Lifestyle & Human Interest

Grandfather Collapses During Marathon. 1 Year Later, Returns To Finish What He Started


After suffering a massive heart attack during the 2017 Dallas Marathon, 64-year-old Dwayne Pickens returned to finish the race one year later.

Pickens doesn’t remember much about the moment he collapsed during his 6.4-mile leg of the Dallas Marathon relay.

He does remember waking up in the emergency room and hearing stories about the people who saved his life, including a fireman, nurse, and a personal trainer.

Pickens said goodbye to his wife and four sons, not knowing if he would wake up from quadruple bypass surgery.

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When Pickens did wake up, he saw the face of his cardiac surgeon, Dr. Baron Hamman.

Hamman told Pickens that he was lucky to be alive —  and that together, the two of them would return to the Dallas Marathon to finish the relay race Pickens had started.

“I said, ‘You’ll be able to run again in three months,'” Hamman told The Dallas Morning News. “‘I’ll do you one better. I’ll run the marathon relay with you next year.'”

Encouraged and motivated by Hamman’s offer, Pickens began his recovery.

In Dec. 2018, an emotional Pickens returned to the Dallas Marathon with three of his four sons, plus Hamman, to run the relay race that nearly took his life.

“Here’s a guy who fell down — literally dead — and he got up with a little help, and he’s going to run it again,” Hamman said. “I respect that.”

In an article he wrote for Scrubbing In, Pickens described the emotional gathering at his house the night before the race.

“The night before the marathon, all of the first responders, Dr. Hamman, family and friends came to my house to celebrate and honor this miracle that happened one year ago,” Pickens said.

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The group exchanged stories about the part they played in saving Pickens’ life and accepted their personalized race T-shirt that Pickens had made as a small way to thank them for giving him his life back.

The next day, Pickens returned to the 2018 Dallas Marathon and ran the anchor leg of the SMU Cox School of Business Relay.

“I cried throughout pretty much the whole race,” Pickens wrote.

“To me, it’s a bit of an accomplishment,” he said. “I could have sat back and been a couch potato. I could have been afraid to go back out. But here’s this guy who just repaired my heart, and he’s telling me I’m OK to do this.”


Pickens credits God for placing the right people around him during the heart attack and on the road to recovery.

“God had placed five people around me who each played a crucial role in saving my life — including a fireman, a nurse and a personal trainer,” he wrote. “I can’t thank God and those five people enough. If a heart attack had to happen, it happened at the most perfect time.”

Prior to his heart attack, Pickens never had a reason to believe he had heart problems. Now, he stresses the importance of regular health checks.

“Now, I want to be a lesson for others, that they should get their health checked even if they think there’s nothing wrong,” Pickens said. “Even if just one person makes an appointment for a physical because of my story, I’ll be happy.”

Pickens is thankful for the heart attack that nearly took his life. Because of it, Pickens has a new appreciation for life, and plans to enjoy every day.

“I have truly come full circle,” he said.

“I wasn’t able to finish that marathon a year ago, but I did it this year — with a full and grateful heart. I know I’m lucky to be alive and I intend to keep on living my life to the fullest, each and every day.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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