On Being Slow – Running with Atrial Fibrillation

Being in persistent atrial fibrillation is sort of like being a pickup truck with a four speed manual transmission, but you can only use second and third gear.

If you’re going to continue distance running in persistent atrial fibrillation you’d better expect to be slower.

I was already slow to begin with – my quickest marathon was four hours and forty minutes and it took me an hour to run a 10K. I’ve always avoided 5Ks because people in 5Ks simply run too fast. Once I was a back of the middle of the pack runner, well, now I’m truly a back of the pack runner.


Training Run

I’ve always been a larger runner, and that’s definitely a factor in being slow. I’ve done a dozen marathons at over 6′ 3” and about 235 pounds, and have often felt that people would “mark” me, use me sort of as a target. I’ve felt particularly self-conscious about those people, often found in the back of the pack in a marathon, who will run up and pass me and then start walking – over and over again. This can be really annoying. One guy did that for 14 miles! I finally told him, “please either keep running or keep walking.” I know that these people are simply followers of Jeff Galloway (there are a lot of them in the back of a marathon pack), but it’s still annoying and it happens every race.

But if I was moderately slow before, I’m silly slow now. In an effort to preserve my pace I have actually lost about 40 pounds – but I don’t think I’ve even broken even. I had previously ran ten minute miles in shorter training runs, but now twelve minute miles are more common. As stated previously I had a cardioversion and was in sinus rhythm for thirty-three days – and at my new weight I was delighted to be able to train, for shorter runs, at a nine minute mile if I wanted to – but alas after a quick five-mile run in the thirty-third day I went back into persistent atrial fibrillation. I could feel it immediately and knew what had happened.

I imagine that a lot of athletes who are reading this blog are people who have had episodes of atrial fibrillation, or who go in and out of atrial fibrillation. I think people with intermittent atrial fibrillation become much more symptomatic and have a lot more trouble with training. They might not be able to train at all. But with persistent atrial fibrillation, at least in my experience, I have found that I stabilized and am able to train (a slower pace). You just have to get used to it.


Back of the Pack – Haulin Aspen Trail Marathon and 1/2 Marathon

There are a few major differences, however. Prior to atrial fibrillation, like most runners, I would start out a long run at a fairly quick pace and more or less degrade as far as my pace was concerned as the miles accumulated. But with atrial fibrillation I actually start out quite slow, and after a mile or two find that I have picked up the pace quite a bit. I generally don’t do much interval training, but I imagine that is out of the question at this point. I live and train in the mountains and I can still run hills, but not really very quickly. When bicycling I find I don’t stand up and charge up hills any longer, but remain seated and spin more.

Being in persistent atrial fibrillation is sort of like being a pickup truck with a four speed manual transmission, but you can only use second and third gear. You start out pathetically slow, and your top speed is greatly diminished – but she can still drive as far as you want.


Big Slow Runner – Before A Fib

The most important thing, of course, is that I am still able to continue trail running and mountain biking, and I am still able to participate in marathons and even ultra marathons. I still get to experience the sheer joy of slogging through a long trail run through the forest. I was never going to win any prizes to begin with, so what’s the difference?

Actually, I was delighted to get a medal for second place in my age group at the 2012 Bizz Johnson 50K, which I ran while in persistent atrial fibrillation. That was the first year they had a 50K at that event and there weren’t very many participants. I’m pretty sure that there were only two people in my age group, but still!


Second Place (age group) Hell Yeah!!!!

One good thing about ultra running and marathon running, especially compared to 5Ks, for example, is that nobody really cares if you are slow. I was surprised that there were many people who finished behind me when I ran my first 50K in atrial fibrillation. Although it is kind of embarrassing to be so slow, you just have to change your mindset, and when you get involved with ultra sports, especially with atrial fibrillation, you need to simply enjoy yourself, enjoy the run, enjoy the trail, enjoy the people, and not worry about time.

If there are any other athletes reading this who are in persistent a fib, or intermittent a fib, I would love to hear about your experiences, and I encourage you to leave comments.


219 thoughts on “On Being Slow – Running with Atrial Fibrillation

  1. Pingback: Joe’s Story: A Middle-aged Runner Deals with Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure – A Guest Post by Joe | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  2. Update….Hi everyone. Went for my one month checkup at the cardiologist today and the results were better and improving. The Doctor said my heart has shrunk by a noticeable margin which is a good sign. (had an echo) It’s getting stronger. The ejection fraction went up a bit as well to around 37%. Getting nearer to 40% then in a few months hopefuly 50 or 55%!! I was also able to wean off one med by half. I felt it in my run today….a really great run. Will continue on meds and suppliments plus exersice and diet as is for another month. See ya then!

    • Joe, it might just be better to stop the running altogether and walk. Check out “Twenty Three and a Half Hours” on You Tube: http://youtu.be/aUaInS6HIGo
      Walking for twenty to thirty minutes may be just as good as running, our bodies were ‘designed’ to walk, and better serve to prolong life and robust good health.

      • Scott, thank you for posting this link. It validates my routine and addresses diminishes returns. You may not get the runner’s “high,” but it’s a heckuva lot easier on the knees!

