A retired Sussex teacher was overwhelmed with emotion on Sunday as he finished the final stretch of a half-marathon in Moncton. A race that he started, but was never able to finish, last fall.

Dave Mulford was 600 metres from completing the Legs for Literacy half-marathon in Moncton on Oct. 27 when he suddenly collapsed.

The avid runner’s heart stopped and that forced runners and nearby paramedics to rush in and help save his life.

"I had been running for two hours and three minutes and my heart just stopped. I collapsed and all of the troops came to my rescue," Mulford said on Sunday.

Dana Richard was one of the first Ambulance New Brunswick paramedics to reach Mulford after his heart attack. She and her partner were on bicycles, travelling the race course and watching the runners.

She arrived quickly on the scene and could tell Mulford was in trouble.

Dave Mulford

Dave Mulford, a retired Sussex teacher, was overwhelmed with emotion on Sunday as he finished the final stretch of a half-marathon in Moncton. A race that he started, but was never able to finish, last fall. (CBC)

Using a defibrillator and conducting CPR, they were able to get his heart beating again before he was whisked away in an ambulance.

Mulford was unconscious for several days and eventually woke up in the Saint John Regional Hospital.

He has spent the last several months recovering and has started slowly returning to physical activity.

Now that he is back running, organizers with the Legs for Literacy race recreated the finish line on Sunday.

The finish line included the large digital timer and inflatable banner so he could finish the final stretch of the 21.1-kilometre race. 

"That was just awesome, emotions I can't even describe ... the cries of the people, everyone screaming, it was just amazing, I didn't expect to see them, I didn't expect to see the clock at the finish line," he said.

Mulford crossed the finish line with Elijah Francis, who was running beside him when he collapsed during last October's race.

"It's amazing, on the brink of tears, to finish and see everyone, all his friends here clapping at the finish line," he said.

Richard, the paramedic who helped save Mulford's life, was also there to watch him cross the finish line on Sunday.

"He asked me if I could join him to be here with him, I said: gladly, it's a privilege to be here, very rewarding."

Long-time runner

Mulford is a long-time runner and had been active leading up to last October’s half-marathon.

"I hadn’t run [the half-marathon] distance for a few years, I do mostly 5Ks and 10Ks. It was a little longer," he said.

"I felt I had was in the best shape I had been in for 20-some years. I was teaching fitness classes at the civic centre in Sussex, I was doing my own runs, four or five times a week."

The idea of collapsing in the race with a heart attack never crossed his mind. Months after the incident, Mulford said he wanted to go back to the exact spot that he fell.

He has no memory of the day of the race so he was relying on others to show him the spot where his race came to an abrupt end that day.

"A sense of closure, I think as much as anything," Mulford said when asked about why he returned to finish the race.

"I'm hoping to be able to help out a little bit with ANB, expressing the importance of fast action, getting on the ball right away when someone's in distress. For me that day, according to what people have told me, within a minute or so, CPR was being administered, and I think that's a message that really needs to get out."

Mulford said he's hoping his story will encourage more people to learn CPR.