Up Front and Personal

Appreciating The Preciousness of Time

by Brian Browne

Autumn is a time of marathons. I recently completed my first marathon, the Catholic Health-Suffolk County Marathon, in a time of 4 hours and 26 minutes. Truth be told, my journey of 26.2 miles began two and half years earlier, when a life-changing coronary event redirected me on a path toward better health and gratitude for the blessings in my life. 

In June 2021, just weeks after turning 50, while out for a casual jog I suddenly felt unprecedented chest pains. I tried walking it off and continuing the run, but the pain persisted. Thinking I was only tired, I promptly and foolishly ignored the classic warning sign of coronary disease. 

Days later, I developed a case of shingles and that prompted me to visit my doctor, whom I told about the recent chest pains. My doctor administered an electrocardiogram to check for different heart conditions and that test revealed an abnormality. 

An angiogram confirmed I had blockage in several arteries, and the following day I underwent emergency quintuple coronary artery bypass surgery to redirect and improve blood flow to my heart. 

Within 72 hours, I went from having a case of shingles to recovering from open-heart surgery. I was stunned. 

Since then, and with a better appreciation for time and mortality, I recommitted myself to running. I began to run more regularly and longer distances and did it because it made me feel better. I came to look forward to the steady cadence of my feet pounding the ground and the rhythmic beating of my rewired heart. 

Running can be a prayerful experience that brings you to new places every step of the way and fosters an intrinsic motive for perseverance, commitment, and spiritual well-being. 

I chose to run the Catholic Health-Suffolk County Marathon which raises money for veterans as a small and symbolic gesture. The healing mission of the skilled and dedicated personnel at Catholic Health, one of the premier health systems on Long Island, is significant to my family. 

During long stretches of my marathon, I found myself not thinking about the road still ahead of me but rather thinking about the journey made. I played out in my mind the hundreds of miles logged, the training program I tried to adhere to, and what exactly brought me to be up early on a windy Sunday morning traversing some of the most scenic parts of Long Island. 

Time is our most precious commodity and for runners, timing is the benchmark of targeted goals, progress made, and future success. 

Perhaps Proverbs 16:9 says it best: “The human heart plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps.”

Brian Browne is Associate Vice President of University Communications & Public Affairs at St. John’s University