  3. I weaned myself off metoprol and ran my first race in five years,2 years since my ablation.I ran 8.26 per mile for a 5K.I had been off the metropol for five days after taking it for two years.Is it a drug that takes time to completely leave one’s system?I didn’t have a proper warm-up ,which I now find important.Most days I run I don’t feel good til about 15 minutes into the run.I felt like I was huffing and puffing the whole race and never felt comfortable. When I run I feel fine but sometimes while sitting I will take my pulse and it seemsto skip a beat. I am 61 years old and would like to stay off the metoprol and get off my other meds. If a second ablation could help me do that I would gladly go through with it.I want to Actually give running one more try before I become a medicated every other day twenty minute jogger.I used to run a 31 minute 10k. I do not like running slow,but it’s better than not running at all.I still feel better mentally no matter how slow my training runs are.

    • Metoprol did nothing for me, but taking amiodorone did a conversion in only 5 days, after 2.5 years in afib. After my second ablation 8 months ago I will be in a 50 mile trail run next weekend. Feeling blessed at age 62.

    • It has been 6 years since my ablation.I have been lucky with no problems with my Afib.I only take a 10mg. lisinopril and a baby aspirin daily.I was running and racing with no problems.Iwas getting faster until a bad knee sort of did me in.

      • All very interesting comments!

        I am 61 and had my first attack of AF 40 years ago – since then had numerous paroxysmal incidents which until last year always self corrected to sinus within a week or so – life was a bit limited by it but not too greatly and went semi retired a few years ago and lost several stone in weight and took up walking initially then tennis and pickleball and have also done some 5K park runs= though not the marathons and ultras some on here have! Felt a lot better and fitter and all seemed to be going well on the AF front – just taking a beta blocker- till last April – out of the blue – went into AF and stayed there for 3.5 months despite 2 cardioversions – one external one internal – then – just when giving up hope went back into sinus in July – new drug regime of Multaq/ apixaban/ bisoporpol and a statin which has worked OK – live in UK and put on NHS waiting list for a PVI ablation which should take place in next few months – had a more limited ablation in 2010 which helped – what has struck me through researches re AF and reviewing all the blogs – particularly while I was in persistent AF last year- do others do this and then “lapse” from AF research when back in NSR? – was a few things

        1) Despite all that we know about AF we dont know what the individual triggers/ causes are for any single attack in each person – ie what – in a given episode causes the heart to go into AF – and what then keeps it in AF for whatever period and then why and when it returns to NSR – realise in some cases this may be by cardioversion – though these did not work for me -and then reverted on its own. Also this prolonged episode came “out of the blue” when generally I had been feeling well with no obvious triggers – also once it had happened I expected to go into AF more frequently but it has not- it took a bit of time to regain “confidence” re exercise but am now back to my former activities and sports and also doing walking football and some table tennis

        This leads on to the second factor which has been mentioned by others and I think is as important as the physical “plumbing and electrics” of the heart – the focus is often on different drugs or medical procedures or lifestyle changes- and everybody has their own preferences and theories re these-largely on what they think – but in reality do not “know” – “works ” for them but for me equally important is coping with AF – particularly the frustrations of being less able to be active when not in NSR –

        On a personal and psychological level – certainly my 3.5 months in persistent AF affected me greatly mood wise and since then have also taken up meditation and – hopefully – as and when this happens again – I will be able to cope with it better and keep it in perspective and focus on the positive- and what I can do – rather than what I cannot -I can still walk even if I cannot run!!- in this sense AF and anxiety and stress and depression can be both cause and effect- sometimes spiralling in a vicious circle – I entirely endorse Johns comments in this regard and the accounts on here of people not only coping with AF- sometimes on a permanent basis – and keeping very active often into their 80s and beyond- are truly inspirational

        Best wishes to all


  4. Pingback: SOB Trail Run 15K Race Report: Atrial Fibrillation, Running, Beta Blockers – My First Impression | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  5. Your story mirrors mine exactly. I’ve been getting AF since 1999 and had cardioversion 4 times. I recently had my annual check and was told that I was in AF, which surprise as I always knew before. I may be in Permanent now, but unlike before I decided to carry on running. My times are similar to yours between 11:45 and 12:30 min/mile. I now run and walk on road/trail up to 10 Km, trying not to be governed by time, walking when my legs go like lead.
    Im not stopping this time and will keep going. Hadn’t considered the Ultras but may try when I’m.feeling more positive. It’s no longer “No gain without pain” but all pain with no gain. Still I’m.working on it and after reading your info it’s certainly spurred me on, so thanks!

