While many of the participants in next month’s Strabane Lifford Half Marathon would say their involvement in running has been life changing, for one local runner’s family the impact has even gone beyond that.
Since Gary McDermott and his wife Roisin first signed up for Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Couch to 5k programme in 2017 he has completed over 100 Parkruns and several Half Marathons.
But it is the role running played in allowing him to successfully donate a kidney to his sister Michelle that has proved most significant.
“My sister suffered from a cardiac complaint that runs in our family and underwent a heart transplant a number of years ago,” explained the 54 year-old Coca-Cola employee who is born and raised in Manchester but now calls Strabane home.
“The procedure was a success but the treatment was very harsh on Michelle’s kidneys and left her in need of a further transplant.
“An initial attempt had failed and when I went for testing I was found to be a good match but I weighed 19 and a half stone at the time and was told that the procedure could only go ahead if I got healthier and lost six stone.”
Gary’s running journey began when he chanced upon the Couch to 5k programme on social media and, under the guidance of Council Fitness Coach Mark Connolly, he successfully trained for a St Patrick’s Day 5k in Strabane.
“Mark was a brilliant coach, he has a wealth of experience in running and kept us motivated and advised throughout the process,” he continued.
“I ended up doing a couple of 5k events and when I was furloughed during lockdown I committed to running every day to keep my mind and body active.
“My first Half Marathon was a Virtual Event for the Foyle Hospice in the first year of lockdown.
“But my highlight to date was last year’s Strabane Lifford Half Marathon, it was great to be able to run on my own during lockdown but there’s no substitute for running in a large field and finishing in front of hundreds of people on the running track at Melvin.”
Gary had to stop running for around six weeks to recover from the kidney surgery in July of 2021 but his weight loss has allowed him to push on with his running goals and his sister is enjoying a new lease of life too with fully functioning organs.
“Michelle’s kidney function has been perfect and she’s in brilliant health, going on holidays and enjoying life again.
“I kept volunteering at the Parkrun during my recovery to maintain the social element of running and it was much easier to get back into it a second time when I had a base level of fitness.
“My weight loss isn’t the only positive outcome, I’m feeling much better and have more energy from making healthier choices.
“I want to continue running for as long as I can and to get the most out of life through physical activity.
“I saw a quote recently that we have two lives and the second one starts when we realise we only have one!
“It’s fair to say running has changed my life and allowed me to save my sisters’ life.”
The 2023 Strabane Lifford Half Marathon starts at 9.30am on Sunday June 11th at Meetinghouse Street and the route is the same as last year, crossing the border at Lifford and Clady before finishing at the Melvin.
Organisers will provide pacers for 1.30, 1.45, 2.00, 2.15 and 2.30 who will be clearly marked by balloons.
Entries are capped so runners are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible, anyone considering entering should note that, to accommodate road closures, there is a three hour cut-off point for finishers.
Race pack collections will take place on June 9th and 10th in the Melvin Sports Complex.
Event registration is online at: derrystrabane.com/slhm where there are full details of the event, race route and training programmes.Tags: