An IT specialist from the University of Aberdeen has completed a 106-mile ultra-marathon to raise funds for the NHS - just seven weeks after undergoing major heart surgery.
Mike Raffan, who lives near Collieston and is a team lead for the University’s server team, ran the extraordinary distance in just 27 and a half hours, starting at 6am last Friday (April 17) and finishing just after 9am on Saturday with short 10-minute breaks every so often. He mapped out a 100m route (16 laps per mile) in his garden.
Mike, whose achievement is made all the more impressive given the farthest he has been able to run in the past year is eight miles, has so far raised more than £1,300 for the Glasgow Golden Jubilee Hospital, as a thank you to the medical team who looked after him so well during his surgery.
A graduate of the University, Mike took up running 11 years ago when he decided to take part in the Inverness 10k alongside colleagues in the IT department.
“It didn’t take much convincing for me to sign up - I used to hill walk so already had a reasonable level of fitness. Within six months, I was running marathons and after another six months I completed my first ultra-marathon. Since then, I have finished four marathons and 46 ultras.”
Last year, however, Mike noticed that he was finding it hard to breathe while running uphill, as though there was a weight on his chest. Over time, it got harder and harder and he sought medical advice.
“Tests revealed that I have an anomalous right coronary artery from the opposite sinus with an intermural circuit, which basically means I was born with my right artery growing out of the wrong place,” said Mike.
“The surgery I needed was too specialist to be done in Aberdeen, so I had to go to Glasgow Golden Jubilee Hospital. I had the operation on February 25 and was out of hospital after just three days. The nurses on the ward were not sure about discharging me so early as they had never let anyone out in less than four days – the preference is seven. However, I passed all their fitness tests and the surgeon said it was ok for me to go.”
After just 10 days, Mike went for a slow two-mile run with his wife Annette keeping an eye on him.
“Every time I went out, I felt I had to hold my chest. The rehab physiotherapist told me this was due to the impact and that my chest bones had not fused together properly, so I started doing a lot of cycling instead to get to get my fitness back.
“It’s only been in the last two weeks I have started running properly again. I relied on muscle memory and stubbornness to get me through the challenge. The run was slow. Stopping every 50m to turn around was like doing a bleep test for 27 hours.”
Mike, who is a member of Newburgh Dunes Running Club, is still signed off work and has been spending this time socially isolating with Annette, who also works at the University, and young daughter Flora.
“The standard time to get signed off is 12 weeks after a stemotomy, with a follow-up echocardiogram and chest x-ray after eight weeks to make sure all the bones are healing. With the pandemic, I am not allowed to visit the hospital and get the scans.
“My GP had no option but go with the recommendations, so I have had to just go with how I am feeling. I managed to get one cardiac physio rehab appointment over the phone before the department stopped all appointments.
“We live in the country so the isolation is just a way of life out here. Basically I get to play with Flora while my wife works from home, so it is not all bad!”
*If you would like to sponsor Mike, please go to the following JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/isolationmike