  6. Pingback: Bicycling the Rim Drive Crater Lake National Park and Atrial Fibrillation | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  7. Pingback: Afibrunner: Patient Perspectives: Long-Distance Running and Mountain Biking in Permanent Atrial Fibrillation / EP Lab Digest | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  8. I am now 50. Over the last 16 years I have had 8 cardioversions, 2 ablations and a mini-maze.
    All of them reverted back to AF. I have been permanant AF for over 2 years. I still do body combat classes at the gym twice a week then either another class or a 5km park run on Saturday. I yearn to still compete with people in their twenties but cannot come near with AF.
    My best 5km time is about 26:30 mins. I start panting and sweating a lot earlier than I did and have a period of doubt at the start of every run but it passes and I thoroughly enjoy it.
    I just don’t have enough energy in the tank to compete properly and end up just enjoying the run.
    My doctor says “don’t push it” so I do back-off sometimes and don’t feel as guilty for walking up steep hills.
    Reading that you still run so far gives me confidence that I am not an only one with that mindset.
    When I was diagnosed AF I wrongly treated it as a massive problem. Now I forget that I have it almost all the time.
    I would like to remind anyone reading this to get medical advice before attempting exercise.

    • I had my 2nd ablation with a pulmonary vein isolation 8 months ago, and will be running in a 50 mile trail run next weekend. I take small dose or amiodorone still, until the prescription runs out and then will try to delete the meds. My last afib lasted 2.5 years. The amiodorone did a medical conversion after the first 5 days. It was so bad that I sometimes could not get out of bed, and any running was a chore.
      I could not even take my pulse, because I could not tell what was a beat and what was not. I am now in the steady mid 60’s beat at rest. I believe 100% in the skills of my cardiologist, who has been a doctor for 35 years, and has done thousands of procedures here in south Texas. I SOON WILL BE 63 YEARS OLD.

  9. Pingback: Atrial Fibrillation, Running, and Beta Blockers Part Two | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  10. Pingback: Update: Atrial Fibrillation, Pradaxa Fail, Transient Ischemic Episode, Blood Clot in Left Atrial Appendage | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

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  12. Pingback: What Does Atrial Fibrillation Feel Like? | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  13. Pingback: Update Part 2 – Atrial Fibrillation, Pradaxa Fail, Transient Ischemic Episode, Blood Clot in Left Atrial Appendage | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  14. Wow. This is crazy. I am not a distance runner by any stretch. I run or do “the fat man shuffle” as my 12 year old son refers to it. Between each 25 and 30 k/week. Had several episodes where I became winded and my heart rate monitor said I was blowing 220-250. Thought it was an error but had stress test and hit 250. They suspended the tests , sent me to er, and then released me with a 2.5mg dose of bisoprolol fumarate. Instructed me not to run, bike and basically lead a sedentary life until they get back to me.. I have been trolling the net to get info since, and am greatly relieved to hear so many people still run and exercise with these issues. I was beginning to feel like I was sentenced to a lifetime of walking the dog, but never playing a sport again. Thanks for the pick me up.

  15. It’s been over 1.5yrs since my last ablation and I have been steady/sinus rhythm. I only run 10-15miles per week but do other activites like boot camp class 2x per week and a tabata class. Ever since this summer started I also try to do a 5k once a week on weekends. So far I’ve gotten my times down to 20:30s. When I started back to running I was at 24min 5ks. I will probably never see a 16min 5k again but I am going to try to get as close as I can !!!

    thanks for this site 🙂 it is another motivator for me

  16. Hi Just recently joined blog. I’m an OLD (71) marathon runner converted to ultr running/walking I’ve had intermittent Afib starting 3 years ago and for the last 4 months it’s been getting worse and now have been in afib for 5 weeks. I am continuing to train for Javaline 100 (100K) the end of tis month. Are you still in afib? Going to UCLA medical tomorrow for tests and talk to new EP. Not sure what will happen since I’m finding out there are so many options. I do not feel that bad in afib just can’t train the way I want. I’ve worn a heart monitor for last 10 years (I have a garmin now which records everything and downloads. I usually try to keep HR under 150 with some short periods to 175.(this is all power walking no running) hopefully I will find out if that’s ok or can go higher. I was able to do 2 50K the end of Aug. both in afib.The information you have provided here has been fantastic reading and very helpful. thank you.,

    • Thanks for your kind comment.

      Yes, I am still in a fib and evidently will remain that way. The a fib isn’t so bad but the beta blocker, which seems to be helping, really slows me down. I’d love to hear more about yr experience and about what yr EP recommends.

    • This is really interesting; I’m 71 yrs old, diagnosed with afib last week – thought it was a death sentence- bad choice of words!- for my marathon running and weekly outings. Will be discussing treatment and future involving running v soon- whatever the outcome, you have cheered me up! Thank you! Judy Hurst

  17. Hi, just returned from new EP and tests. Things went pretty good. The tread mill test was a little wierd they keep asking if I was OK and if the grade was too much. This after two 3 minutes sessions. Speed 3.4 MPH grade 10%, but it got the heart rate up a bit and they were able to do the ultrasound which turned out excellent. He started me back on Amiodarone 100mg once a day and uped my eliquis to 5mg twice a day. going back in 3 weeks to schedule cardio shock procedure, which he thinks will work but probably not that long. Then he would to the ablation. He said it was OK to keep my active lifestyle, which not sure he completely understands. Thanks again for all the great info. .

  18. Pingback: Does Drinking Coffee Cause Atrial Fibrillation? | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  19. Well 1 week from today I will be doing the Javaline 100K race/walk. My EP scheduled a cardioversion for Nov 3. Still in AFIB. did a 20 mile walk this morning 4:45 felt pretty good, just the uphills I have to be carful with. Will update on the 4th.

