I learnt to my great dismay some years ago that there is a vast difference between being fit and being healthy.
I was feeling good about myself: still running competitive cross country, training up to 50 kilometres a week.
I weighed less in kilograms than my age in years and could eat and drink anything I liked, when I liked.
Or so I thought, until I was jolted from my complacency during a minor heart procedure when cholesterol was discovered in an artery.
Cholesterol-lowering statins were prescribed to reduce levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood, but one of the common side effects is muscle and tendon soreness.
I asked my specialist to halve the dose because my hamstrings felt as if they were about to burst every time I ran. He agreed, reluctantly, but the trade-off was a dramatic change in my diet.
That had already started after trawling the internet for the finest cholesterol-fighting foods.
I switched from dairy to soy and chose oats, quinoa, pomegranate and beans (legumes) which for me were more palatable than the walnuts, eggplant and barley that also rate highly as “super foods.”
Crucially, I stopped drinking daily cans of sugar-saturated colas (nine teaspoons to a can!), converted to sugar-free lemonade and have plant sweeteners in tea and coffee.
Doughnuts and sweet biscuits are a thrill of the past.
Within three months, the levels of LDL in my blood had been halved.
I was out of the danger zone, but the prescribed statins remain a life sentence.
In 2017 the National Coronial Information System released some sobering statistics about the 913 Australians who died while participating in organised sports between the years 2000 and 2016.
Eighty-nine per cent of fatalities were males aged 15 to 74 with cardiac and coronary factors accounting for 56 per cent.
The three sports groups with the highest proportion of deaths were team ball sports (23 per cent), wheeled motor sports (12 per cent) and individual water sports (11 per cent).
Deaths from running barely figure in that data but we at the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club are cautioned by our fallen heroes.
Luke Deller, who collapsed and died in a 400-metre race at North Park 31 years ago has a permanent plaque there and Ray Scott who succumbed in 2010 during a training run in the Stawell Ironbarks has an annual race named in his honour.
To those in my Central Park training group (Mondays, 6pm), I repeat a simple mantra: listen to your body, rest when it speaks, and if you hear nothing take a blood test.
It could be life-saving.