Char­i­ties spur on marathon run­ner

Queen­stown man Stephen Han­ra­han is putting in a marathon ef­fort to sup­port a cause close to his heart. By Deb­bie Jamieson

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE -

Un­til May last year, Stephen Han­ra­han had never run. He had bat­tled weight prob­lems since he was a child and com­pleted a 12-week weight loss chal­lenge in 2006 which saw him lose al­most 12kg but he couldn’t sus­tain the rig­or­ous di­etary changes and ex­er­cise rou­tine and the weight crept back on. Han­ra­han, sales and mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive at Itag, needed to do some­thing that was longer term and more sus­tain­able and, in May last year, de­cided he would run the 42 kilo­me­tre Mo­tat­apu marathon on March 8. He begged Richie Lam­bert from Funk­tional Fit­ness to give him a pro­gramme and has not looked back. ‘‘All I want to do is fin­ish the race. I’ve never set a time I just want to tick it off the bucket list.’’ He also wanted to give it some mean­ing and de­cided to throw in some fundrais­ing for two char­i­ties close to him also. One is Sands NZ – a group that sup­ports fam­i­lies go­ing through the loss of a child dur­ing preg­nancy or as a baby or in­fant. Just over two years ago Han­ra­han and wife Ali learned they were preg­nant with their sec­ond child but dur­ing the 18 week scan an anom­aly was spotted in the baby’s heart. A ‘‘whirl­wind’’ fol­lowed in­clud­ing a trip to Dunedin Hospi­tal where it was es­tab­lished the left-hand side of the baby’s heart had not de­vel­oped prop­erly. While the baby would con­tinue to de­velop in the womb, its chances of sur­vival af­ter birth were min­i­mal. ‘‘They were al­ready talk­ing about pal­lia­tive care.’’ Given the le­gal re­quire­ments around ter­mi­na­tions, the cou­ple had 24 hours to de­cide whether to ter­mi­nate the preg­nancy or pro­ceed. They strug­gled with their strong de­sire to give their baby ev­ery chance at life but were wary of spe­cial­ists’ ad­vice and even­tu­ally de­cided to ter­mi­nate, by hav­ing an in­duced nat­u­ral birth, know­ing the baby wouldn’t sur­vive. ‘‘I think it’s one of the hard­est things I’ve ever had to do is watch my wife have to go through that.’’ They named the lit­tle boy Ethan. Af­ter their or­deal the cou­ple dis­cov­ered that early child loss was of­ten not talked about, as if it had some sort of taboo. How­ever, ev­ery time they did talk to some­one in Queen­stown, ev­ery­one had a story of their own or of some­one they knew well. They were also as­sisted by the Wakatipu branch of Sands, which pro­vided a lis­ten­ing ear, in­for­ma­tion, a ted­dybear and a cam­era to record spe­cial mo­ments of Ethan – ‘‘You sit there and think it’s re­ally mor­bid but it’s very ther­a­peu­tic.’’ On the day Ethan was ini­tially due to be born, they learned there was an­other baby on the way and Tyler, 4, now has a lit­tle sis­ter, Elsie Rose. Han­ra­han sees his marathon ef­fort as an op­por­tu­nity to raise money for the lo­cal branch of the char­ity but also hopes to raise funds for the Cancer So­ci­ety af­ter his UK-based dad died from the dis­ease in 2000. Ten months af­ter he be­gan run­ning, in­clud­ing many times around Lake Hayes and up and down Queen­stown Hill, Han­ra­han has lost 18kg and dis­cov­ered run­ning is not only ad­dic­tive but so­cial too. In­stead of go­ing for a beer with a mate, he goes for a run. He hasn’t con­sumed any al­co­hol this year, de­spite hav­ing re­cently marked his 40th birth­day. How­ever, the weekend af­ter the Mo­tat­apu he is plan­ning a big party – a cel­e­bra­tion of what he’s achieved, his 40th, Tyler turn­ing five and his wed­ding an­niver­sary rolled into one. ‘‘I’ll prob­a­bly have two beers and I’ll be on the ground.’’ His sup­port­ive wife (‘‘be­yond be­lief’’) and chil­dren have had less time with him as his train­ing has in­ten­si­fied but, in the end, he hopes they will ben­e­fit as much as him. ‘‘This is about be­ing around for my kids. My son’s about to go to school and I want to go camp­ing. This is all about me spend­ing more time with my kids and wife and get­ting out as a fam­ily.’’

Photo: DEB­BIE JAMIESON

For his fam­ily: Stephen Han­ra­han is al­most 20kg less of the man he was a year ago.

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