Running report: Tuttle facing another surgery
Track Club Hall of Fame inductee likely to undergo second operation on heart.

by Jim Castor
Assistant Sports Editor Democrat and Chronicle

(January 27, 2007) Alfred native and 1984 Olympic marathoner John Tuttle is "90 percent certain" he must have a second surgery to correct an electrical malfunction of his heart.

Tuttle, 48, who is in Rochester this weekend to be inducted tonight into the Greater Rochester Track Club Hall of Fame, said Thursday that it was likely he would undergo an operation called ablation of atrial fibrillation within two months at a medical center in Atlanta, Ga., near his home.

Ablation is a common method, using high frequency radio waves, electrical energy or cryosurgery (extreme cold), to create scars that render points of irregular electrical impulses inactive.

He had the same operation four years ago after discovering his heart was fluttering wildly during exercise, limiting oxygen intake and rendering him weak and out of breath.

"I had a pretty good year racing this past year," said Tuttle, who was named USA Track and Field's distance runner of the year in his 45-49 age group. "Then around Thanksgiving I was running the Turkey Trot in Washington, D.C., (a five-mile race) and I had to stop in the first mile. My heart was fluttering all over the place again. I couldn't get any oxygen. It hurt like hell."

A month later he was out on a 45-minute training run with a friend and on six-minute-mile pace when another episode hit.

"The doctors tell me," Tuttle said, "that in 20 percent of those who have the ablation once, they need it a second time. It's about a three-hour operation. You're in the hospital overnight, home the next day and back running in a couple weeks. I'm hoping it does the trick this time. I'd sure like to have another season like last year."

Tuttle's election to the club's hall of fame, while 30 years after his graduation from Alfred-Almond High School, is long overdue and yet, as he says, comes at a very good time.

He's a single dad now (he and his ex-wife, Steffani, divorced two years ago), he's enjoying the athletic successes of his sons, Joshua and Michael (in Georgia's Olympic Development soccer program) and he teaches what is called holistic multiple intelligence at the Inner Harbour Hospital School in Douglasville, Ga. It's a private residential treatment center for troubled adolescents and children. Much of Tuttle's work is teaching behavior through real-life experiences in the outdoors field trips.

"Actually," he reminded himself, "it's getting late. Gotta get to bed. We're going rock climbing tomorrow.

"But you know," he added, thinking of his hall of fame honor, "I'd rather have it come at this age than earlier in my career. I really can appreciate it now. I'm not setting records any more ... not doing much of anything like that now.

"When they called me, I was pretty excited. It's pretty cool."

Tuttle's high school, college and open-running careers have been unmatched by any native of the greater Rochester area. He still holds Section V records in the indoor mile (4 minutes, 10.6 seconds) and outdoor two-mile (8:57.2).

He was a three-time All-American at Auburn University and qualified for the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles by finishing third behind Pittsford Sutherland's Pete Pfitzinger and world record-holder Alberto Salazar at the Olympic Marathon Trials in Buffalo.

He's a two-time winner of Rochester's Lilac 10K and has set national road racing records at nearly every distance since entering the masters (40 and older) division.

Change in Johnny's ROG: Race director Bill Kehoe, who is recovering from triple bypass heart surgery in September and what he calls a "mild heart attack" two weeks ago, says the area's annual season-opening road race on St. Patrick's Day is being moved back to Main Street, at least for this year.

The five-mile Johnny's Runnin' of the Green will begin and end outside the Clarion Riverside Hotel, across the street from Rochester's Riverside Convention Center.

The race had been held from the atrium of the Blue Cross Arena at the Community War Memorial the last five years but this year the Atlantic Hockey Association, of which RIT is a new member in Division I, is playing its post-season tournament on Friday and Saturday at the arena. The event's Web site says Broad Street will be closed to vehicles between Exchange and Court streets.

"We're getting the course re-certified," Kehoe said. "The new turn-around point at the University of Rochester will be approximately at Library Road."