He’s not ready to run past the spot where he died last year.
But the two women responsible for him being alive intend to get him to the finish line this year.
If that sounds a bit like a riddle, it’s appropriate. After all, Tony Lindeman’s very existence is a riddle.
Lindeman, 47, a Doylestown councilman, said his physicians still can’t explain why his perfectly healthy heart stopped beating a couple of miles into last year’s Akron Marathon, sending him sprawling, lifeless, to the concrete.
Two nurse/athletes who saw him collapse ran to his aid, taking turns pumping his heart for several minutes until paramedics could arrive and restart it with their electrified paddles.
Lindeman has a defibrillator permanently implanted in his chest now, just in case his heart short-circuits again. Otherwise, he’s just about back to his normal routine: working, playing, attending his Doylestown council meetings, being a husband and father.
And running. Just not running past that spot on Schiller Avenue.
But he won’t need to.
This year, Lindeman and the women he refers to as his “angels” will run the course as the relay team “Stayin’ Alive.”
Heather Pariso and Lynne Trenkelbach — who didn’t know each other before the incident — will handle two sections of the five-leg relay. Two friends, Kristen Ashby and Katie Shick, will run two other legs.
“We’re all nurses, so Tony couldn’t be safer,” Pariso quipped.
That will leave Lindeman free to take the final 5.5-mile stretch into Canal Park on Saturday morning, completing his unfinished journey.
Looking back, Lindeman, Pariso and Trenkelbach say they could never have guessed they would have become the best of friends.
They visit each other regularly and dine together, as often as once a month.
Lindeman was present when Pariso and Trenkelbach received an American Red Cross “Acts of Courage” award. They stood with him when he represented the American Heart Association at an event encouraging folks to take CPR classes.
A special bond
As Lindeman worked up his nerve to run again, they were there. He’s tackled five organized races in the past year. At four of them, Pariso, Trenkelbach, or both, were at his side.
“It’s definitely comforting to have them with me when I’m running,” he said, and not because they’re medical professionals. “There’s a special bond there, something unique that you can’t put into words.”
Lindeman said he’s still nervous about running, even though he said his doctor cannot tie his cardiac event to the act of running.
“It could have happened to me while I was sitting at home eating dinner,” he said. “It just so happened it was at the marathon.”
A month after his collapse, Lindeman worked himself up to taking long walks around the neighborhood. Two months later, he laced up his shoes for his first post-injury run. He and his wife, Ann, covered 1.6 miles.
“It was probably more of a mental challenge than any marathon I’ve ever run,” he said. “I was very nervous ... but I had already started to set my sights on my first race back.”
In March, the couple ran a 15K (about 9.3 miles) in Cincinnati.
“It was a real nice run. Very emotional at the starting line. When I completed the race, it was like I’d crossed a big hurdle,” he said.
But not knowing what caused his heart to stop beating haunts him.
A couple of months ago, his running group ascended a steep hill outside Doylestown when he felt his heart pounding. It wasn’t anything unusual, just normal exertion, but he couldn’t stop wondering, “Is this the feeling I had the day of the marathon? Is this how it started?”
He waved his friends on and walked the rest of the way.
“I was just mentally stressing,” he said.
That’s why he’s not eager to return to the North Hill neighborhood where he literally dropped dead.
He went through a mental exercise, imagined himself crossing the starting line, running down Broadway and over the All-America Bridge, turning onto Tallmadge Avenue, and then Schiller.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized I wasn’t ready to do it. It’s just a little bit too much,” he said.
He shared his reservations with Pariso, who eagerly talked him into joining her relay team. She could take the Schiller leg, “and I told him he needed to take the finish,” she said, “because he didn’t finish last year.”
Meanwhile, Trenkelbach’s marathon training schedule faltered as she dealt with a family medical issue. Unprepared to tackle the full 26.2-mile course, it didn’t take an arm-twisting to convince her to join the relay team.
“Once the team was formed, I was really thrilled,” Lindeman said. “It was a great day.”
Pariso said Lindeman has been an inspiration to her.
“Tony has changed my life. He’s changed my whole outlook,” she said.
Trenkelbach feels the same. “It’s been a tough year for me, and Tony has been there to lend an ear. He’s the best person. I can talk to him about anything,” she said. “And Heather’s such a great person.”
They’re also proud of Lindeman’s efforts as an ambassador for the American Heart Association.
Lindeman has spoken to churches, schools, community groups and at sporting events, encouraging people to learn the techniques that saved his life.
“That’s really important to me,” he said, “making sure people understand that they can save a life the way mine was saved.”