Dublin man Diarmuid O’Shea, who is taking on a gruelling 100km race in Hong Kong, explains why he is doing it for Arthritis Ireland
For those of you that don’t know me, allow me to introduce myself. For those of you that do; feel free to use the next few minutes to somehow go and make the world a better place… but don’t stray too far… and try to make sure your wallet is within arms reach.
Who am I, and why am I doing this? I suppose I have been running in one form or another for as long as I can remember. Cross-country, track, marathons, simply getting out for that most enjoyable of midweek jogs, I’ve enjoyed them all. There were gaps here and there; notably around my late teens when I finally became old enough and bold enough to be able to partake in some of life’s more nefarious pastimes. And again my running fell by the wayside a few years later when I started travelling the world. Although I often found it to be a great way to explore new places, I championed other less conventional, by some calculations likely less rewarding, ways to do the same.
So I digress… Ultra-distance running (defined as running any distance longer than a marathon) is a relatively new pursuit, which I kind of stumbled across by accident around 18 months ago. I got offered a place in a famous team race here in Hong Kong, where around 5000 people in teams of 4, run, walk, and crawl 100km’s across the breadth of the territory. For most people one of those things you do once in your life, chalk it down to experience, and limp off awkwardly into the sunset. For me it proved to be just the beginning.
I’ve taken part in several more ultra distance races since then, and been inspired on to greater, some might say more idiotic feats, depending on how you look at it. Along the way I’ve also been lucky enough to meet the most wonderful, strangely like-minded people. My next challenge however, will definitely be my toughest yet and takes place on my current home island of Lantau, Hong Kong’s largest island, and a wonderful mish-mash of all that I love about this place, magnificent imposing mountains, timeless old villages, and of course, the perennial high-rise apartment towers, a very Hong Kong mix instantly recognisable to those of us that call it home. The race itself will cover 100 kilometres over the peaks and valleys of the island with an approximate overall altitude gain of around 6000 metres and the same in descent. To put that in some kind of perspective for those following back home… hmm… it’ll be something akin to running from Dublin to Carlow while climbing and descending Carauntoohill 6 times… ooooof!
A note from my mother: “On the June bank holiday 2003 I did the women’s mini marathon, a race I had done every year since 1988. At the end of June that year I took the family to Boston. There I got the most horrific pain in my knee. On getting back from Boston I visited the doctor. She sent me for an x-ray. The result showed I had arthritis and calcified crystals in my knee. At the same time I was diagnosed with chronic osteoporosis. Undoubtedly this was a horrendous shock for me. I was just 50 and felt I must be the youngest person in Ireland with arthritis, I felt very frightened and very alone. I felt my future had nothing to offer but pain and disability. I looked up arthritis on the Internet and discovered there was an organisation in Ireland called Arthritis Ireland who were holding a public meeting in my area the following weekend.
“Still too frightened to tell my family, I went along to the meeting and discovered that arthritis hits all ages and genders. It did not respect colour of your skin, your age or your social class. It affects children as young as 6 months and adults of all ages. Arthritis Ireland also taught me that while there is no cure for arthritis that there is a lot we can do to help ourselves and lower our pain levels. Above all Arthritis Ireland showed me that I was not alone.
“Since 2003 I have had to have both knees and kneecaps replaced. I also have had my elbow replaced. I have had multiple fractures in my spine. I have had to wear a steel brace for months in order to prevent a total spinal collapse. Arthritis Ireland has supported me all the way. They have provided me with knowledge through their helpline and through their courses and information leaflets. Arthritis Ireland also acts as an advocacy group seeking government support and funding for research and awareness.
“My life has been greatly enhanced by being a member of Arthritis Ireland. Their existence depends on donations and fundraising. You can do your bit for this very important organisation by supporting Diarmuid’s incredible 100 km run. The more you give the more research and help Arthritis Ireland can provide to the thousands of people suffering from this horrible debilitating disease that to date has no cure and is still remains a progressive and disabling disease.”
So there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, maybe possibly even been inspired to go out and take on a challenge of your own… but before you do please consider making a donation. It’s a very significant challenge for a very significant cause and your support would mean the world to me and even more to my charity.