CLEVELAND - A Canton man who had a heart attack while running in the Cleveland Marathon last year will return to the course on Sunday, grateful to other runners who saved his life and relishing the chance to finish what he started.
"I just want to go back and finish it. Mark that off my list," said Richard Strain.
A few miles into the 2013 half marathon race, Strain, 45, experienced a prickly sensation across his shoulders and his breathing became labored.
"But I kept on running. I made it as far at the 7-mile water station," Strain said.
He laid down on the ground for a while and rested.
His girlfriend, Milisa Fabian, who was also running in the race, caught up to Strain and asked him if he was okay.
"I said, 'Do you need me or want me to stop?' He waved me on and he was like, 'No, keep going.' I ran my race and I finished," Fabian said.
Strain got back on his feet and started walking, but remembers very little after that.
"I guess somewhere around 9 miles, I collapsed."
Another runner, Rebecca Lewis, spotted people crowding around Strain and stopped her race.
Lewis, a Cleveland Clinic nurse in the coronary care unit, checked for a pulse and started CPR.
"It's kind of just like a second nature to me because I've been in so many critical situations like that," Lewis said.
Other runners, including a Cleveland fire captain jumped into action too, until paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to shock Strain's heart.
He was rushed to MetroHealth Medical center where his heart was shocked at least one more time.
At the finish line, Fabian waited anxiously for Strain. She gave a race official Strain's bib number and learned he had been rushed to the hospital.
When she arrived, she feared she would lose her boyfriend of two years.
"You should have seen the looks on the doctors and nurses faces. It was serious," she said.
But Strain has made a remarkable recovery. A few days after the heart attack, he sent a Facebook message to Lewis to thank her.
Later, he decided to return to the half-marathon, which falls on his 46th birthday.
"I almost finished it last time," Strain joked.
He'll also be forever grateful to those who saved his life.
"Amazing that people out there don't think about themselves and they just drop everything to help whoever is in need...If they wouldn't have been there and I wouldn't have been in that spot, I would have died."
Fabian will also return for the race and plans to stick with Strain through the entire course.
"I'm okay with it as long as he doesn't overdo it, listens to his body now," she said.
Lewis is also coming back and hopes to just run, not rescue. She's glad to hear Strain is doing well and still running.
"I think it's great that he's like taking the bull by horns and just kind of running with it — literally."