Taylor Christie is a difficult man to catch, an impressive quality for a young man with only half a working heart.
He was born with a rare heart defect – the official medical term for his condition is “single ventricle, pulmonary stenosis and transposition of the great arteries” – and it has made every single day of his life a challenge. One of his heart’s lower chambers never fully developed, requiring that he endure seven open-heart surgeries in the first 30 years of his life.
Taylor also knows that an eighth and what will be the most serious surgery to date lies ahead one day down the road, when the heart he was born with will be replaced with a new one.
But that is in the future, and Taylor – who wholeheartedly deserves the nickname of “Miracle Baby” bestowed upon him by his parents, Joann and Ray, three decades earlier – refuses to allow future events dictate today’s decisions, or completely control his life.
That’s because the longtime Harrisburg resident’s heart condition has taught him countless lessons, such as the value of patience, how to live in the present, how to never take anything or anyone for granted, and perhaps most important, the danger and unproductiveness of self-pity.
It also taught him what boundless family love means, and that was on full display when he crossed the finish line of the Novant Health Charlotte Half-Marathon Saturday morning in less than three hours with his oldest sister, Dakota, by his side.
Some two dozen of his family members, including his wife, also named Taylor, his parents, his other two younger siblings, Bailey and Cheyenne, as well as many aunts and cousins – including several who traveled from Asheville to show their support – were there to cheer him on and celebrate as he collected his medal and posed for photographs.
Motivated To Run
Taylor had spent the past several months training for the event, explaining that he turned 30 earlier this year and wanted to challenge himself by running 13.1 miles.
On a heart that must work twice as hard just to keep him alive.
Taylor explained that his inspiration for running was to raise awareness for children with congenital heart defects. He volunteers as chief creative officer for Project Happy Hearts, a nonprofit out of California that is run by his friend and fellow congenital heart disease survivor, Heidi Burns Hilton, that sponsors free heart screenings across the country. (Watch his pre-race interview on Fox 46 Charlotte here: www.fox46charlotte.com/video/625440.)
When asked if he had set any specific personal goals for himself, Taylor jokingly responded: “Don’t die! It is my personal challenge!”
He prepped for Saturday’s race by mixing in shorter and longer runs, oftentimes running with Dakota whenever she was home from college. They averaged about a 12-minute mile while training, with Taylor explaining that his cardiologist advised him to keep his heartrate below 150 beats per minute while running.
That restriction inevitably forced him to slow down at times, and walk at a brisk pace on certain inclines that dominated the backend of the half-marathon route. Saturday’s cool temperature and strong wind gusts also presented their own challenges.
Though the final three miles were a grind, with Dakota making sure Taylor had enough water and snacks to keep going, the duo crossed the finish line near Charlotte Knights’ BB&T Ballpark in 2 hours and 55 minutes.
Taylor and his wife, who recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, exchanged a long embrace even though they were separated by metal fencing. He then received additional heartfelt hugs from his relatives, many of whom were shedding tears.
While waiting with his sister to take their post-race photograph, Taylor was asked if he plans to run a full marathon to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2029.
“I think I might opt for a pub crawl instead,” he said, smiling.