Heart of the Runner: Cardiologist, Cath Lab Team Train for Half-Marathon

The nursesand technicians at MiamiCardiac & Vascular Institute‘s Cardiac Catheterization Lab (CathLab) advise heart patients to do what they can to stay healthy with regularphysical activity, in addition to any necessary meds and dietary changes.

This year, the Cath Lab, including its medical director, Marcus St. John, M.D., an interventional cardiologist, is taking its commitment to physical fitness many steps forward — 13.1 miles to be exact – by taking part in the Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon on Feb. 9. They have been training since summer to run the half marathon.

(Pictured above: From left to right: Milkos Olaniel, Fitzgerald Richards, Dr. Marcus St. John, Michael Rosquete, Freeler Castillo. Not pictured but also taking part in the half marathon is Jenny Batista).

BaptistHealth South Florida is a sponsor and the official medical provider for theevent, providing assistance at the various first-aid and medical stations alongthe full route. Many of Baptist Health’s healthcare professionals take part inthe event, either by helping distressed runners or by running part or all ofthe 26.2-mile course themselves.

Dr. St. Johnis no stranger to fitness. He has been active in the past with CrossFit, thebranded strength and conditioning program that involves “circuittraining,” a mix of aerobic exercise, calisthenics (body weightexercises), and weightlifting.

‘They Were My Inspiration’

The team atthe Institute’s Cath Lab helps coordinate diagnostic imaging procedures andfollow-up treatment for patients who potentially need treatment for narrow orblocked blood vessels. They convinced Dr. St. John to take part in his firstendurance running event. He will be at the event’s starting line before dawn torun his first half-marathon.

“Theywere my inspiration,” says Dr. St. John, of the Cath Lab runners. “Anumber of the technologists and nurses in the cath lab mentioned in August thatthey were going to do the half-marathon. They encouraged me to do it becausethey know that I’ve been involved in fitness activities, such as CrossFit. So,after tossing it back and forth for a few weeks, I decided to jump into theprocess to train for the half-marathon.”

Dr. St. Johnsoon learned that training for an endurance event is very challenging,especially if you don’t run regularly. The aches and pains associated with“overuse” injuries common with marathon training soon becameapparent.

“I feltvery anxious about running, even though I was generally fit generally,”says Dr. St. John. “It doesn’t immediately translate. Just because you areperhaps good at baseball, for example, it doesn’t mean you could have theendurance to be a runner or vice versa.”

Mostinjuries on marathon day tend to be minor. Many runners simply underestimatethe need for regular hydration with water or sports drinks that refill thebody’s “electrolytes.” Most running injuries commonly involving knees, thefeet, the Achilles heel or the hamstring

“Runninghas a lot to do with your legs and leg muscles and your joints, as well as yourendurance,” Dr. St. John says. “So, I learned that lesson veryquickly. I thought that this shouldn’t be too hard — and then it was.”

Pacing is Very Important

If you’vetrained properly, with proper hydration and nutrition, you shouldn’t have anymajor problems on race day, he adds. Pacing yourself and sticking to yourtraining limits are key factors.

“Ithink pacing yourself is very important,” says Dr. St. John. “I havegone through the training, so far, relatively uninjured, although I did havesome pain and discomfort in my Achilles tendon very early in the process. Ilearned subsequently that this is very common and probably just reflectsoveruse, or your body is just not accustomed to doing as much as you’re askingit to do.”

A new clinical study released this month made headlines with its conclusion: Marathon training and running a marathon (26.2 miles) for the first time could reverse some effects of aging. The impact of such training can reverse the normal stiffening of the aorta, the main artery in the body, and help reduce blood pressure, researchers said.

“It’s a small study but it does add to the growing body of evidence related to the many ways that exercise is good for your health,” says Dr. St. John. “My advice to those running their first half or full marathon is to start slowly, stick to your training habits and have a plan for event day that includes hydration and nutrition. It’s best when you get into a comfort zone where you may not be the fastest — but you can go for the longest time.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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