A Westport runner isn't letting a heart attack stop her. She's running the Boston Marathon

WESTPORT — A Westport woman who survived a heart attack and was told she would never run another race is gearing up to run the Boston Marathon, with the hope of sending a message about perseverance.

“The biggest thing is inspiring and motivating my kids,” said Jennifer Potter. “If you set your mind to something, you can truly achieve anything.”

Exercise and being active has always been a big part of Potter’s life. In 2011, she ran her first Boston Marathon, raising money for Boston Children’s Hospital in honor of a friend’s young son.

But the next year, while pregnant with her eldest child, Potter was diagnosed with a heart condition. At 30 years old, her doctors told the former yoga instructor that her days of intense exercise like marathons were behind her.

“I wasn’t myself. I had a really hard time with it,” she said.

Westport runner Jen Potter, who survived a heart attack and was told she would never run another race, is gearing up to run the Boston Marathon.
Westport runner Jen Potter, who survived a heart attack and was told she would never run another race, is gearing up to run the Boston Marathon.

Spartan races and obstacle courses

After she gave birth to her second child, Potter said she got tired of feeling held back.

“It got to a point where I was like, ‘who’s stopping you? Who’s actually, physically stopping you from doing these things?’” she said.

So, she and her husband started signing up for running and obstacle course events like Spartan races.

“While I may not be fast, I could complete them,” she said.

Westport runner Jen Potter is gearing up to run the Boston Marathon.
Westport runner Jen Potter is gearing up to run the Boston Marathon.

Heart attack was another setback

Potter hit another setback in 2019, when she had a minor heart attack after a fall at a playground caused a heart arrhythmia. While she recovered, a cardiologist said that as long as she paid attention to her heart health, there was no reason for her to not compete in events like marathons.

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Potter, who now has three children, decided to make tackling the Boston Marathon as her next challenge. She is raising money for Boston Children's Hospital, where all three of her kids have been treated at least once.

It will be her first marathon since her health problems began.

“Yesterday, I ran 17 miles. It was one of the most amazing things,” she said recently. “Just a few years ago, I didn’t even think that was something I could do.”

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Her three young children are already getting active, with activities like running and competitive dance. But, Potter says she wants them to learn lessons from her experience beyond the benefits of staying in shape. No matter what situation you feel stuck in, you always have the power to make changes, she said.

“I want to tell my children that if someone tells you that you can’t do something, as long as you’re not hurting anyone, what’s stopping you?” she said.

This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Westport runner to race Boston Marathon after heart attack recovery