Nathalie Lemière: heart of a finisher, a story of resilience

Nathalie Lemière

Nathalie Lemière took part in the Paris Marathon with her colleagues from Altavia.

She is from Normandy. She loves sailing. She is always looking for the next challenge to tackle. Nathalie Lemière, who joined the paper purchasing division at Altavia two years ago, has suffered from a heart defect since 2005. To strengthen her heart, she runs marathons. Her endurance and performance are constantly improving. In her blog, Coeur de finisher (Heart of a finisher), Nathalie writes about her life, her struggle and her wanderlust. Her next challenge? Trekking through Japan with her friend Marc Vettard. Read on for our interview with an inspiring woman who can move mountains.

 

Tell us a bit about your story…

In 2005, I underwent a routine varicose vein operation. I got a golden staph infection and went into a coma. I remained in that state for 2 weeks. Two heart attacks, pulmonary oedema and kidney failure all followed in quick succession. Staph destroys the body little by little. Even the doctors didn’t like my odds. But I made it out alive. I remember that during my coma, I dreamed of boats.

 

What happened when you awoke from the coma?

I had to learn to walk again. I quickly discovered that my heart was worn out, having lost 40% of its capacity—heart attacks cause necrosis of the muscle. But I never gave up. After 3 years, I started setting personal challenges for myself, like taking up running. My cardiologist encouraged me, even inviting me to run the marathon or the 100 km de Millau. It was his way of teaching me that endurance running was the way to strengthen my heart. I had to run as long as I possibly could, without setting time goals, maintaining a manageable pace. The goal is to overcome the heart failure, which leaves you breathless after expending the slightest effort, and learn to live with it. It’s been 12 years now that I’ve been setting annual challenges for myself.

 

What was the last challenge you overcame?

The Tour du Mont Blanc, in July 2017. It’s 170 kilometres, 10,000 metres of ascents and descents, 2,700-metre hills… After those 10 days, I was completely transformed. I decided to share my adventure and my struggle in my blog, Heart of a finisher. And to share my passion for travel with as wide an audience as possible.

 

How have you benefited physically?

I cut down on my medication by a factor of 8, thanks to working out, building endurance and cultivating a mind-over-matter mentality.

 

We hear you also love sailing?

Absolutely. I sailed to the Le Havre with a club. I also took on communications for a project led by Damien Seguin. He medalled in the Athens Special Olympics, and he is out there fighting to sail alongside athletes without disabilities on his boat, dubbed Des Pieds et Des Mains (Feet and Hands). At the time, it was radical. Nobody wanted to sail with him. So he joined forces with a friend of mine, Denis Lemaître. That’s how I got involved in the project. I took care of creating the brochure, Denis Lemaître’s website, etc.

When I saw Commeunseulhomme, I was immediately onboard. As a sailor, I am always on the starting line or the finishing line with my fellow sailors.

When I arrived at Altavia, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the group sponsored his boat for the Vendée Globe.

 

Tell us about your Japan plans…

I want to travel to the “Japanese Alps” with Marc Vettard, whom I met during the Tour du Mont Blanc and subsequently befriended. I heard about a trail in Japan known as the Temple Pilgrimage, sort of like the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. And of course, there’s Mount Fuji with its 3,776-metre summit. My goal is to report back on what I see there and on my inner journey.

I’m currently looking for a sponsor or donor. I submitted a request with Altavia, and they also got involved during People-with-disabilities Week by printing T-shirts.

 

Are you training in the interim?

I never stop training, otherwise I’ll lose all of the benefits. I run a lot of marathons (I’m on my tenth!) but I also do 90-km stage races. Plus, I do 6-hour endurance challenges. I’m preparing to shift my training focus to trekking.

My cardiologist advises me to always run endurance and, most importantly, to prevent injury at all costs in order to avoid having to take it easy during convalescence.

 

What is your favourite marathon memory?

The Paris marathon and the 40,000 people I ran it with. When you hit kilometre 30 and run past the Eiffel Tower, and the spectators are pressing in on both sides of the course and they’re screaming “Don’t give up!” —it’s an extraordinary experience.

 

For more, visit  http://coeur-de-finisher.org