Dayton resident Sheila Dube is living life on the run.

From May through October, the 40-year-old fitness buff has committed to run in 5 and 10K road races in Maine and New Hampshire nearly every weekend.

A full-time special education technician, wife and mother of two teenage daughters, Dube isn’t attempting just to fit personal fitness goals into an already jam-packed schedule; she is running to raise awareness for heart-defects research.

Around Mother’s Day 2009, doctors discovered a hole in Dube’s heart. It is a hereditary, congenital birth defect also diagnosed in her daughter Madison Dube, 11.

While Dube is paying the entry fees to support the causes of the races in which she is running, her primary focus is to raise funds for the Adult Congenital Heart Association, a national nonprofit organization she says helped her get her life back.

Dube has been physically fit her entire life, skiing, hiking and snowshoeing. She regularly ran a few days each week, both for physical benefit and pleasure.

Dube had often experienced the runner’s high, brought on by the body’s release of endorphins during a strenuous workout.

But last spring, she began to experience some frightening lows, too.

During a run with her husband, Scott Dube, and workout mates Kevin and Jane Foley, Sheila began to feel a “heaviness” in her gait as well as dizziness and shortness of breath.

She had always run ahead of the pack, but now she found herself struggling just to keep up.

The Dubes attributed the situation to aging. But as the weeks passed, her symptoms returned during less demanding activities.

Since she was a fit 120 pounds, doctors initially thought Dube had adult onset asthma. Further tests revealed that she had an atrial septal defect, a condition she’s had since birth. Doctors told her to stop running and other strenuous activity. The diagnosis and resulting physical restraints were like asking a bird not to fly.

In the months that ensued, Dube gained 20 pounds and battled depression.

It was her husband’s continued running regimen that provided the inspiration she needed.

Not content to sit around, Dube pursued a course to get healthy again, researching her condition and treatment options. She had corrective heart surgery last September.

She was not expected to fully recover for a year, but Dube received a clean bill of health just two months later. She promptly entered a 5K race in November 2009 and finished with a time of 8.54 minutes per mile — a personal best.

Dube has never looked back. She focuses on staying healthy, helping to educate others about heart defects and things they can do to care for themselves. Last weekend, she participated in her third organized run this year.

“From seeing her struggle just to walk up a flight of stairs to doing this …,” her husband said. “… It’s amazing! She is absolutely determined to be better than she was before.”

Sheila Dube is pacing herself to prepare for forthcoming events, saying they are not about competing but about creating awareness.

“This is my way of saying, ‘Thank you’ to an organization that helped educate me (about heart defects) and gave me the tools I needed to live my life with this condition,” she said. “And, I’m going to live my life to the fullest.”

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at:

[email protected]