He's put his heart into the Flying Pig

Posted at 9:06 PM, Feb 03, 2017

CINCINNATI -- Kevin Blanton runs the Flying Pig with a purpose.

"If I can inspire one person to keep going after something happens in their life, that’s great," he said Friday morning.

Blanton returned to the Pig in 2016 after a heart attack at a gym nearly claimed his life.

He was on a treadmill when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest, falling and hitting his head as he collapsed. If not for the intervention of Dr. Rob Neel and Dana Pendery, he might not have survived.

"I could not find a pulse," Pendery said. "I started yelling for someone to bring the AED."

Fortunately, a single shock was enough to restart Blanton’s heart.

"It was not until afterward, when the adrenaline went out of me, that I realized it was kind of a big deal," Pendery said.

It took time for Blanton to get in running shape after his cardiac episode, but he ran the Flying Pig in 2016 and will run again in 2017 -- all the while thinking of the people who saved his life and the chance they gave him.

“I cannot thank them enough,” Blanton said. “I appreciate everything they did.”

"You are around for a reason," Pendery told Blanton. "And you are making the best use of that opportunity and that second chance. I know good things will come your way."

Those attending the Flying Pig in 2017 can spot Blanton wearing a shirt with the date of his heart attack -- and the message “Never give up."

Blanton runs with the Running Spot training group. He frequently tells his story to new members of the group.

He remembers very little from the day of his heart attack. He attended a University of Cincinnati basketball game in the early afternoon before visiting the train display at the Museum Center.

Blanton said he didn’t even know who Dana Pendery was until she wrote him a card while he was hospitalized and gave it to his sister.

“Now I see her at the gym and we always say hello to each other,” Blanton said. The two admit they have a special friendship that goes beyond a wave.

Blanton met with Neel at the gym during his recovery. It was there where Neel gave him most of the details about what happened that day.

Neel had to spring into action on Flying Pig Marathon day in 2015. He was running the half marathon when a 25-year-old David Snyder collapsed about 100 yards from the finish line.

Snyder said Neel stayed with him administering aid for more than 20 minutes before he ran to the finish.

Snyder never got his name, and Neel became the mystery hero the days after the race:

Neel respectfully declined to be interviewed for this story, but mentioned in passing to Blanton that he helped a runner near the finish line in 2015 and never revealed his identity.

I remembered Julie O’Neill’s story and immediately sent it to Blanton.

We are told that Dr. Neel and Snyder’s family have finally made contact and will meet soon.

Contact Chris Riva on Twitter, @RivaWCPO, on Facebook or via email,, and tell your story.

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