HE may have a pacemaker to prevent his heart from missing a beat, but that hasn’t stopped Russell Bestley living life to the full.
The running enthusiast, from Shadwell Road, North End, clocked up his 55th marathon on American soil five days ago.
Russell joined thousands of other participants as they took to the streets of Minneapolis in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.
The gruelling 26-mile race saw Russell take part with like-minded runners from as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Italy and Israel.
He was part of a 25-strong team chosen for the challenge because they had a medical device to treat either heart disease, diabetes or spinal disorders.
The ‘Global Heroes’ group was selected by Twin Cities in Motion, which set up the marathon, to highlight their passion for running despite living with their daily illnesses.
Russell, 49, had a pacemaker fitted 15 years ago, but he relishes putting on his racing gear.
He said: ‘I’ve been running since I was a teenager. It’s my life. The marathon in Minneapolis was a phenomenal experience.
‘Twin Cities paid for me and the rest of the Global Heroes team to take part. They bought us new racing gear and we were treated like rock stars.
‘I loved every second of it. People on the side lines were chanting my name and were behind me every step of the way.’
It was back in 1996 when Russell suffered a blackout whilst training for his first marathon.
He was rushed to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, where consultant Dr Thomas Farrell diagnosed a sinoatrial block.
The condition causes the breakdown in signal between the top and bottom of the heart. It also skips heart beats.
But the set-back didn’t stop the father-of-three from getting back on his feet.
Russell said: ‘All I could think about was getting back into running. The doctors told me as long as I lived a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t need to drastically change the things I did.’
Since then, Russell has run in Barbados, South Africa and across the Nevada Desert.
He was also part of the first civilian team to finish the 100km Gurkha Trailwalker from Petersfield to Brighton last year.
Russell, a coach at Portsmouth Joggers Club, said: ‘Running gives me a sense of achievement. I didn’t see having a pacemaker as a sign that I should have given up. I saw it as an opportunity to make me think about the great things I could do in life.’