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Running for his life

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Parker man competes in Platte River Half Marathon a year after heart attack

By Ramsey Scott

Bob Stromberg offered the best of reasons for joining the 2,500 people who ran the Platte River Half Marathon & Buckhorn Exchange Relay on Sunday: He isn’t dead. 

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Last April 4, the Parker resident was in Marin, Calif., on a family vacation. While trying to get in a run before he and his family returned to Colorado, the 44-year-old triathlete suffered a heart attack.

“I was running along the boardwalk, I stopped for a second and then I just dropped dead,” Stromberg said. 

A passer-by performed CPR, and Stromberg was rushed to the hospital and placed in a medically induced coma for three days before having coronary bypass surgery.

“I had substantial blockages in my arteries I wasn’t aware of,” he said. “Honestly, I wasn’t real good about going to the doctor. But it’s one of those things — I was real active, an expert cyclist and I was doing triathlon training.”

When Stromberg awoke after his surgery, he told his attending nurse, a triathlete herself, that he was determined to return to compete in an ironman triathlon. Stromberg said she suggested he set his sights a little lower. 

So he settled on an Olympic-distance triathlon — exactly four months and one week after his heart attack. Stromberg clearly was determined to get back to doing what he loved.

“I was of the mind-set to make it better and get back to where I was before,” he said.

“Well, he actually had already signed up before his heart attack to do a half-marathon, and I made him sell that spot,” said Sarah Stromberg, Bob’s wife. “When he was running the triathlon, it was hard because you think of all the things that happened. For him, he doesn’t even remember the morning it happened. All I can think about is how terrible it was. I was freaking out.”

With all that he had been through, Stromberg thought running the 13.1-mile Platte River Half Marathon a year and three days after his heart attack would be a nice bookend to the year. And unlike during his first comeback race, Sarah said, she was able to relax while Bob was running through town. 

“Today was a nice celebration. It felt good,” Sarah said. “Our daughter and I were right there when he finished.” 

Stromberg said it felt like a celebration as well as a chance to reflect on the past year. 

“I didn’t really think about the actual event itself. It was more about the people I met along the way,” he said. “That was kind of nice to have the time to reflect on that.”

When you have 13 miles to run, there’s plenty of time to reflect.

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.