Redemption run: Nanaimo marathoner returns to race where his heart literally stopped
Running a half-marathon is usually about some type of goal. Getting in shape, or maybe beating your fastest time.
For one Vancouver Island runner, this weekend's return of the Royal Victoria Marathon came with a different goal – not dropping dead at the finish line.
“I walked right up and right beside me was a couple of stretchers," said Jason DeRuiter. "I said, ‘Ha ha, not this time.'"
In 2019, DeRuiter finished the Royal Victoria Marathon in an impressive time, and then his heart ceased to beat.
At the finish line of the pre-pandemic race, which was cancelled in 2020, DeRuiter wandered into a medical tent feeling odd, dropped to the ground and in medical terms, died.
Doctors told him his heart stopped beating for an incredible seven minutes.
His medical emergency happened, if it can, in a perfect place.
An emergency doctor was steps away and immediately began life-saving measures.
He was rushed to the hospital and underwent a successful recovery where doctors found nothing significantly wrong with the middle-aged Nanaimo man.
The clean bill of health came as the world plunged into a pandemic and races were cancelled. His redemption would have to wait.
This past weekend, his time finally came.
“Felt good, felt strong, ran through and felt great,” said DeRuiter at the finish line on Sunday.
Returning from its pandemic cancellation, the Royal Victoria Marathon looked a little different than when Jason last saw it.
The route was reduced to a half-marathon instead of a full due to road closure issues, and masks would be required at the start and finish.
“Water stations were giving out full bottles,” said race director Cathy Noel.
“All those little details had to be adapted.”
Thousands crossed the finish line, but few with the gusto of DeRuiter.
His cardiac comeback came in the form of an impressive one-hour-and-forty-minute finish. Just three minutes shy of his fastest half-marathon time.
DeRuiter does have a souvenir from his 2019 ordeal.
Doctors implanted a small defibrillator in his chest and connected it to his heart in case it stopped beating.
Luckily this time, Jason’s heart kept right on ticking as he received his race medal. A major improvement from his last marathon in Victoria, where race staff delivered his hardware bedside at the Royal Jubilee Hospital.