Running challenge comes to Norfolk in memory of Lucy
PUBLISHED: 12:55 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:55 27 June 2017
Chris Morley was diagnosed with a serious heart condition last year. So why is he running 5km every day in 2017? Sheena Grant reports and finds out why Chris’s quest is so important to Norfolk man David Tuthill.
Chris Morley is always up for a challenge.
A keen runner from a young age, he’s regularly clocked up 20-30 miles a week, completed marathons and even the odd ultra marathon.
But Chris’s biggest challenge came when - after years of chest pains and health scares - he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a serious disease of the heart muscle that affects its ability to pump blood around the body.
He now has a pacemaker and has had to modify his lifestyle but instead of letting his illness define him, Chris has chosen to fight back.
The goalposts may have changed but he has not given up running. Far from it. On January 1 this year he began an attempt to run 5km every day for the rest of the year to raise awareness about the illness and funds for the charity Cardiomyopathy UK.
“I’m having to adjust to a new way of life,” he says, “but I want to use my love of running to share the message that early heart screening is vital for everyone who feels any symptoms at all.”
On July 22 Chris will be in Norfolk for day 203 of his 365-day challenge, for a 5km run in the grounds of Blickling Hall.
The event, which coincides with a regular Parkrun at the property, is in memory of Lucy Petterson, who died of cardiomyopathy earlier this year. Tragically, her heart gave up just when everything else in her life seemed to be falling into place.
Like Chris, Lucy didn’t let her illness define her. She was a fitness trainer in California, working with everyone from street kids to Hollywood stars.
Lucy had also found love and was planning a move across the Atlantic to be with her partner David Tuthill. Sadly it was not to be.
“I knew nothing about cardiomyopathy until I met Lucy,” says David, who lives in North Walsham and is director of an opticians with offices in Norwich and Great Yarmouth. “It’s vital we let more people know about this condition.
“I learned about what Chris is doing through Cardiomyopathy UK and went to run with him in London. It was great and there were lots of people involved, which is what this is all about. We’re holding the Norfolk event at Blickling because that was one of the places Lucy and I liked to go together.”
Lucy was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy when she was 13 and told she would be lucky to make it out of her teens.
“We met by chance,” says David. “She was from America and was visiting family in the UK. We exchanged numbers and spoke every day after that. She came back and forth between here and the States a number of times and had decided to emigrate. We were about five weeks away from her moving here permanently when she passed away. She was a week away from turning 21.
“Lucy did not let her illness define her. She was a fitness trainer in LA and had trained professional body builders and celebrities for film roles. She was the most giving and kind-hearted person and if she could help someone else, she would. She used to drive to Compton Saturday mornings and hold keep-fit classes for street kids and gang members to try and get them away from the negative things in their lives. She was just the brightest of stars.
“We knew Lucy wasn’t going to have the longest of lives but we had hoped for 20 or 30 more years.
“Cardiomyopathy can affect anyone and this is what we want to raise awareness about. Chris’s challenge is a great way to do that and remember Lucy at the same time. I will be running at Blickling with Chris and we are inviting others to run with us to help us raise awareness and celebrate Lucy’s life.
“It means a lot that something good could come out of the worst of things. If only one person gets checked after reading about cardiomyopathy and Lucy, that would be great.”
■ To find out more about Chris Morley’s challenge visit www.cardiomyopathy.org/news--media/latest-news/post/331-. For more on the July 22 event in the grounds of Blickling Hall, which begins at 9am, visit www.facebook.com/events/1105719852865847/.
Despite being a competitive runner Chris Morley had always felt something wasn’t “quite right”. Since his teenage years he’d had chest pains, especially if laying still or inactive for a while but he didn’t tell anyone and what he was feeling simply became “the norm”.
Training runs left him feeling like he’d been “kicked in the chest by a donkey” and even an emergency visit to hospital after one agonising episode didn’t get to the root of the problem. Chris was sent home with ‘pectoral muscle strain’, feeling as though he had wasted everybody’s time.
But after a second emergency which resulted in a hospital stay of several weeks one cardiologist looked beyond the running and fitness and finally diagnosed apical hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a form of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy where the thickened area of muscle affects the apex of the heart. He’s since had a pacemaker fitted and modified his lifestyle. Doctors advised nothing “too far or fast” for his year-long challenge.
He says: “I know there are many out there whose symptoms and cardiomyopathy are much worse than mine and struggle with everyday life. To those people I say - keep going, please take strength in the fact that many people, me included, think you’re amazing.”
Chris is looking for as many people as possible to get involved alongside him during 2017. Visit www.facebook.com/heartandlegs/ to find out more.
Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages. It has many causes and sometimes symptoms go unnoticed.
The three main types of cardiomyopathy are hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC).
■ HCM is an inherited disease, where the muscle wall of the heart becomes thickened and stiff, making it harder for the heart to pump blood out and around the body. Common symptoms include chest pain, palpitations, lightheadedness and fainting.
■ With DCM, the heart muscle becomes stretched, thin and baggy. Like HCM, this means the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently. In most cases, DCM develops slowly, so some people can have quite severe symptoms before they’re diagnosed. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and abdomen, excessive tiredness and palpitations.
■ ARVC affects the cells of the heart muscle that are held together by proteins. In people with ARVC, these proteins do not develop properly and so cannot keep the heart muscle cells together. The muscle cells become detached and fatty deposits build up in an attempt to repair the damage.