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How Claudia runs the marathon despite of a heart disease

The Firefighter Run, a major fundraising run taking place at VirtualRunners from July 11 to August 14, 2022, supports the Children's Heart Foundation (, whose projects seek to give children with congenital heart defects the same life expectancy as their healthy friends.

How Claudia became a runner despite three complex heart defects

Today we share with you the personal story of one of the ambassadors of this foundation. Claudia Steil was born in 1969 with three different complex heart defects. She underwent her first heart surgery when she was only 6 months old in order to have any chance of survival.

running with heart disease

But this operation was not going to be enough. So the best specialists were urgently sought to give her a real chance. Three of the world's best heart surgeons at the time consulted with each other to see who would be the most suitable for Claudia. At the young age of 3, she was given the chance to have heart surgery by an outstanding surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA. Despite these circumstances, her chance of survival was well below 40%, but the surgery went well. In 1976, another necessary operation followed. Since then Claudia has been living with a pacemaker.

In the past, it was recommended that children with congenital heart defects not participate in sports, as it was thought that it would endanger them. So these children were often strictly guarded by their parents. But Claudia had an incredible urge to exercise. She remembers how she liked to climb trees to read her books and was very fond of sports in general. Soccer and handball were always her favorite sports, but so was cycling.

One can imagine that her parents were not particularly enthusiastic about it. However, Claudia was very lucky to have a heart surgeon who encouraged her and kept telling her parents that sports would not harm their child, on the contrary.

Some time ago, Claudia got to know the Kinderherz foundation and, because of her own story, was very motivated to get involved. Currently, she is also running a campaign herself, where sponsors support her with 1 cent per kilometer covered (running and cycling). Half of the donations go to the foundation Kinderherz and half to the telephone helpline in Kiel, because both the physical and the psychological are enormously important for the children and their families, according to Claudia.

With her campaign, she supports a project at the Stiftung Kinderherz on how to better accompany families. Because she still remembers too well her own childhood, lying alone in white-tiled hospital rooms. Although the situation has improved significantly since then, too little research is still being done. Through the work of the foundation, financial resources flow into projects such as "Sport and Children with Congenital Heart Defects". But the research of sustainable and future-oriented pacemakers is also to be promoted.

Through her own campaign, Claudia has meanwhile earned a starting place at the Berlin Marathon, where she will compete this year with great ambition. She wants to set an example and encourage others to gain more self-confidence but also to give it.

We wish Claudia every success in her endeavor and hope that she will inspire many more people with her story!

Support the Project Kinderherz and join the Firefighter Run:

 Running with heart disease

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