  20. Pingback: What is the ACLS Approach to Atrial Fibrillation? (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  21. Hi Well finished the Javaline 100K over the week end. .A little slower than hoped for (18+ hours)but monitored heart rate and when it got to 150 just slowed down. EP was going to do Cardioversion next week but decided to wait another 3-4 week for amiodarone to get into my system. Fantastic race and aid stations. But very frustrating having to go slow.

      • Hi Michael, quick update. 1 week from tomorrow will be doing a cardioversion wiith TEE. I did a double race this weekend 1/2 marathon (2600 feet of elevation) sat and 10K (1100 feet)today. Figured out a kinda Shuffle some where between a fast walk and jogging. But felt very easy.(HR 160-180) 1/2 marathon was 2:58 and 10K 1:16 both good for 1st place in 70+. and yes there were 2 others in each race HAHA.

  22. Pingback: Runners with Atrial Fibrillation – Thinking About Having a Cardioversion? “Look Before You Shock” | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  23. Pingback: Warfarin Withdrawal in Patient’s Awaiting Surgery Increases the Risk for Stroke | A Fib Runner – Distance Running and Mountain Biking With Atrial Fibrillation

  24. Hi. I have just been diagnosed with Afib (sinus rythm) after 9 years of trying to get diagnosed. I am a very keen runner and climber! It’s such a relief for me now I know what I’m dealing with and also to be able to talk to someone with the same condition. After reading your blog I would say mine is intermittent! Although I’ve had it for weeks at a time. Also I get it more violent sometimes than others! I’m a 41 year old male. 6’4″. Do you experience different levels of Afib? Would be great to here from you .

    Kind regards


      • Hi Michael,
        Do you think that a person running per the ‘Maffetone Method’ (180 minus age for heart rate) can prevent ‘Runner’s AFIB’? (My terminology).

      • Thanks for the interesting question. As for me I have no idea. You might try asking Dr Maffetone – if he is available online. My gut instinct is that it wouldn’t help. A lot of s fun runners are from the long distance endurance branch of the sport. But I really don’t know. Looking forward to replies.

  25. Hello, Does anyone know whether or not if someone runs per the ‘Maffetone Method’ (180 minus age for your heart beat while running) that will prevent a runner from getting “Runner’s AFIB”? (My made up term).
    Thank you,

    • I am wondering the same question. I am triathlete and have paroxysmal AF and SVT with intense exercise (particularly interval/hill work) – I am currently trying MAF method for a few months to see if that improves my PAF. I am 50, so keeping HR maxed at 130 for run/bike/swim. Will report in a few months!

  26. 71years old female distance runner, diagnosed a week ago with afib after incident in 10 miler, hospitalised for tests. Beta blocker and blood thinner prescribed- seem to work.
    Big But- I desperately want to get back to running asap! Have to abandon Paris Marathon this year, bummer! Will I return to gentle running? Feel tired s lot now, with slight tight chest and breathlessness.

    • My experience – I was able to run a couple of slow marathons in a fib and one 50K – but once I started the high dose of the beta blocker, well, mostly just hiking now. But I’d like to try a 1/2 marathon in October in order to get back in the groove of things again.

      • Thank you for replying, Michael. I see doc tomorrow, so will have an idea of future possibilities after that. Withdrawal symptoms are kicking in for me- so miss my usual local runs the N our beautiful countryside!
        Your comments are really helpful. X

    • Don’t give up. Some meds will make you more tired than others. I have had 2 ablation procedures. Weaned myself off all meds, amiodorone worked wonders. Am running decently at 64. Finished a fifty mile trail run in Texas in February. Training for more. Let me know how it goes for you.

      • Thanks for this – it is good not to feel isolated at this time. My daughter, a very good club runner, understands, but worry sometimes takes over for her. All our family is going to Paris to cheer her on. I see doc tomorrow, then hopefully will have an idea of my immediate future. Will definitely get backstage to you! X

      • I feel much better now, medication seems to have kicked in! I feel so much better than I did in January after a pleurisy infection. Also, I have only just realised that dizziness ( which happened so gradually I didn’t know it was there!) has totally vanished!
        So after 2 walks of 3 miles each without feeling ill, I am feeling happy about my future. Many thanks for being there; you helped me to realise that Afib (cool wording!) is not a prison sentence! Xx

    • About 2/3rd of the respondants of a reddit u/AtrialFibrillation sub say there are being treated for sleep apena. Some smart watches and a ring can detect AF and a few do blood O2 saturation continous detection. There are momentary testing devices that measure O2 and for AF. The AF 2 and 6 lead detector kardio Mobile is also the software used in the Apple watch. You might now be suffering from sleep apnea and only a home study or lab test can suspect or confirm it.

  27. I’m 77. Do a combo of stretch/strength exercises and walk daily (sometime mountain hike and meditation. Live at 6500 feet and occasionally hike at about 10K feet. Less episodes when traveling to sea level, but not sure if this is a significant trigger. Intermittent AFIB that is becoming more frequent. No meds, but rely on supplements. Fear of stroke from docs has kept me from pushing. Episodes have included a pain radiating down left arm, shortness of breath and some chest pain, which often lead to conversion. Sort of a bad news/good news story. Have derived much inspiration from this blog!

