Woman deals with heart defect while running

HeartKim Jarrett is a runner. A runner who has finished about 20 5Ks, three 10Ks and three half marathons. But this Lee’s Summit woman isn’t your typical runner. Jarrett has SVT, a heart rhythm issue that is common in women. In 2010, after completing a handful of 5K races, she realized her heart rate was not going down once the race was over. Her heartbeat would stay over 200 bpm even while jogging easily. Jarrett visited her doctor who diagnosed the SVT and prescribed a medication to help with her speeding heart. She then signed up for another race.

“At the end of the race I realized it was still pounding when I got home,” said Jarrett. “I put my heart monitor on and my heart rate was 180 bpm for at least an hour after the race.”

Next stop, the cardiologist and a second medication, which caused her to fall asleep while eating. The second medication wasn’t working out, so Jarrett soon underwent Cardiac Ablation surgery where the surgeon burns the part of the heart creating the problem three times, and then things should go back to normal. Except Jarrett could only receive one burn due to her issue being too close to her heart’s natural pacemaker. Jarrett says she had to get a handle on her emotions after the surgery when she realized things might not be any better than before the surgery.

“My first run after the surgery my heart started pounding,” said Jarrett. “I gave up my dream of running.”

Jarrett started looking at alternative ways to stay healthy. She started using her Wii and found her heart rate remained more constant. After six months of alternative exercising, she felt healthier and decided to give running another try. She soon discovered with proper hydration, not pushing too hard and watching her breathing, she could run again.

“I would occasionally go out of rhythm, but if I stop for a couple minutes my heart goes right back in rhythm,” she said.

Jarrett slowly got back into running races and spent a year running several 5Ks. She then registered for her first 10K, then another, and another. Everything was going fine so next up was the half marathon distance. Jarrett has completed three half marathons including the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon in 2013. She experienced a stress fracture in July 2013, and ended up with seven weeks of training to prepare for the KC Marathon.

“When I did the KC half last year I went out of rhythm around mile 6,” she said. “It’s a feeling that sneaks up and makes me fell exhausted. It happens most often on a hill. It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for a minute, then it resolves. Once it resolves, my energy is restored.”

Jarrett is ready to challenge herself and plans to run her first full marathon at the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon in October.

“I never thought I would run a marathon,” Jarrett said. “I’ll be 52 in October and I’ll be a marathoner.”

Kim-Friends-150x150Jarrett is a little concerned about the hills during the full KC Marathon but says when she sees the finish line at the end of the 26.2 miles her first thought will be ‘praise God for the finish line.’ Once Jarrett completes the Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon, she has other races on her list she would like to run such as the Chicago Marathon, Cherry Blossom 20 miler in Washington DC, St. Jude’s half marathon, Rock n Roll half marathon and Runner’s World half marathon.

When not competing, Jarrett trains with several different people. Once a week she runs with a co-worker, occasionally she runs with another work friend and she also runs with her neighbor. She says the one product she can’t run without is her Nike+ app on her iPhone.

“I love watching my miles build,” she said. “As of today I have 1,152 recorded miles. I can’t tell you how it makes me feel to see that!”

She advises new runners to start slow and build up and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Run your own race. Why does Jarrett run?

“First of all because of how it makes me feel. I would do it only for that reason,” she said. “Second, it makes me love my body. Not just how it looks, but what it’s capable of.”

By Marla Hanover, Communications & Social Media Manager