Space For Rent
Sunday, May 15, 2016, Jaistha 1, 1423 BS, Shaban 7, 1437 Hijri

A resilient run wearing a coronary stent
Tapan Chakrabarty
Published :Sunday, 15 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 413
On a Sunday morning, a week before my upcoming marathon, I finished running my last long run of 10 km on a treadmill at the University of Calgary (UC) gym. I heaved a sigh of relief and satisfaction. The training for the marathon was done. At that moment, I heard the sweet ringtone of the Samsung smartphone. It was Alamgir, my batch mate and former Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) colleague, now living in Leicester City, England. 'Good luck, Tapan. We are behind you,' he wrote, referring to the marathon. He also wrote that he had just watched the London Marathon on 24 April, 2016. Kenyan Eluid Kipchoge and Ethiopian Jemima Sumgong had won the men's and the women's event, respectively. British astronaut, Tim Peake, had also run 42.2 km on a treadmill, in the International Space Station. I found that interesting, as I also had run my longest distance of 37 km, three weeks earlier, in preparation for my marathon. It was also run on a treadmill, but in an elevation of only 1045 m, and in the expanse of the UC gym.
Still retaining vivid and fond memories of running London in 2013, I wanted to read more about the 2016 event that evening. To my horror, as I scrolled down, I noted that a good number of the headlines in the Google search were not about who had won, but rather about a runner who would never breathe or run again. The runner, a young Scottish soldier, Captain David Seath, had collapsed about five km from the finish. He suffered a cardiac arrest. I was shocked. I thought about the upcoming marathon. It was going to be my first marathon since I had a stent placed in one of my coronary arteries, almost a year earlier.
Running 42.2 km at a stretch, with a healthy young heart, is already risky. Running with a coronary stent on a 66-years-old heart is off the 'risk scale'; it borders on bravery or insanity. Cardiologists are conflicted as to the risk of running marathons wearing stents. A few are in favour of, while many are dead against. The cardiologist from the Calgary hospital, where my angioplasty was done, belonged to the latter group. He had warned my wife as we were leaving: 'Make sure he does not run another marathon.'
After a successful post-stent rehabilitation programme, the desire to run another marathon returned. Relying on resiliency and tenacity, I registered for the Vancouver Marathon. Vancouver was selected for many good reasons. It was there where I had run my very first marathon in 2000, at age 50. I wanted to do my last marathon, in case that turned out to be my last, in where I did my first. I read that the new Vancouver course was scenic and that Forbes magazine had listed it as one of the top ten destination marathons in the world. I knew I would be transported to a nearby hospital covered by Canadian health care, should anything go awry during the run. I also had a business interest in the city of Victoria in Vancouver Island, only 15 minutes away by air from Vancouver.
So I started training in earnest, after dedicating the marathon to the BUET Alumni Association, many of whose members had encouraged me over the past several years in my marathon pursuits. Some of them were running marathons --- vicariously --- through me.
In a fine spring morning on 27 April, 2016, the plane to Victoria took off from Calgary. The thought of never returning to the city I called home since 1980, interrupted by a 3.5 years sojourn in Houston, did cross my mind. As the Air Canada plane broke through the cloud, a spot-light, the kind of which is seen in a theatre stage, made its way through the windows and kept scanning the interior of the plane, as if searching for a person of interest. I looked through the window and made eye contact with my namesake --- the sun. (Tapan is another Bengali name for the sun.)
The view below was enticing enough to make me reach out for the newly purchased and my very first smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S7. It took several shots of the Rocky Mountains and the lakes below. I then experimented with taking selfies, aware that Barrack Obama could not resist doing it, while he was attending a much more solemn ceremony of Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. The pictures turned out unflattering --- the nose looked bigger and the face looked longer than normal. Finally, I found an angle at which and a distance from which a picture taken looked presentable and sharable. I shared it with a few BUET alumni and colleagues, but noted that it was queued to be delivered when we would be on the ground of Victoria. By playing with the camera of the phone, I was trying to keep my minds off the angst of running a marathon with a stent. I also knew I was not alone in feeling the anxiety.
A face from a lunch party on 31 January, 2015, in Uttara, Dhaka, surfaced. It was that of my BUET teacher and a former colleague and a family friend and a founder of many charities, while he lived and worked in Calgary and now in Dhaka. In his residence, he looked at peace with himself; he had just returned after saying a prayer in an Uttara mosque nearby. I recalled most of what he had written in a recent email: 'Good luck and best wishes. Watch out. May God be with you.' He also provided me, without explicitly saying so, the slogans to be uttered during the marathon: 'Resilient. Tenacious.' I paid more attention to his saying 'Watch out' and 'May God be with you.' Those conveyed his concern and affection.
Another face from a felicitation party, in the afternoon of 31 January, 2015, at the BUET civil engineering auditorium, surfaced. It was that of the President of the BUET Alumni Association. The face was known to me from the BUET Faculty Club in the early seventies, when he was seen carrying a lawn tennis racket and wearing a head band and tennis shorts and an endearing, intelligent smile. (He also was one of my role models at BUET for being a scholar athlete.) The occasion at the auditorium was to recognize me for professional excellence and for being the first of Bangladeshi origin to have finished marathons in all seven continents. I recalled also part of his most recent email in which he wrote: 'Thank you for the email with details of your interactions with a large number of BUET alumni over the last few decades, starting from your childhood days at Matlab.' In the same email, he also informed other BUET Alumni in and around Vancouver to join Sudhamoy (BUET '69) at the finish line.
A third face from a dinner party at Dhanmondi, Dhaka, in the evening of January 31, 2015, also surfaced. It was that of my BUET teacher, a former BUET VC. I also recalled part of his most recent email about my running the Vancouver Marathon. He wrote; 'Moving description of BUET alumni cheering you. Best wishes. Our prayers are with you. May HE bless you with HIS eternal kindness.' The word 'kindness' there struck me, as he himself has had a kind heart for all of his students, especially for the disadvantaged, including me. So did 'Our prayers are with you.' Those, like those in the first email, conveyed affection and concern. Concern for one of their students and colleagues, now running with a coronary stent, as a sexagenarian!
Spring turns Canada --- a country of cold 'white-chalk-covered' landscape in the winter --- into a beautiful bride. It is more so in temperate Victoria, where it rarely snows. That became apparent when we exited the Victoria airport. Welcomed by the mildly-scented air, I could see three totem poles, the lower parts of which were accented by white blossoms, bursting into youthful exuberance and emitting a mild but maddening scent to attract bees from afar to pollinate and procreate. Buoyed by the scent and the sight, the 66-years-old in me felt an infusion of youth. I walked with a spring in my feet, as I approached the National Car Rental parking zone. I was already feeling the laid-back atmosphere of an Island that Victoria is in.r To be continued
Tapan Chakrabarty --- a BUET chemical engineer with a PhD from the University of Waterloo, a seven-continent marathon finisher, an inventor and innovator, and a columnist --- writes from Calgary, Canada

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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