In 2015, Peyton Chitty was running a 10K race in Oak Island.
He was in third place then he suddenly collapsed with just a half mile left.
“I wasn’t in pain, it was just. I was tired, and my body wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do. I just tunneled out and went down that black hole and I was out,” said Chitty, who now runs with a pacemaker.
Months later he would learn he has a congenital heart defect.
"I have what’s called bradycardia which is a slow heartbeat and type 2 atrial ventricular block which is basically electrical," he said. "My brain tells my heart to beat and my heart doesn’t do what my brain’s telling it to do.”
Chitty knew this would change his life but didn't want it to define him. So right away, he set goals for himself and one of them was to run a marathon within a year of having the pacemaker put it. He did that within 11 months.
Then Chitty decided to run more races and marathons and set a big goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Not only did he qualify he beat the time he set for himself.
“My goal was 3:30. I had to get under 3:30 and I beat it by almost 7 minutes. 3:24:20 so that’s a definite shoe-in for Boston.”
Chitty also is a counselor and track and cross country coach at Ashley High School so now he uses all of these experiences to set a good example for the hundreds of kids he comes in contact with every day.
“I have to live by example because kids will call you out on something in a heartbeat," he said. "And it holds myself accountable and I can hold them accountable because I don’t take excuses for anything whether it’s academic or athletic.”
His kids notice it too. Luke Scacheri runs track and cross country.
“A lot of times I’m thinking like man, I’m not going to be able to finish this, this is way too hard, too fast all this stuff," he said. "And then it’s like you look at him and it’s like, I mean, he had this major life event. He’s come back and he’s been doing these types of workouts and everything and he runs with us all the time. So it’s like if Coach Peyton can do it anybody can do it.”
Teammate Bianca Copeman also admires and looks up to Coach Chitty.
“He’s just so inspiring because it’s like if he can do that and run as much as he does with a pacemaker, I should be able to do great because I don’t have a pacemaker.”
If you head to the Ashley track, you'll see Coach Chitty running with his kids and other days he runs with his daughter Paxton.
Chitty will continue to train and run the Boston Marathon in 2019. He is also a member of a group called Cardiac Athletes. They connect athletes with heart issues around the world. Chitty even wrote a chapter for a second Cardiac Athletes book.
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