A year after near-fatal collapse, Geneva half marathoner finishes strong
A Naperville Half Marathon runner who went into cardiac arrest on the course last year crossed the finish line in Sunday's second-annual race with no sign of heart trouble and a wide smile on his face.
Steve Sloma, 39, of Geneva, completed 13.1 miles in 2:09, making what was his first race since last year's near-death experience a triumph, he said.
"It feels great," Sloma said about the accomplishment.
Sloma collapsed about mile 6 of last year's race in Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve, where three nurses who also were running the half marathon came to his aid and began CPR.
This year's race didn't pass the exact spot where Sloma went down, but it came close, running north on Book Road through the forest preserve toward the finish at Naperville Central High School.
Incidentally, Sloma said that segment of Sunday's race -- near mile 9 or 10, with the wind blowing and a hill rising -- was the most difficult.
While Sloma was chugging up the hill, one of the nurses who helped save his life caught up to him.
"It was parallel to where we met last year," said Traci Iarrobino, a nurse at Edward Hospital in Naperville, which is the race's title sponsor.
Iarrobino said she and Sloma snapped a photo together while running, and she waited for him at the finish.
As Sloma was savoring the finishers' medal around his neck and waiting for his wife to finish the race, Iarrobino was there to congratulate him with a hug.
Chatting with Iarrobino and another one of his rescuers, Edward Hospital nurse Stephanie Chang, Sloma said he hasn't experienced any heart trouble since unexpectedly collapsing last year. He now has a defibrillator implanted in his chest as a precaution, and he's enrolled in a medical study being conducted by the Mayo Clinic to probe the causes of unexplained heart trouble.
Uncertainty about why his heart stopped hasn't prevented Sloma from training since May to race again. He has no plans to quit, and intends to return to Naperville's annual long-distance race.
"See you next year," was the goodbye he exchanged with two of the nurses before they went their separate ways.