An Orillia athlete has overcome a heart valve condition to get back on track with his running career.
Tim Payne, 73, recently competed at the Canadian Masters Athletics Championships in Langley, B.C. He finished third in the 800-metre race and second in the 1,500-metre race. It was a major accomplishment for Payne, who had a heart valve replacement in February.
“The previous year and a half, I was noticing a decrease in my performance,” he said. “I was fatiguing early in five-kilometre races because I wasn’t getting enough oxygenated blood into my system.”
Payne, a former teacher at Eastview Secondary School in Barrie, sought medical attention and was diagnosed with atrial stenosis.
“The whole time, the doctors considered me to be a one-off and very usual case,” he said. “They said they don’t get people who are at my fitness level, my age, and then have this surgery.”
Payne was confident he would be able to return to racing post-surgery because of his high fitness level.
“It was super-important for me to be able to return to being active. I wanted to be able to operate again at a high level of performance with running,” he said.
For the first six weeks following his surgery, Payne was unable to lift anything heavier than 10 kilograms. However, he stayed active, walking four to seven kilometres each day, gradually introducing slopes and more speed.
In March, he started jogging and slowly running again, though he had to use a compression upper garment to minimize the jostling of his chest area, which limited his abilities. He began training and running regularly by late March and was competing again by the end of April.
Through April and early June, Payne ran five five-kilometre road races and saw faster results each time. In July, he ran a couple of 400-metre races at Varsity Stadium at the University of Toronto to test his speed. He then went on to finish second at the Ontario Masters Athletics Track and Field Championships in the 800- and 1,500-metre races.
“I have a bovine valve now, a cow’s valve,” he explained. “My times have now gone back to where they were a few years ago.”
Payne, a member of the Newmarket Huskies Track Club, says his comeback would not have been possible without his support system. He thanks his wife, Nancy Konyu, his family doctor, Thomas Lobsinger, sports chiropractor Larry Bell and his team at Bell Chiropractic and Back to Function, and cardiac doctor, Jaskaran Kang.
He is currently preparing for the five-kilometre Guardians Run in Orillia on Oct. 1.
“I hope my story can show others what’s possible for seniors and athletics,” he said.