    • I would recommend you get a good experienced cardiologist who is an EP specialist( who also has a good reputation). Mine has 30 years experience and I have total trust in his ability. I’m back to decent running again, training for my next 50 miler. I’m not in the medical field , but have done some research since I too have had my share of episodes with afib. I have been afib free now for almost 2 years, following 2 years of a constant afib, and zero energy. It’s a world of difference. At age 64 looking forward to many more races.

      • It appears that blog contributors here have faith in their docs. I had 3 insist on Metoprolol. The handout that came with the drug clearly stated that it was Not for people with low blood pressure, which I have, and it made me miserable. After a couple of months I quit and have since relied on supplements and a lo-dose aspirin. Still get episodes (also did on Metoprolol), but feel 100% better and can maintain my fitness program.

      • Metaprolol did nothing for me. Amiodorone stabilized my rhythm in five days. I have been off all meds except aspirin since December 31. My ablation of June 2014 is still good and running is good.

  28. Those of you on Nadalol, what is your dosage? and when do you take it in comparison to when you exercise? just curious. I take 10mg at 8am and exercise between 6-8 am – so I take it after I exercise.

      • Nadolol is a beta blocker. I take carvedilol which is a different drug, but is a beta blocker also. My experience is that the beta blocker really “takes the wind out of my sails” as far as exercise is concerned. It slows the heart and I really notice it when trying to go uphill. I understand that I need to take it – so I take it. I don’t like it, though.

        You are improving your athletic performance by taking it after your work out. Hopefully your heart rate won’t go too high during your work out.

      • I take metoprolol as my beta blocker and losartan as a ace inhibitor. I had afib from 2000 through 2015 with minor symptoms until the spring of 2015. At that point I became easily fatigued, lightheaded and just generally weak and tired. After a series of tests they discovered i now have ventricular runs or extra ventricular beats and low ejection fraction. So I take metoprolol for the ventricular runs and losartan for the low ef. Now I find it’s now best to run 8 walk 2 or run 4 walk 1. I used to workout at a 9-10 minute pace and run a 5k at a 8 to 8:30 pace. Now my workouts are at 12-13 minute pace and my 5k pace is 11-12 minute pace. I don’t like it! But I’m still running, moving and it’s better than the alternative.

  29. High Michael, it’s been a while since I’ve commented, but lots have happed since. I still haven’t had ablation (gets scheduled then changes very confusing) I’ve been in sorta NSR since January on medication Amiodarone. only taking 100mg per day. I’m now 72 and still doing a lot of events. Since Jan 4 marathons, 3 50K’s a 50 miler and a 12 and 24 hour run/walk. .I know I should not be complaining and doctor does not understand my issue (but lets me do my events). The effect of Amiodarone is it limits the hearts ability to react to load. And even though I watch my heart rate and have slowed everything down, I still get a very high rate of respirations. Have you had any information on this. Also I have had issue with lymph node drainage and am considering a whole body vibration machine. I’ve left message at doctors office but have not heard back. Do you have any comments about AFIB and vibration machines? thanks bob lynch

    • Wow – you’ve been achieving some outstanding goals – really completing some races – congrats! I have absolutely no input with respect to your amiodarone or the vibration machine but I would like to invite anybody who does to post a response.

    • Amiodorone stabilized and worked well for me. Weaned myself off it a year after my second ablation. Training for Arkansas 100 at age 64. Averaging 10 miles a day in south Texas heat. I have no experience with your other issue. Not on any meds except aspirin. And athletic vitamins. Get that ablation, I have complete faith in my surgeon and you should find one that you do too.

      • Hi folks, your conversations helped me a lot earlier this year when I was diagnosed with afib after a nasty incident on a hilly 20 miler! Since then my hospital consultant, someone who understands runners, thank goodness!- has been great. Medication helped s little, but quality of life was depressing. So Cardioversion was suggested- and I agreed. Best decision I have made! It has worked SO successfully; and although I am aware the afib can return, I have learned to try and live in the minute, of the hour, of the day. Never a fast runner, but endurance is my strength, I can enjoy decent runs again, including 1/2 marathons at present, perhaps full ones next year. My 72nd birthday next month will be a real celebration. Thanks to all of you for your your support earlier, you gave me hope at a very low point in my life. Judy xx

        Sent from my iPhone


  30. I first went into AF in 2006 before that
    I’d been running for 20 years 10k 39 mins… 1/2 marathon 1.24 … marathon
    3..24 . I still managed to run in af although not as quick , had a cardioversion and managed to keep running ok . Went back into af three years later and had another cardioversion continued running managed a 10k in 55mins but feeling frustrated as getting older as well.
    I’m now 65 and in persistent af but still
    like running…. although now more walking until I saw your log… I went out today and did 4miles dropped my pace
    and managed to run more than I have
    for ages… I’m on channel blockers and blood thinners so thought that was the problem but after my wife Wendy said
    drop your pace and accept you’re getting older and I saw your piece the penny dropped… keep enjoying running but run slower. I have a measured mile and ran 10.16 … I felt like I’d won Olympic gold . Thank you for helping me see the obvious … keep well
    Cheers John Holmes

