Flatline to Finish Line: New film about six triathletes who overcame heart conditions

I know: Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a movie by its trailer. But the trailer for “Heart: From Flat Line to Finish Line” is just too arresting to keep from wide public view. So here it is, a documentary about six people with life-threatening heart conditions who went on to compete in the world's toughest endurance challenge, the Ironman.

It is produced by a Baltimore foundation created by Ironman Rick Armiger and a fellow triathlete who flatlined after open-heart surgery.

“Life is all about overcoming the odds that are against you,” says Armiger, 45, who dropped by the Sun studio for a Roughly Speaking podcast interview just before flying to Germany for his 25th long-distance triathlon last weekend.

Armiger, a Morgan Stanley vice-president known as “the Ironman who eats ice cream every day,” finished the Ironman European Championship in 11 hours, 20 minutes and 47 seconds -- his third fastest time. (An Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride, topped off with a 26.2-mile marathon.)

As Armiger tells, his development into an Ironman grew out of his interest in cardiac health, and that grew out of a tragedy -- the death in 1996 of his infant son to a congenital heart defect. Since then, Armiger’s interest expanded into the world of athletes with heart conditions, many of whom were unaware of their problems.

A friend and fellow triathlete, Dave Watkins, collapsed after races and flatlined after heart surgery. Watkins survived and, with Armiger, established the Ironheart Foundation in 2005.

The foundation is a support and education network for cardiac patients, their doctors and nurses, their relatives and friends. The foundation says it has referred some 600 patients to heart specialists and distributed numerous defibrillators across the country.

Its latest project is the film, which follows the lives of six athletes who overcame heart challenges to compete in the Ironman.

“HEART: Flatline to Finish Line,” gets a screening at an Ironheart fundraising event at the Charles Theater on July 21.

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