No more caffeine,” the doctor insisted.

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“None? But I only have two cups of coffee in the morning. It’s not even Starbucks.”

“Yeah, none is good. And you probably shouldn’t do any more running for a while.”

He didn’t add, “And try to limit your breathing, sleeping and watching the NCAA basketball tournament.”

But no smile; the guy wasn’t kidding.

I have done the Cooper River Bridge Run too many times to remember, but today’s will be unforgettable because the weather forecast is ideal and the sideline stinks. Except for a profound newfound appreciation for “wait ’til next year.”

The diagnosis is very non-life threatening atrial fibrillation, or “A-Fib.” Technically, it’s an overly rapid and chaotic heartbeat that messes with the electrical system, limits blood flow and causes shortness of breath. Actually, it’s like having the zaniest frog in the bog jumping around in your chest, which makes running uphill more difficult than watching “Duck Dynasty.”

Too much decaf

The problem first became apparent during usually peaceful 11th mile at the Kiawah Marathon in December. Every other short run since has been heavy lifting.

One stethoscope check three weeks ago and the family practice physician called a cardiologist’s cell phone.

“Very unusual,” the cardiologist said. “Your blood pressure is nice and low. Your cholesterol levels are great. This is odd for someone so …”

“C’mon, Doc, I know you wanna say it.”

“… young.”

So I’ve had five EKGs in the last 15 days. Just like some old guy, you know, 70 or 80. Had to wear a Holter Monitor, a camera-sized device attached to several electrodes stuck to my chest to measure heart rhythms. Enough meds that they don’t ask for my name anymore at the pharmacy.

And decaf.


Just a bit this week.

The few, the proud

But how interesting, learning about the medical profession. For instance, do you know that some of the financial magazines in those offices are so dated, it’s possible to laugh at the investment tips?

Doctor visits also make it easy to think of people who have to visit a lot more often. It’s not an incurable disease like multiple sclerosis or some kind of cancer. It’s completely curable (with medicine, electric shock or surgery).

It’s an opportunity to cherish running fun. The Palmetto 200 from Columbia to Charleston with friends, an impromptu two-day relay through the Florida Keys from Key Biscayne to Key West with 11 complete strangers, all those Bridge Runs with elite Kenyans and local grandmothers.

Favorite Bridge Run memory: Getting passed by a Marine zooming down King Street on an artificial leg.

Today, 10 injured service members from the Semper Fi Fund’s proud Team Semper Fi will participate among almost 40,000 runners and walkers. Every year, over the 6.2 miles from Moultrie Middle School to Marion Square, people inspire.

Whether you’re running, or unable, or not interested. Or among those thankful for enough health to look forward to 2014.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.