Long-distance runner on race success after major surgery for heart defect

Mike Raffan, 44, has won ultra-marathons and other extreme challenges since his life-saving operation.

Life-saving heart surgery is proving no obstacle to a Aberdeenshire long-distance runner’s success.

Endurance athlete Mike Raffan, who has completed dozens of ultra marathons, survived a serious heart defect several years ago.

Despite undergoing a major operation, within months, the 44-year-old was back winning extreme, ultra-distance running events.

Mike told STV News: “I’d be running up a hill I previously had no problem with and I’d be going up the hill and it felt like a crushing pain in my chest and my back.”

The 44-year-old was diagnosed with a misplaced artery which can cause sudden death if undetected .

“Luckily mine was signalled by chest pain when running,” explained Mike.

Within months of open heart surgery, and against all the odds, the prolific runner was winning ultra-distance challenges again, including completing a brutal 200-mile ultra marathon.

Mike Raffan took part in the Tunnel Ultra race

The Tunnel Ultra race involves running along a one mile, pitch black railway tunnel and back again, 200 times  nonstop.

It’s a gruelling challenge which has been described as a “mind-bending test of extreme endurance and sensory deprivation” which has left participant’s hallucinating  .

“You don’t have to think about navigation. You don’t have to think about weather or anything other than just  keeping one foot in front of the other, get to the end and turn round and keep going back again.

“I’ve tried but I have not reached my limits yet. People ask me do I hallucinate? Well, I’ve tried really hard but I’ve not got there yet.”

The super-fit runner is gearing up for his next extreme event.

It’s ‘Last One Standing ‘ competition, where participants continually run just over four miles once an hour until all the other competitors have dropped out.

Mike added: “A lot of the endurance is all in your head.

“If you are fit enough to do the distance, it’s the head which is going to stop you, not your body.

“I don’t want to fail. I have only not finished one race No one else cares, but I do.

“It must be stubbornness, preparedness. I’m not sure what it is!”

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