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Anton Deiters has run 25 marathons all across the world in his career, but none has more meaning than the one he is running in Boston today. The 71-year old resident will try to finish the 26.2 mile race less than eight months after suffering a heart attack.
"I was playing in a field hockey tournament in Scotland last July," said Deiters, a former lawyer and banker. "We were in the intermission and I collapsed. The next thing I knew, I was in the hospital and had no idea what happened. The paramedics needed a defibrillator to re-start my heart."
The heart attack may have slowed Deiters down, but it couldn't cool off his burning desire to compete in the sport he loves. Shortly after doctors inserted a pacemaker in his chest, Deiters was on the road to recovery and another marathon.
"I started back just after last August, which was about a month after the heart attack," said Deiters, who was born in Holland. "I'm not the kind of guy who errs on the wimpy side of caution. I started by just walking and then did some light jogging. I wanted to do the Marine Corps Marathon in the Fall, but my doctors didn't clear me to do it, so I made the Boston Marathon my goal."
Deiters qualified for the Boston Marathon with his performance in the New York City Marathon in 2010. At the age of 69, he finished the event in 4:17. Keep in mind that Amani Toomer, the former New York Giants receiver who was 36 at the time, crossed the finish line in 4:13. It was the 10th time Deiters had completed the race through the five boroughs of New York City.
"I first ran the event in 1976," he said. "My friend said they had reconfigured the course and encouraged me to sign up. I did, and running has been my passion ever since. I run anywhere, anytime, and any place."
He's not kidding. Check out his race history on Athlinks.com and you'll see that Deiters has run to all points on the map in a short period of time. In 2009 when he was 68-years old, Deiters ran the Big Sur Marathon in Carmel, California in 4:03. Less than a year later, he ran the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland in 6:29, which Deiters calls his greatest accomplishment.
"It was three days after I attempted to climb all the way up Matterhorn," he said. "The race was in the mountains and almost all straight uphill." (The elevation was more than 1,900 meters).
Deiters trained for the Boston Marathon, an event he's already completed twice, by running 8 to 9 miles every other day for the last few weeks. He also incorporated a lot of hill and speed work to his regime.
"I wear a heart monitor to make sure I don't go into the danger zone with my heart rate," he said. "I'm checking it all the time. I'm a little nervous, but once the race starts I get focused. I don't chit chat with other runners or get distracted."
After his heart attack and run through Heartbreak Hill on Monday, Deiters says he's already envisioned the ending to the 26.2 mile event, "This is not to see how fast I go, that's of no concern whatsoever. This is about completion, not competition. I've imagined calling my kids in California to tell them I finished and race and greeting my wife, who will be there, and saying, 'We did it!' "