      • Thanks, I just think it’s important to let
        people know there is “life with AF”, like me , I didn’t realise ,you just have to reduce your expectations and take things slower and every mile run is fantastic
        Cheers John

  31. Hi there,

    Can you describe your symptoms of afib before you were diagnosed? About 3 years ago I ran my PR marathon at 3:12 and a year later ran Boston in 3:15. I have progressively become more fatigued and now have not run a marathon in 2 years. I have had allergy testing done and currently get allergy shots hoping that this would help with my breathing. Unfortunately the nose sprays and inhalers don’t seem to be working. I will start out a run and about 2-3 miles in I feel like I’ve hit the wall which for a marathoner is not normal! My allergist referred me to a cardiologist because he doesn’t think it’s asthma or allergies. Wants to rule out any heart conditions. Not my runs are averaging about 6 miles at 8:30ish pace which doesn’t feel that easy. I was suppose to run marine corp marathon but was unable to finish my long runs. I just feel so exhausted and it doesn’t make sense. Honestly I am feeling so devastated. My mind is ready to run but when I get out there my body doesn’t want to go. Any feedback would be appreciated. I’ve been googling to find any symptoms for runners. I have my appt for the cardiologist next month. I will keep on running but as you mentioned for yourself my pace keeps getting slower and slower. I’m 37 which isn’t young but I sill have time for another PR!

    • I recall fatigue that I now attribute to having been in a fib, before I knew I was going in and out of a fib. But in your situation it shouldn’t be hard to detect a fib. Feel your pulse, preferably your carotid pulse (in your neck). Afib will be irregular. In fact, in class we are taught that a fib is “irregularly irregular.” It will speed up, slow down, even seem like it has stopped, and then come back fast again. If a fib were a drummer it would be kicked out of the band! Also – please check out a blog article I posted a while ago about what a fib feels like. Good luck, my friend!

      • Hi
        I was short of breath but still couldn’t
        Understand why I couldn’t run as normal, really frustrated but obviously didn’t understand at that
        time that blood and oxygen wasn’t
        going round my body as it should do
        it was like a power cut!!
        Don’t give in to AF, life does go on
        Good luck

        Sent from my iPhone

    • For me, my legs would just feel “dead” after 2 miles running easy pace. I didnt know I had afib at the time. I just thought I was out of shape. My breathing was fine but my legs just didnt have it, so I’d stop and walk for a bit then start running again. I would do group fitness classes as well (crossfit / tabata) and didnt know I had afib

      Anyway, after 2 ablations 3 yrs ago I’m still in normal sinus rhythm and running is so much better. I am trying to get back to low 16min 5ks but age and training I dont think will let me (not sure if ablation really has any impact on running performance)

  32. This is a fascinating blog- I am 61 years old and had paroxysmal AF occasionally for past 40 years – with beta blocker and ablation in 2010 been well contained and episodes of AF have always gone back into normal sinus rhythm of itself in a week or so – in last few years lost 3 stone in weight and have done a lot more exercise – and generally been much fitter and healthier than previously – tennis/ pickleball and some running – mainly 5k at about 10 minute mile pace – well to the back of the field but was still trying to improve! Went into AF 3 weeks ago and now awaiting cardioversion after warfarin treatment – was really concerned that when in AF – or if more frequent episodes of AF in the future that this would end sport and running- stories on this site of people continuing with this – even when in AF – are inspiring and give real hope for the future as not only want to maintain fitness but also really enjoy sport and running and being outside – looks like you CAN continue with sport and jogging just have to accept you will be slower and to understand your body and its responses and be less competitive and forget about “times” and just enjoy he activity for itself – have done a few very short slow runs to start to build up confidence – most of the comments on here are re running and biking but wonder if others have played other sports and games – both between and during episodes of AF and how they have adapted their game to their AF? – am thinking of taking up walking football which is increasingly popular in the UK where i live

  33. I’m 52 and have just been diagnosed with AF. A keen trail runner currently working my way back after a knee injury I actually though well that’s that. Having read this I’m now felling more reassured that my running life does not end with AF. I get it! Slow down! I can do that, easily as it happens. Thank you for this article and all the comments above, it’s put a smile back on my face.

  34. Hi, I was reading through your blog. Very interesting that you all still exercise. I thought I would have to give that up. I was just diagnosed two weeks ago after I ended up in ER with a high heart rate (95 which is high for me) and I just felt like something was wrong. Took me 24 hours to get back into sinus rhythm. They said mine was similar to a Holiday Heart syndrome which I’ve never heard of before, but I personally think it was work stress. Just a combination of a perfect storm. My cardio increased my beta blocker (I was on a low dose due to mitral valve prolapse that I’ve had for years) and I’m just taking baby aspirin. I go in for a stress test in a week as I’ve been having intermittent aches around my chest area. Really scared about that stress test. I’ve heard of people dying from them. I have done two half marathons in the past with mostly walking. I like to walk a lot but I wonder if I still can. I guess I’ll find out from the stress test. Have any of you with afib noticed being more aware of your heart beating??? It seems like that is my biggest problem being new with this. Does this eventually go away? I don’t sleep well at night because as soon as I lay down, it’s so quiet and that’s all I can feel/hear. I’m wondering if I will go back into afib. How do you manage day to day feeling your heart doing weird stuff? Hoping someone can maybe put some of my fears to rest. You all are so inspiring.

