was an “electrical failure.” They implanted an ICD.
Five months later, Fridleifur got the green light to run in the New York City Marathon, which he completed with his wife in just four hours. “Of all my running achievements, this still remains the best one.”
Fridleifur feels he got a second chance at life, an experience he shares freely. “Be thankful, embrace life. Do not expect to be able to do things the same way you did them before. But you will be able to do them on your new terms, with your new goals.”
Marcello, 58, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
Marcello Grussu initially took up running as a leisurely exercise. But since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010, running serves another purpose — to improve his health, keep heart problems at bay, and avoid being a burden to his family.
Marcello’s insulin pump plays a vital role in all this, enabling Marcello to maintain regular glycemic profiles and to continue running. “For a person with diabetes, running increases the chances of not developing complications related to cardiovascular decay. It’s also allowed me to gain greater awareness and self-esteem.”
An advocate for those with type 1 diabetes and a volunteer for a diabetes association, Marcello plans to continue encouraging others to test themselves and overcome any self-doubts. He feels that sharing experiences and successes helps people realize that diabetes isn’t a limit, but a way to learn about the disease and manage their health.
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
Bruno, 23, has an insulin pump to manage type 1 diabetes.
Before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 18 in 2013, Bruno Helman suffered from life-threatening asymptomatic nocturnal hypoglycemia. Once his diabetes was under control with help from an insulin pump, Bruno took up running.
“I had never run before because it seemed boring to me, even though my dad had been running marathons since his early 20s.” Bruno decided to honor his father by training for a marathon.
In May 2016, Bruno finished his first full-length marathon in Rio de Janeiro with his father by his side. Bruno now says he’s been infected by the “running mosquito” and is addicted to running. “With a balanced diet and adherence to treatment and the practice of physical activities, you can live even better than before being diagnosed.”
Bruno has more freedom now to pursue his greatest passion — traveling. Bruno has visited more than 12 countries in less than three years, including participating in the T1D Challenge in Iceland, an event for people living with type 1 diabetes. A volunteer with a national diabetes association, Bruno is passionate about sharing his story to empower and encourage others, primarily young people, to start exercising.
Lucy, 54, has a pacemaker to help manage heart disease.
A diagnosis of bradycardia in 2002 didn’t stop Lucy Lim from pursuing one of her favorite activities — running in races across Malaysia with her husband and three children.
A pacemaker enabled her to continue running. Then, in 2016, she suffered a heart attack during a duathlon, prompting doctors to replace the old pacemaker with a new one.
Since then, Lucy has been back on her feet, including running a marathon in January 2017. Her dream is to run a half or full marathon in every country in the world. Despite these successes, some members of Lucy’s community in Malaysia are critical. They believe women shouldn’t expose their arms and legs in public.
“I hope my story will ignite a flame in women to start running. I want to show that it does not matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, or even if you have a heart condition, you can go the distance if you put your mind to it.”
CRANBROOK, KENT, UNITED KINGDOM
Samantha, 45, has a pacemaker to manage heart disease.
Samantha Lloyd has always led an active lifestyle, including horseback riding, swimming, and cycling. In 2008, she added running to the list after participating in a 5K, saying she was “totally hooked.” She loves the emotional highs and lows of running, seeing how the land and environment change, feeling one with nature, and pushing her limits.
After being diagnosed with a heart problem, a pacemaker enabled Samantha to keep running. It was implanted the same day as a race in the Pyrenees she’d been training for, and she was sure her running days were over. Just six weeks later, she started running short distances and felt happy and alive again. She slowly increased her distances and recently completed two 50-mile races. Her biggest highlight was crossing the finish line with her 20-year-old daughter in a half marathon.
“I’d like to spread the word to anyone who has been through a major trauma that they shouldn’t give up. There is a whole community of people who can inspire and help them lead an active lifestyle no matter what they have been through.”
Kevin, 43, received a mechanical thrombectomy using a stent retriever to treat a stroke.
Thirteen years ago, on a dare from his younger sister, Kevin Schmuckal started training for his first marathon. “I wasn’t in any kind of shape and literally went from sitting on the couch to running a marathon in six months’ time.” Running has been part of his life ever since, and he’s prompted his family and friends to take up running as well.
Then, in January 2017, while running on the treadmill, Kevin suffered a severe stroke due to a blood clot in his brain. The day after doctors removed the clot and implanted a stent receiver, Kevin got out of his hospital bed and took a few steps. “I knew right then that I was going to be fine and would be able to run again. Walking was going to eventually lead to running, and running would lead to getting my life back.”
Kevin plans to reach out stroke survivor groups and to be an advocate for stent retrieval technology. He says if his experience inspires even just one person to make positive changes and lead a healthier life, it would be incredibly satisfying.
WEST SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA
Jen, 26, has an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system to manage type 1 diabetes.
Within days of starting training for her second marathon, Jen York found out she had type 1 diabetes. Her doctors encouraged her to stop running while she learned about the disease and how to regulate her blood sugar. Jen had other plans — she wanted to keep training.
With the support of her health providers and Team World Vision, her running team, Jen trained for the marathon while transitioning to an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring system. Not only did she complete the marathon, she helped raise more than $10,000 in funds for clean water in Africa.
Today, Jen is captain of a 31-person marathon team, and her goal is to keep connecting with and supporting others. She hopes her story will help those with type 1 diabetes see that it’s possible to achieve their dreams. “There’s a narrative of ‘you can’t,’ but I believe my story shows that a disease didn’t limit what I can do and provided the strength that comes from discovering all the things I can do.”
See our Global Champion 10 Mile Runners.