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New Brunswick man completes half marathon six months after cardiac arrest

Dave Mulford of Sussex, N.B. displays his medal for finishing the Legs for Literacy marathon in Moncton, N.B. Sunday, May 4, 2014. Mulford began the race when it was held last October, but suffered a cardiac arrest just 600 metres from the finish line. He said he wanted to finish and thank the people who saved his life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

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Dave Mulford of Sussex, N.B. displays his medal for finishing the Legs for Literacy marathon in Moncton, N.B. Sunday, May 4, 2014. Mulford began the race when it was held last October, but suffered a cardiac arrest just 600 metres from the finish line. He said he wanted to finish and thank the people who saved his life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

MONCTON, N.B. - A New Brunswick man finished a half marathon in Moncton, N.B., Sunday — hugging family, friends and a paramedic who saved his life when his heart suddenly stopped just 600 metres from the finish line on race day six months ago.

"That was just awesome, emotions I can't describe," Dave Mulford said as he choked back tears.

The 59-year-old retired physical education instructor from Sussex said he wanted to thank the people who came to his aid on Oct. 27 when he collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest.

"It's all about the people who stopped to help and the people who stopped to pray that kept me alive that day," he said.

One of those people was Dana Richard, a paramedic with Ambulance New Brunswick, who had volunteered for a paramedic bike patrol for the Legs for Literacy race.

She said Mulford had collapsed and was unresponsive when she reached him.

Richard said she immediately knew he was in cardiac arrest and called for the nearest ambulance.

"Once I started CPR, my partner got the defibrillator, and once it was ready we shocked him," she said.

Mulford woke up in the cardiac unit of the Saint John Regional Hospital three days later with no memories of the race or even the two days prior to the race.

Mulford said he had always been an active runner, who was in good shape and was surprised when he was told what had happened.

"It took a few days for it to sink in that I had actually died on the course," he said.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are up to 40,000 cardiac arrests every year in Canada, or one every 12 minutes.

Richard said the number of long-distance runners who suffer cardiac arrest is actually low compared to other sports because participants tend to be well trained.

A report published in Jan. 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the occurrence of cardiac arrest in long-distance runners between 2000 and 2010.

The results showed one cardiac arrest per 184,000 participants and one death per 259,000 participants.

Richard said the study also showed that male runners were more likely to have a cardiac arrest than their female counterparts, and marathoners more likely than half-marathoners.

Richard said she's not surprised that Mulford doesn't remember his cardiac arrest because they are sudden with no warning.

Defibrillators are located in many public places, and Richard says people should not be afraid to use them if the need arises.

"These machines are made for six-year-olds to understand. Turn it on and follow the instructions," she said.

Mulford said he is training again, but now wears a heart monitor to ensure he doesn't push his heart rate above 140 beats a minute.

He has been given clearance to run a few races this year, including the annual Legs for Literacy races again this October.

"I'll be there," he said smiling, but added he may opt for the five or 10 kilometre races rather than the half marathon.

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