By Brenda Maguire
For Journal Register News Service
For most people, the idea of running a marathon is too much. For Elverson resident Jeff McBride, who will be running a benefit marathon just six months after heart surgery, running a marathon is the first step in returning to life as he knows it.
On September 17, 2012 McBride, 27, had open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve and aorta after he was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve with severe regurgitation and stenosis, a condition which caused his heart to enlarge to the point where medical action was necessary.
On March 17, 2013, exactly six months to the day after his surgery, McBride will be running the 26.2 miles that make up a marathon as a fundraiser for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
“I needed something to help motivate me after surgery,” McBride stated in correspondence.
The first few days after his surgery, McBride could not get out of bed without being in pain, which gave him time to think about what he wanted to do when he could start moving again.
“Running was always an activity I could do to get away from it all, let off any stress, clear my head. So I decided a while ago that I wanted to run another long distance (run) just to do it,” he said.
He was inspired to raise money for CHOP after the birth of his first child, Mason, on Christmas Day 2012.
“(After) reading a few other stories online I felt I could actually do it for a better cause and to help others,” he stated. “I never thought I would be an emotional or over-caring type of guy but about five seconds after my son was born… I completely changed… …I instantly felt a type of love I never thought possible.”
Through online forums, McBride read the stories of parents whose newborns had a wide array of health issues.
“Ever since I became a father, these stories of new parents just like me would bring me to tears to even think how I would feel in their situation,” he explained. “Due to this I thought anything I might be able to do in order to help those would be the least that I could do.”
So far, he has raised over $1,500 for CHOP, which was his original fundraising goal. Now he has a reset his target to $2,500.
Additionally, McBride has a pair of anonymous donors to keep him motivated to finish the run. Whatever percentage of the race McBride finishes, his mystery donors will match that number as a percentage of his initial $1,500 goal (i.e. – if Jeff finishes the full race each donor gives $1,500 to CHOP, if Jeff finishes half of the race each donor gives $750 to CHOP).
“So, when I complete the 26.2 miles, they’ll donate an additional $1,500,” McBride said with confidence.
McBride will begin his run in Oaks, PA and will finish at CHOP.
Family and friends had their reservations at first about McBride’s desire to run a marathon so quickly after surgery, but once the professionals who monitored his health gave him the go ahead the consensus came.
“After I was cleared by my surgeon and his team, my cardiologist and my general doctor they all happily jumped on board with the idea and have been extremely supportive,” he said.
McBride admits he was nervous he would not be able to return to his active lifestyle after his surgery. He said he “didn’t hear many stories about anyone being nearly as active as I wanted to be” following open-heart surgery.
McBride, who joined the Army after high school, is no stranger to marathons. His first marathon was influenced by pure curiosity. On a whim on Christmas Eve 2011, McBride Googled a 26.5 mile route, starting in Elverson and ending in Frazier, and set out on his run, which he completed in about six hours.
“Little did I know on that day that exactly one year later I’d be in the hospital with my wife while she’d be in labor with our first son,” McBride noted.
Last June, McBride participated in the Spartan Death Race, a 48-hour long mud run with obstacles, trail racing and mental challenges that lasts for over 48 hours. The obstacles change every year, so runners do not know what to expect. Due to dehydration, however, McBride had to drop out at the 24-hour mark.
“The last thing I expected was that I wouldn’t get any water refills other than the camelback (a backpack that has a special bag for carrying water) I had on,” he said. “Luckily for this run, I verified there are many places I can refill my camelback so won’t have any issues.”
McBride is pleased to be getting his running shoes back on and to have another chance to challenge himself.
“Being able to do this run only after six months will help let anyone else who goes through the same process as I know that it won’t cripple you for life,” McBride said. “It won’t take forever to begin to live a normal life again.”
To visit Jeff McBride’s fundraising website, Motivated Heart, for updates and information on making donations to the cause, go to http://www.motivatedheart.com.