Open Heart Runner
The cover of my memoir, Open Heart Runner.
Open Heart Runner is available in paperback and ebook form at Amazon.com.
Open Heart Runner is available in Victoria at Munro's Books, Bolen Books, Ivy's Books, Cadboro Bay Books and Frontrunners.
You can also like Open Heart Runner on Facebook.
The book is available in Calgary at Pages on Kensington and Self Connection Books in Bowness.
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Since the publication of Open Heart Runner, I have spoken to running clubs, groups of health professionals, service organizations, and other groups interested in the book. My talks focus on the lessons we can all learn in living life more focused on the present and from the heart. You can contact me via the Contact Me button at the top of this page if you'd like me to speak to your organization.
Comments about Open Heart Runner
This was an inspiring and beautifully written book that I am thankful to have had the opportunity to read. I hope you keep writing as I was so absorbed in the reading of your first book. Thank you for sharing your story.
- Carmen Di Lucca, Teacher
Great book! It gives you a real and true insight into the ups and downs of the emotions for people close to dying and how their loved ones respond - in this case with a very happy ending!
- Peter Tongue, Radio Show Host
A great synopsis on the path to recovery from a major heart condition. Gregory captures the feelings and angst one feels post recovery and how positive reinforcement and mental state improve outcomes.
- Brian Losie, Heart Attack Survivor
Marchand’s call to live more open-heartedly means being open to lessons, to mysteries, to contradictions and to one another, and the book itself, in that sense, is a call for all of us to come back from the dead.
-Amy Reiswig, Focus Magazine
Open Heart Runner is a tightly written, sharply focused memoir. The writing style is appealingly matter-of-fact - simple in the best sense of the word.
-Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist
Open Heart Runner is an inspiring book that makes us think that we don't really know what the future holds, so we need to love and embrace the present.
-Louise Hodgson, Canadian Running Magazine
Interviews and Reviews
CVV Magazine Interview
CVV Magazine has posted an interview with writer Erin Anderson and me about Open Heart Runner. Check it out here.
CBC Radio Interview
I spoke about Open Heart Runner with Jo-Ann Roberts the host of CBC Victoria's All Points West. You can listen to the interview via podcast here.
Times Colonist Feature Interview
Click here to read Adrian Chamberlain's review of Open Heart Runner published in the Times Colonist newspaper.
Book Review at Bookpleasures.com
Dr. June Maffin has published an online review of Open Heart Runner on the website Book Pleasures. You can read it here.
CBC Calgary Radio Interview
While I was in Calgary, I spoke to the host of CBC Calgary's The Homestretch. You can listen to it here.
Voice America Talk Radio
I was interviewed on the Awakening to Conscious Co-Creation show on VoiceAmerica Talk Radio. You can find out more information or listen to the interview here.
Focus Magazine Review
Amy Reiswig's review of Open Heart Runner can be found here.
Book Review by Writer and Editor Mark Sampson
Mark Sampson's review of Open Heart Runner is found here.
excerpt from Open Heart Runner
Something’s wrong. I can feel it. I can’t tell what it is, though. I’ve felt like this before. Or something like it. I always hurt when I run a race. Especially at the end. It’s cold today and I just need to finish. But it hurts. I’m not breathing right.
Just get past it. That’s all I need to do. This little climb to the finish line is nothing. I can even pass that woman just ahead of me. That would be good. Just a few more steps.
There’s something wrong, though. My chest. My heart. I can’t feel my arms. My fingers are tingling in my gloves. I feel tired. I am tired.
It hurts. I hurt.
I’m on the ground. What’s going on? My head aches. My face hurts. I must have hit my head on something, on the gravel maybe. If I could just get up, I’d be okay.
I can’t move. All these people around me. What’s going on? I’m just tired. Let me get up. Let me move.
If you’d let me move, I’d be okay. The race is over. I'm okay.
When I was younger, starting at about eight or nine, I’d frequently wake up my parents in the middle of the night crying out from a dream I was having. They’d hear me running around the house screaming. I was still asleep, or at least I was unconscious. But I was running, running away from something. My parents would chase after me trying to keep me from hurting myself and trying to calm me down enough to bring me back to reality.
Later, I wouldn’t remember any of this. I wouldn’t remember running, or screaming, or my parents chasing me. I’d only become aware of them and myself once they’d managed to slow me down, stop me from running, and give me a drink of water, the coolness of the liquid easing me back to reality as it ran down my throat.
