Sunday, March 26, 2000

Heart attack motivates Mini-Marathoner




BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Barry Levine had taken his wife and two daughters to see The Lion King. While sitting in the movie theater, he grew uncomfortable. It was an “antsy feeling.”

        “I thought I was just coming down with something,” he said.

        As Levine was getting ready for bed that night, he had a hard time breathing and felt his chest tighten. “This isn't right,” he thought. He told his wife to call 911.

        That was July 1994. Barry Levine was having a heart attack. At the hospital, doctors found three blocked arteries. During surgery, they discovered a fourth.

        He was 46 years when he had his quadruple bypass.

        Today, he will be running in the ChoiceCare/Humana Cincinnati Heart Mini-Marathon and wearing a red cap, as will other heart-disease and stroke survivors in the 15K race.

        Levine, 52, started jogging up and down his Symmes Township street to regain his stamina during recovery from heart surgery. His running regimen picked up over time.

        “I really started enjoying it, just competing against my own times,” he said, “and the fact that I was getting trimmer.”

        A native of Los Angeles, Levine moved to Cincinnati in 1974 when he was transfered by his former employer, Great American Insurance.

        He wasn't much of a runner. He liked golf and bowling. His father died of a heart attack at age 41, and Levine had been careful to monitor his cholesterol level after he turned 40.

        He was taking medicine to lower his cholesterol and exercised some. He never had breathing problems or chest pains until his heart attack.

        In October 1995, after running for roughly eight months, Levine tackled a 5K run at Lunken Airport.

        “It was really fun,” he said.

        A year later, he entered the Columbus Marathon. He became dehydrated and didn't finish, but he became more determined. Over the next three years, his times got better.

        Last October, he finished the race in a personal-best 3:28:50 and qualified for the Boston Marathon, which will be run on April 17.

        “I had tears in my eyes when I finished,” Levine said. “It's everybody's goal. Even if people don't go to Boston, to qualify, for us, is basically the Olympic goal.”

        A consulting systems software engineer for Hitachi Data Systems, Levine runs six days a week. He travels a lot and will run around hotel parking lots if necessary.

        In other words, he's hooked.

        “You feel like you're missing something if you don't run that day,” said Levine, who has run 17 marathons since 1996.

        He has a picture from the 1982 Heart Mini-Marathon. Levine was about 17 pounds heavier and just running for fun. “I ran a little bit the month before and I thought I could run 9 miles,” he said. “What a jerk.”

        The picture motivates him. Last year, he finished second in the Red Cap division. This year, he doesn't see why he shouldn't contend for first place.

        “I'm just hoping to have a good day,” Levine said. “I'm hoping to run my best time, that's all.”

       



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