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Rick Mater's Journey: From Heart Attack to Grand Canyon, A Story of Physical and Spiritual Triumphs

Updated: May 31, 2023

After experiencing a heart attack in his late 50s, Rick Mater refused to let his condition define him, turning to exercise and a healthier lifestyle, which led him to find a newfound appreciation for the world around him, as well as a desire to push himself further than he ever thought possible, ultimately running from the top to the bottom and back of the Grand Canyon and discovering a new purpose in life, his journey is a testament to the power of the human spirit and the rewards of never giving up.


Rick Mater on a run. (Photo courtesy of Rick Mater)

Rick Mater, a TV executive, was surprised to find himself feeling winded during a walk with his wife, despite being active, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking. He decided to take up running on the mountain trails near his home in Los Angeles to improve his stamina. Years later, he felt a sensation in his chest during one of his regular 3-mile runs and realized he was having a heart attack. He was diagnosed with a 100% blockage in his main heart artery and received stents, which he recovered from quickly.

Mater resumed running after his recovery and found himself appreciating nature's beauty in a way he never had before. However, his cardiologist advised him to limit his runs to no more than 10 miles because high levels of exercise, such as marathon running, can increase the risk of cardiac events. Despite this advice, Mater sought a new challenge and decided to run from the top to the bottom and back of the Grand Canyon, a 17-mile roundtrip. He trained by running to the peak of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains, which mirrors the distance from the Colorado River Gorge to the Grand Canyon's South Rim.

Mater completed the Grand Canyon trek in just over 6 hours, feeling humbled by the natural beauty and the history of how it was formed. He described the experience as spiritual and inspiring, which led him to write a memoir about running the Grand Canyon and to finish a novel he had been working on for years. Mater's message to others is to go for what they desire in life and to keep moving forward.

In 2016, Mater collapsed and was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. He received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to monitor his heart's rhythm and correct it if necessary. Despite his family history of heart disease and longstanding coronary artery disease, Mater has done well due to his physical fitness.

Mater's cardiologist, Dr. David Sato, advised caution and recommended that he drink plenty of water and pay attention to his symptoms when attempting the Grand Canyon trek. He attributes Mater's success to his physical fitness and notes that anyone with underlying coronary disease or who has had coronary events may have scar tissue in their hearts, which may predispose them to arrhythmias.

Mater's story is an inspiring example of perseverance and determination. His experience shows that even after a health scare, it's possible to set new challenges and achieve them. By staying physically active and listening to his body, Mater has been able to enjoy life to the fullest.


Source: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2023/03/07/after-a-heart-attack-he-ran-a-17-mile-trek-through-the-grand-canyon-twice



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