Jeff Blakeman, marathon runner

Kansas City-area runner Jeff Blakeman, center, suffered a major heart attack while running the 2013 Quad-Cities Marathon. Race director Joe Moreno, left, delivered the then-47-year-old's honorary finisher's medal to the hospital, along with Logan Callahan, who was one of the first people to reach Blakeman and begin lifesaving CPR.

It's not the kind of thing you ever forget.

So, it's probably a blessing the details are murky.

Most of what Jeff Blakeman knows about his abbreviated run of the 2013 Quad-Cities Marathon has been told to him. His memory of the race itself ends at mile 19.

Near the Moline bridge at the Rock Island Arsenal, the then-47-year-old collapsed. He's told his leg began to wobble, and down he went. Near the guard station to the island, a massive heart attack struck.

But an almost unbelievable set of circumstances followed.

Tyler Oney, working that day in the Arsenal's guard station, saw Blakeman go down and rushed to his aid. As he started CPR, course volunteer Logan Callahan arrived on scene on a bicycle. He helped with life-saving chest compressions.

Next on the course came a nurse, followed by — get this — a doctor.

"I have no memory of that, whatsoever," Blakeman said Thursday. "I don't remember any of the transport. I remember seeing two individuals from our running club (from the Kansas City area) in the emergency room. I don't remember anything else from the emergency room."

He's been told, of course, what happened there, too: He had an emergency procedure to open a blockage that caused his massive heart attack. Doctors told him only 2 percent of people who have a cardiac event like his outside of a hospital survive it.

He knows he was an exceedingly lucky man. And now he's coming back for more.

"I still have the cardiologist advising me on the medical guidelines on distance (three to four miles at a time)," the now-51-year-old said. "I've certainly thought about it quite a bit. It isn't something I took lightly. I've worked myself back up to this level."

Unlike the 2013 Quad-Cities Marathon, Blakeman is not running this year's Sept. 24 marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He has abandoned that dream.

"I'll be running just for the fun of it," he said. "I don't want to put myself in a position to push too hard. I told myself, my wife and my daughter: If I could come back and do a marathon, the Quad-Cities would be the place.

"I look at it as a 26.2-mile victory lap."

Blakeman remembers meeting two of his rescuers when they visited him in the hospital the day after his heart attack. And he returned to the Quad-Cities in 2014 to attend a ceremony recognizing Oney for his lifesaving efforts.

He also came back for the marathon in 2014, running only the final 6.5 miles that he didn't finish the year before. When he reached the finish line, the nurse who helped save him was holding the tape.

"My doctor says everything looks good," he said Thursday. "I'm looking forward to coming back to run this. It's my call, and I'm being smart about it.

"Do any of us have guarantees?"

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