Honoring the Life of My Father

I am running the 2018 Chicago Marathon for the American Heart Association and to honor the life of my father.
David W. Sutter (1948 – 2017)

My Dad’s first heart attack hit us in March of 2014.

Dad never smoked, led a low-stress lifestyle and rarely used alcohol. He was overweight, but seeing a doctor regularly and taking prescribed medications for hypertension and cholesterol control.

On February 26, 2017 my father had his second heart attack. This time, it was fatal.

At the time of my Dad’s death, I was in the beginning of my training plan for the 2017 Ironman Wisconsin. I began to worry about my own heart health. I was also worried that I would have to discontinue pursuing my goal of completing the Ironman.

Knowing that Dad didn’t have any of the obvious risky behaviors for heart disease (other than diet/weight), I became concerned that there were genetic factors in play. In March 2017, I asked my sister, a licensed and practicing physician, how I could find out if I have the same risk factors as our Dad.

My sister recommended a coronary calcium scoring test. The results surprised my primary care physician and scared the hell out of me! I scored >300! A “healthy” heart score is <100. My score puts me in the “you have heart disease” category.

I am 45 years old, have never smoked, rarely use alcohol, see a doctor regularly, and take medication to control my hypertension. I am an active triathlete. Including Ironman, I have completed 20 triathlons of varying distances, 8 half-marathons, and 2 full marathons.

At the time of my diagnoses I was exercising close to 20 hours a week. I dedicated my remaining training to remembering my Dad and thought constantly about doing everything I could do to avoid, or even reverse, the damage that has already been done to my heart. I also began encouraging my friends to look into their own heart history and health.

As the Ironman neared, I had lost 17 pounds. With my Dad in my heart, I finished Ironman Wisconsin 2017 in 14 hours, 27 minutes and 49 seconds!

Now, I have the opportunity to raise awareness for the American Heart Association. In this picture of my Ironman finish I have a “Dave Sutter Fan” pin over my heart (Dad was a nationally recognized, Hall of Fame, square dance caller) and held a skypoint thanking Dad, and God, for his/their support throughout the Ironman.


Ironman was a new start for me, not a finish. I have learned that anything is possible, including a world free of heart disease!

My next goal is to run the Chicago Marathon in October 2018 and raise awareness for the American Heart Association.

With heart,

John David Sutter

My Dad is why.