BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Patrick Johnson has been an avid runner for the past 30 years. He met his wife through running. And at his peak, he'd compete in four races a month.
But in 2007, he was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse, which meant that one of his heart’s valves wasn’t operating correctly.
Just before Johnson’s diagnosis, a runner died during the 2007 Chicago Marathon, and an autopsy revealed he had the same condition as Johnson.
His death served as a wake-up call for Johnson.
In August 2009, Johnson underwent a seven-hour surgery to repair the malfunctioning valve, and he didn’t run another race until seven weeks after surgery, which he says is the longest he’s ever gone without racing since he started.
But now, Johnson is running again. And on Oct. 7, he'll strap on his shoes to compete in a 10-mile race in conjunction with the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon weekend, fulfilling what the Minnesota native calls a “bucket list” item.
“The Twin Cities Marathon started soon after (I left in 1976),” Johnson said. “And I really always wanted to go there (to race), but I really couldn’t afford it.”
He said he put his desire to run in the race aside until he heard about an opportunity to have his trip and expenses paid for by Medtronic Global, the company that manufactured the implanted piece that helped repair his heart, which sometimes sponsors the race.
Johnson applied for and was selected as one of the 25 Medtronic Global Heroes. He will have the opportunity to race with his wife, all expenses paid, and meet some of the people who help make medical devices similar to the one in his heart.
Three years after heart surgery, though, its a nagging calf injury he sustained during training, not his heart, that Johnson worries about.
“My heart is as trainable as I want to train it,” he said. “So I can push it as hard as I want to push it, within reason. So I push it."
And push it, he has. Throughout all of his training for the upcoming 10 miles, he has had "no cardiac problems at all." He's ready to run. He just hopes his calf is as ready as he is.