Her story made headlines across the country this past fall: a 34-year-old veteran marathoner collapses during the Boston Marathon.
For the first time, that Minnesota runner, Meghan Roth, is sharing what doctors have discovered about her cardiac arrest. It’s a point she made before but she felt was ignored and even left out of reports on purpose.
Roth believes it’s time to tell her story now that she knows the truth about what made her collapse in cardiac arrest while running the Boston Marathon last October.
“A lot of people wanted me to share my story of what happened. I get there’s genetic things, but now that I don’t have genetic things all I’m saying is this is what happened to me. If you are an athlete, maybe just be careful of running an event too closely to getting vaccinated. Or, here’s what happened to me, at least you have the information to at least be able to make your own decision,” Roth said.
“I’ve been a runner my whole life. I played soccer for 16 years. Then my senior year as a collegiate athlete I ran my first marathon,” she added.
From the time she turned 21, Roth has put on the miles. She’s logged 15 marathons in the last 13 years.
“There’s just nothing like running for me,” she said.
Nothing like the Boston Marathon, either.
“It’s just one of those races. It’s a bucket list for most people to want to compete in Boston,” she added.
Roth clocked a 2:58 when she ran it in 2011 and an even better time of 2:44 eight years later to earn her Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier at Boston in 2019.
Roth found out she was pregnant the following spring when the pandemic set in.
She ran through it all.
“It was so motivating coming back postpartum; you have no idea how it was going to go. First-time mom, it was my first pregnancy. But, working with my coach, I thought, why not plan Boston for October and hopefully come back to race my next best marathon and it’s just such a special place for me after all I’ve experienced there,” Roth said.
Roth says her training was on track to be back in Boston again — when two months before race day she tested positive for COVID.
She slowed down her practice schedule for a week.
“I came back from COVID, ran 80 miles the following week, then competed in a half marathon two weeks later,” she recalled from that time.
“I came back running strong and probably in the best shape of my life from the training cycle and ready to go out to Boston. Coming back after COVID, I just wanted to keep things going forward and hoping for the best to then be able to still be well-prepared for Boston,” she said.
Marathon rules said runners had to either be vaccinated or show a negative COVID test to be able to race.
“They say if you test positive you have to stay out there for 10 days, quarantine, you can’t race and I was like, ‘there’s no way I’m going to risk not racing,’” Roth said.
“I had kind of held off but all of a sudden we were on a team call, and I thought I could get the first shot. I thought I could be in the vaccination process,” she added.
Roth didn’t know she had to be fully-vaccinated until a few weeks before the race, so she opted to get the J&J shot.
“It’s the only way I’m going to be completely vaccinated with it being two weeks before being in Boston and to not have to worry about testing,” she said.
Roth says she noticed some changes in the days that followed her shot.
“I was a little bit like, ‘why is my heart rate so high, especially in taper weeks when my mileage is reduced so much?’” she said.
“Why is my heart rate in the 150s when it’s usually in the 130s or 140s?” she questioned.
“I didn’t really think anything of it,” she said.
Until mile seven the morning of this past fall’s Boston Marathon.
“All of a sudden I just went fuzzy. I don’t even remember hitting the ground. It happened so sudden and the next thing I knew I was waking up in the ambulance,” Roth said.
“Once I figured out what happened to me it just got serious. I didn’t know how to react or feel,” she added.
Roth had gone into cardiac arrest. Two nurses watching jumped in and gave her CPR until an ambulance arrived.
“As much as I’m so grateful to be here and I can’t thank the people enough who were there to save my life. It’s amazing all the people who came together but it’s hard. There is so much good in all that happened but still: why did it happen to me in the first place?” she said.
Roth said she voiced concerns about the vaccine in the days that followed to reporters but that her points never appeared in print.
Extensive testing would eventually reveal no genetic explanation.
Instead, she said her doctors have cited the combination of COVID from two months prior and the shot 15 days before her race as the reasons for her cardiac arrest.
She posted about the medical developments online and some people began to attack her.
“I think there should be more research around it, especially for athletes,” she said.
Roth knows not everyone will experience negative effects and believes the vaccine saves people. But, she also believes natural immunity should be an option.
Overall, she thinks the medical community should take a story like hers seriously.
“I think people need to at least be open to what’s happening,” Roth said.
Roth is grateful for her second chance and to still be here, spending as much time as possible with her son while working as a running coach for others.
And still training for what she hopes will be her next race someday soon.
“I want to tell my story because I’m hoping people will then be open to telling their story, too.”