MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Frankie DeFore said he couldn't wait to attack the infamous Cardiac Hill during the AJC Peachtree Road Race. And you can understand why.
He nearly died of heart failure two years ago.
“A wakeup call from God, saying 'Frankie you’re not being the best Frankie you can be.'”
As Frankie trains in a park, you would think he's always been the picture of health. Slender, he does pullups on a nearby jungle gym before running laps up and down a small hill. But looks, can be deceiving.
"In 2020, I was 34 years old and my heart gave out. It gave out completely," Frankie remembered. “They called my family and they said, 'he’s not gonna make it. He’s gonna die.'”
He family prepared to head to the hospital to spend their last moments with him. But, Frankie lived. In fact, he went on to live and exceed doctor's expectations.
With a with a heart pump inside his chest for 16 months, Frankie decided he wanted to make changes. He began living a plant-based only diet, growing his own food, and started enjoying the little things in life, like mowing his own grass.
"I used to hire someone to do that for me. Not anymore," he said.
Frankie still carries the heart pump with him, which was removed seven months before the race.
“This came out of a wire- right here in my abdomen and I had a controller. I was connected to batteries for 16 months.”
So what’s a man -- who nearly died --- to do in the months after heart surgery, after living with a pump, after being told his life will forever change?
Well, why not run the world’s largest 10K.
“I gotta live my life like it’s my last every day because it could be. Now, I feel like if I did get up and work and eat my best, or I'm gonna end up with this (heart pump) back in my chest and I don’t want to be there ever again.”
It’s not only for his health, his mental well-being, and his spirit, but to show anyone and everyone that Frankie’s glass is always half full.
“You can be laying in a bed, the doctors have already called your family and said 'he's gonna die and it’s still not to late to change your life.' Even on that day its not to late to change your life because it’s not too late for me!”
Frankie said his sister, who ran the race before and never left his side during his health battle, remains his inspiration for running the 10k.
Frankie completed the race in an hour and 40 minutes.
"I feel fantastic," he said afterwards. "I could have ran it a little harder."
Frankie plans to continue running races.