Gradually, I’d wake up. My heart would be racing, sweat would be pouring down my face, and I’d be breathing hard, trying to understand what was going on and what I was feeling.
After I’d awakened fully, I’d start to remember the feeling that had pervaded my dream and started these night terrors. In my dream, I’d be aware of a darkness closing in on me. It was formless but large, like a pulsating blob of ink expanding around me. It would contract slightly then expand again even larger.
As I breathed, it would grow and surround me almost entirely. The more I breathed, the more it grew and the more I felt entrapped. I couldn’t get away from it, so I’d run. But the harder I ran and the harder I breathed, the larger it grew. I didn’t realize that if I just stopped running, I would breathe slower and allow the blob to fully contract and disappear.
But I was afraid. I wanted to escape it, not understanding that my only escape was to relax, to let go, to let it pass.
That same inkiness enveloped me as I lay on the ground at the end of the race surrounded by strangers pumping on my chest, breathing into my mouth, trying to push life into my lifeless body. As in my dream, I wanted to get up and run. Their hands pounding on my chest and their lips against my mouth were too close. But my breath wouldn’t come and the same blob of pressure that would surround me in my dreams entrapped me now, pressing on my chest, holding me down. I needed to get up. I needed to run away.
Chapter 1: Racing
“Oh, be quiet,” I muttered.
The buzz of the alarm clock pierced my sleep. I reached over to the table at my bedside, turned off the alarm, and lay back on my pillow not wanting to open my eyes.
My wife, Debbie, stirred beside me. “What time is it?” Her voice sounded groggy
and slightly perturbed.
“Why so early? It’s Sunday.”
Finally, I opened my eyes. Our bedroom was still dark, the sun, like Debbie and me, not yet risen. I pulled the quilt covering our bed back over my shoulders. It was so cold in the room that my fingers were beginning to feel numb from the few seconds my arm had been uncovered.
“It’s too cold,” Debbie said.
“I know. The forecast is for snow later today.”
“You’re not really going to run, are you?”
“Well, I don’t feel much like getting out of bed.”
“I’ve already registered for the race. I might as well run it.”
“I’m going back to sleep.”
I had no idea what lay ahead for me as I reluctantly climbed out of bed that morning. We all intellectually understand that our lives can change in an instant – that losing control of the car on a snow-covered road, eating poorly cooked food, or walking across thin ice on a frozen river can have consequences that are completely unexpected. I used to imagine what
it would be like if my life suddenly altered course completely beyond my control. Now I know.
The chill shocked me as my feet touched the fir flooring of our bedroom. January can be cold in most parts of Canada, but Victoria is different. It’s not supposed to be cold here, even in the winter. But the temperature had dropped below freezing overnight, and our 85-year-old home was not coping well with the cold as the morning dawned clear but brisk. Although I’d grown up on the stark Alberta prairie where winters can be deadly, I’d become accustomed to the temperate climate of Victoria. A chilly, January morning run held little attraction for me.
At least that’s how I probably felt. I have only vague memories of January 11th, 1998. My conscious knowledge of the day has come from the reports of family and friends.
My son, Lucas, was 15 at the time, and we had planned to run the race together that morning. He and I had been running together since he was eight years old. At first I would run an easy pace to allow him to keep up. Now, he had become nothing more than the back of a flapping jersey as he consistently outran me. For the past week, he had been nursing a case of strep throat with antibiotics. I had registered him to run in the race anyway hoping he would be better by the weekend. But when I went downstairs to his room that morning to check on him and heard his laboured breathing, I knew he was still too sick to run. Today, I’m grateful he wasn’t at the end of the race to see me collapse, to see my heart stop, to see my life fade.
© Gregory Marchand
The start of the Harriers 8K, January 11th, 1998
This photo was on the front page of the Saanich News (used by permission) the day after the race. That's me in bib 1031 near the middle of the photo. Marilyn McCrimmon, whom I spoke to just before the start is to my right. In the foreground to the right in bib 1024 is Dr Ron Youngash and to his left is Dr Rachel Staples. I didn't know them at all but less than an hour after the photo was taken, they were both administering CPR to me.
The finish of the Harriers 8K one year later, January 10, 1999
This is a photo of the finish of the Harriers 8K which I ran again one year after my cardiac arrest. To my right is Dr Cheryl Wood who performed CPR on me at the end of the race the year before. To my left is John Catterall who led a group praying for me as Cheryl and Dr Rachel Staples continued the CPR.