Sooke’s Ken Pungente

Running Man

A heart attack stopped Ken Pungente, but it only ignited his competitive juices to run longer and harder

If you gotten to know runner Ken Pungente the last couple of years or so, there’s something you might not know about him.

Pungente, 72, survived a heart attack while racing in a 12-kilometre race in Cedar, south of Nanaimo.

The story begins on a drizzly Sunday morning in February 2007, but it certainly doesn’t end there.

He remembers very little about the heart attack, but does remember starting the race. His saving grace was four women who came to his rescue and brought him back to life through their training as registered nurses and respiratory therapists.

The amazing part of this story, perhaps, is instead of feeling sorry for himself or giving up on running, he did the complete opposite.

He ran more competitively and trained twice as hard.

Although he had been a runner for more than 12 years, it wasn’t until after his heart attack that he ran a full marathon – in Ireland and Greece.

“I think it’s important to say there is something afterwards. You need to get on with your life. You need to do things, not just sit at home and wait to die,” Pungente said.

Pungente has always been an athlete. He was playing both hockey and rugby well into his adult years. It was only after he “retired” from rugby at age 49 that he gave running a shot.

He only started running because he was filled with an “awful sense of guilt” that he was doing nothing to stay fit.

Pungente wasn’t particularly enamoured by it, but he kept at it and soon was addicted.

“I started running , then ran a little longer … before I knew it I was running more than a kilometre and I expanded it from that,” he recalled.

Within a few years, he was running in charity events and soon entered his first half-marathon. He figured he’s run at least 30 marathons over the last 20 years.

And while he admits, the heart attack did put running aside briefly, he now believes he has a more competitive spirit because of it.

“I push the envelope more now then ever before,” Pungente said. “Sometimes I ask myself: What are you trying to prove, but it makes me feel good. I love it.”

Last weekend, Pungente ran in the CIBC Run for a Cure five-kilometre run and on Sunday (Oct. 11) will be front and centre in the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon’s half-marathon.

“People need to be told to get on with their life after a heart attack,” he said. “Get out and do things – stay active.”

klaird@blackpress.ca