    • Wow. I feel your pain and remember it like it was yesterday. I had an ablation procedure 21 months ago and haven’t been in a fib since. When I was experiencing regular bouts I often wondered if my heart rate would ever return to sinus. I remember going into quiet areas just to listen and feel my rate while in both a fib and sinus. I would wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks, huffing and puffing and then realize wow- I’m in Sinus and do a regimen of square breathing to get control of my thoughts. I did eventually get a mental handle on my afib. I did a ton of slow walks with my sons dog when in afib. The dog was in his glory – sniffing every stick and blade of grass. I did a whack of reading and listening to meditatiive inspirational tracks. slowly I got control of my feelings and learned to live with my afib. Miraculously, I went into my ablation in afib and when i awoke- I knew I was healed. I’m not a deeply religious person, but I now believe that my brain/body rebelled against my conscious brain and said get a grip – realize what’s important and work towards happiness not just economic wealth. I am now grateful for the life lessons I learned during my 18months of living with a fib and am a ton happier than I’ve ever been. It’s weird, but in some ways I found the happiness of living – being a husband and father – as a result of my A fib. I hope you find your peace. Wishing you all well. Tim

    • For me the return to feeling okay took time and a cardiac ablation for Afib. I believe the risk of the stress test, speaking as a physician, is very low, especially for someone who completed half marathons. My cardiologist strongly encouraged me to continue to exercise but recommended I decrease to half marathon from full and ultra marathon.

      Eventually I could sleep at night and felt more relaxed. You can accommodate to both physical and mental stress.

      Hang in there. Have hope. I set new goals from PRs at longer distances to participating with family members who had no desire for a PR, but rather they wanted to enjoy the experience.

  35. I’ll say this as best I can! Reading through all of the comments and from my own experience there are really two distinct yet intertwined parts to afib. There is the physical issue of the heart not working like a “normal” heart and needing to be adjusted or repaired with medication, ablation, etc. But just as important is the emotional/mental issue. The thought of no longer being able to run, the fear of not knowing when an irregular heartbeat may interfere with your daily routine, the feeling of being tired/fatigued much of the time and many other issues that come up. For me this manifested in anxiety and depression. A constant anxiety of what my life would become if I could no longer do things I enjoyed and depression which for me was losing hope and optimism for the future.

    My point is we need to address both pieces of our health. We need cardiologists and EP docs to help with the heart. But just as important we need some outlet to deal with the mental and emotional issues that are part of your “heart being broken/out of order”. Addressing the emotional components of fear and anxiety were just as crucial for me as the physical piece. I hope these words will help those reading the blog.

  36. I have had afib for nearly 10 years, starting when I was about 80. Now largelyI restrict my running to a regukar 5k Park run every Saturday. Each year have slowed from around 32 mins to nearer 40 mins. These days I tend to spend more Saturdays as a helper rather than a runner as more than a week is sometimes needed as recovery time. I suppose a Bmi of under 19 may be a help. Having started running at school. My ambition is to still ablle to enjoy a run on my 90th.

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  41. I was thinking my longer runs were over (37 marathons) but after reading your blog I am encouraged to keep up the struggle and continue to add longer runs again.

  42. Keep going brother, just been diagnosed with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation after 4years of wondering where my speed had gone and can relate to what you say.

  43. I was so happy to read your article. I’ve been in chronic AFIB 5 years. I was always short of breath and finally was diagnosed with It’s been rough and I let myself go. In the last year I took off 50 pounds. I was told today about a 5K for Valley Fever. I thought it would be cool if I could do it. I haven’t been exercising at all but I was very athletic when I was younger, and distance running was something I loved. I’m going for it. It doesn’t matter where I end up or if I walk or run, what matters to me is I participate. Thank you for this article. It gives me hope.

  44. Although I’m not an ultra runner, I am a veteran of 37 marathons, and it’s been a few years since I’ve run one your story resonates with me because I believe I’ve moved to a persistent state especially after reading your article. I am heartened to hear your story since I’ve been feeling lately like this running thing is a losing battle. Your experience is similar to mine and I’m going to keep pushing as long as I can. 77 years of age and slow as hell.
    “An Old runner”

  45. Unfortunately for me, my afib is back. I had ablation done around this time (sept 2013) and actually stopped thinking about afib a couple of years ago. This past weekend a 10 mile run felt really sluggish and I really just attributed it to fatigue but something later that day made me check my pulse (which I stopped doing years ago). I felt the irregularity and the slight pauses and went into denial.

    Sunday I didnt run and didnt think about the pulse. Monday morning I did my fitness class and a 5 mile run afterwards which really had me extremely fatigued. A casual run with a couple of friends had me really gassed and my HR was way above normal for that pace (9:10).

