A return to running

Sultanoff competes in 5K one year after heart stopped during Maui Half-Marathon

Barry Sultanoff was the 70-74 division runner-up in the 5-kilometer race that took place Sunday in conjunction with the Maui Marathon. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAANAPALI — Barry Sultanoff doesn’t remember his Maui Half-Marathon run last year.

On Sunday, he finished an unforgettable 5-kilometer race.

Less than 100 yards from the finish line last year, Sultanoff collapsed, and he was later told by first responders that his heart had stopped for more than two minutes.

“The truth is, I was dead,” said Sultanoff, a 72-year-old doctor from Haiku. “It’s really a miracle. The medics saved my life. Imagine how grateful I feel to the team that was here and saved my life.”

Sultanoff had a time of 49 minutes, 58 seconds in Sunday’s race, his first since what has been called a “ventricular fibrillation incident.”

Barry Sultanoff receives attention after collapsing near the finish line of last year’s Maui Half-Marathon. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“I took a year off,” he said while cooling down in the medical tent. “I really try to get the message when the universe gives me a message.”

Sultanoff finished second in the 70-74 age group in the 5K — and has radically changed what he considers a victory.

“My goal last year was to win my division and I had it except for collapsing just before the finish line,” he said. “But, you know, I got my life back and that’s a lot better prize than anything I could possibly have.”

Sultanoff has run five marathons and was entered in a 13.1-mile race for the third time last year. He said dehydration mixed with a hot day led to his collapse. Ambulance personnel on the course performed CPR for several minutes.

“My heart just gave out,” he said. “I remembered none of it. I have total amnesia for the entire race — I don’t remember starting it, running it or finishing it. Anything.”

Sultanoff said he recalls heading toward the start line last year around 4:30 a.m. and smell­ing flowers.

“The next thing I remember I was in the hospital in intensive care,” he said. “I have some close friends, and there was a couple that they know who came to Maui to run the half-marathon — they had apparently befriended me during the race and the three of us had a lot of conversation. At the end they saw me collapse and thought that I had died.”

Crossing the inflatable arch that marked the finish line was an emotional moment Sunday.

“It felt great,” he said. “At the end, I was even a little dizzy. It wasn’t how I imagined crossing this finish line, but as I say my main goal this year was to run this race — a shorter race than I would have ever imagined running, it’s only 3 miles — safely, and happy, and crossing the finish line. That was my goal. … It didn’t matter how much time it took. I wasn’t trying to win anything this year.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com