He may have won all five of the Tour of Epsom running races earlier this month, but only 16 weeks before Kevin Quinn was lying in a hospital bed under-going heart surgery.

This time last year, the 35-year-old from Carshalton was recovering from stress fractures sustained while finishing 27th in the 2015 London marathon.

At the time Quinn had no idea there was a more serious threat to his health beating a path to the surface.

It would make his marathon exploits all the more extraordinary and his Tour of Epsom victory amazing – for Quinn was found to have four holes in his heart, and death was just a ticking time-bomb away.

“I spent 20 weeks recovering from the stress fractures, and then returned for a Surrey Road Relay race,” he said.

“I felt a sensation in my chest, my heart was racing, and my running mates Kojo Kyereme and Scott Overall urged me to go to the Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).

“I had an ECG and an echo-graph, and I was chatting to the doctor while he did the tests, and then he stopped talking.

“A few more doctors came in and after a while they said ‘We have found a big hole in your heart.’”

Although the South London Harrier lost his father to a heart attack aged 52, he had no reason to fear a similar fate, although since the diagnosis of atrial septal defect and treatment he knows only too well the danger he was in.

“I thought they were joking, then I thought ‘Oh my God, are you for real?’” he said.

“Then I panicked, I thought about my dad, I thought about my wife and three children.

“It was a great find by CRY. If it was not for them, God forbid what might have happened.”

The largest of the four holes was 1.78cm, and it took surgeons five hours to complete the operation and Quinn was only in hospital for 36 hours.

Amazingly, after a three-month recuperation, Quinn was back to light jogging and working his way back to full fitness – with a little added bonus.

“I have a few more check-ups and I have to take an aspirin every day for the rest of my life, but that is a small price to pay,” he said.

“The palpitations have gone and I feel good.

“Apparently I had been losing four to six per cent of oxygen with every heartbeat, so now that has been fixed I find that I recover better.”

Quinn, who won the Tour of Epsom by almost six minute overall, added: “I would urge anyone aged between 18 and 35 to not waste the wonderful free service CRY offer.

“They are friendly and so professional. If it were not for the charity, I don’t know what would have happened to me, so I will be eternally grateful.

“I coach in schools with a company called Real Runners, and I always urge parents and teachers alike to make the most of what CRY offers.”

According to CRY, around 12 people under the age of 35 die suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition in the UK, and 80 per cent of these deaths occur with no prior symptoms.

The condition was brought to the public’s conscience in 2012 when footballer Frabrice Muamba collapsed while playing for Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup tie at Tottenham Hotspur.

It has also accounted for the professional career of England cricketer James Taylor, who was forced to retire at the age of 26.