    As soon as I got home, I fixated on my HR. I put on both of my polar watches. One with a chest strap, another with the wrist based optical sensor. Both were very erratic. Resting HR would be 114. Then 71. Then 96. I made an appointment and saw my physician an hour later. Still hoping it was all wrong. Well an EKG and his diagnosis confirmed it was back. I’m now on Metoprolol and Xarelto and awaiting an appointment with the EP who did my ablation long ago (sept 4 is soonest appt!)

    So: hello again gang. I’m back with you all 🙂

  46. Olá a todos.
    Fui diagnosticado com FA em 2018 e desde aí tive só dois episódios de FA. E tive porque a medicação que eu estava a tomar (apocard) acabou na farmácia e eu tive que, temporariamente tomar Darob, com o qual me dei bastante mal. Sou corredor de resistência em estrada (meia maratona e maratona) e há muito tempo que não faço uma prova longa mas tenho saudades e queria voltar. O que acham deste meu desafio. Conselhos?

    • Translation from Google translate:

      I was diagnosed with AF in 2018 and since then I’ve only had two episodes of AF. And I had it because the medication I was taking (apocard) ended up at the pharmacy and I had to temporarily take Darob, which I got really bad with. I’m a road endurance runner (half marathon and marathon) and I haven’t done a long race for a long time, but I miss it and I want to go back. What do you think of my challenge. Advices?

  47. Im 72 and have been running since the age of 12 ,and have some good times 53 for 10 miles , 2 hrs 35 marathon, 1min 58 sec for 800 metre, i went into af at the age of 55 and was running 55 mins for 10 miles as soon as i got perminant af my 10 mile dropped to 60 mins, and now at 72 its dropped each year and now i struuggle to do 8 and half min miling in a race and im knackered, but training i go sliwer and happy to run at 9 to 10 min miling for 8 to 10 mile runs, its frusteating but great to be able to still run, so any one with af carry on and run at a comfortable pace , i still do 100 meter reps and hill reps but must admit they are hard to do but if i do them at 80 % max im ok where as i used to do them at 90 to 95 % max . The important thing is to run and not to try and break records Most important if you have just started to run with permanent AF zask your docrptor furst and maybe only run z couple of miles at slow speed ,carry on running Graham

  48. I got Covid in 2020 aged 50 and it put me into AF. Prior to that, I’d spent 6 months trying to lose weight by running 5k (this was pre-vaccine and I wanted to give myself a fighting chance if I caught Covid!) and I’d gone from 128kg to 117kg and got my 5km times down fro 40+minutes to around 34 minutes. But as soon as I’d recovered from Covid, I felt something had changed. I felt like “the tank was empty” when running and my times were back up around 38. I was diagnosed with AF, had a cardioversion (which only worked for a few days) and I’m currently waiting for an ablation.

    I’m in the UK and, thanks to decades of systemic attack by the Conservative Party, our NHS is in a woeful state. It’s well-known that the longer one is in AF, the harder it is to return to normal rhythmn. Thus I find it difficult to not feel incredibly bitter that a) I got Covid directly through the incompetent Conservative government’s handling of the pandemic and b) my long-term health is put further at risk by the disgraceful level of healthcare in this country thanks to that same government.

    However (!), I have tried to stop dwelling on this self-pitying fury and, instead, look at getting AF as a positive. Had I NOT gone through all this, I would probably never have made the significant changes to my diet and exercise regime which I’ve been working on for the last 2 years. I’ve lost more weight (still plenty to go) and kept on running. I’ve just got in today from a new best time – 33.08 mins (I’m now running faster than before I got AF) and my aim is to crack half an hour. I go to classes at the local leisure centure 3 times a week – pilates, cardio burn/circuit training – and have started walking 10km a few times a week too. I’ve improved my diet and cut down on the drinking (another key factor in AF).

    Whether this helps me to one day get out of AF and back into normal rhythmn is kind of a moot point. There are probably at least half a dozen reasons not to be 30kg overweight in your 50s – diabetes, cancer, etc. etc. and that’s how I try to look at having AF now. It’s (finally!) given me the kick up the backside I’ve long needed to get into shape and try to live a healthier life.

    • Ablation did great and has lasted since 2016. Hope you have the same outcome! Although I am 71 now and have given up running, but I love my stationery bike, weights, step aerobics, my garden and other hobbies!!! Good Luck!

      • Thanks, Linda 🙂 That’s encouraging to hear about your ablation, hopefully I’ll get mine soon. Great to hear about all your other pursuits! Well done! 🙂

  49. I really appreciate this blog. I am 54 and have paroxysmal AF and my experience is similar to your post back in 2013. Sinus rhythm pace is 1-1:30/min faster than in a-fib. I had an ablation done 13 years ago and it lasted for 12, now my AF is almost exclusively triggered by strenuous running (5k pace). Just did a VO2 max test with a Sports Cardiologist and he verified it…8 minutes into the test my heart rate went from 165 to 195, and output fell dramatically.

    Once again, great blog and keep running and riding!

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