An inspirational Warkworth father is due to run 105km in just 18 hours along the Te Araroa trail from Waipu to Puhoi this Saturday, February 19, to raise money for Ronald McDonald House NZ.
Aidan Smith and his partner Emily have spent many months in and out of Auckland’s Starship Hospital with their son Luke over the past two years, when he suffered serious heart and digestive problems. At two days old, he was diagnosed with a heart irregularity where the treatment included holding his head in ice cold water for up to three times a day. At nine months, he was constantly vomiting, to the point where it stunted his growth, needed a feeding tube for months and had to be taught how to chew and swallow. At one point, his parents were told he could have a fatal mitochondrial disease and there is still no conclusive diagnosis.
Aidan said the care experienced at Starship had been humbling throughout and he wanted to give something back not only to the hospital and other parents with sick or injured children, but also to his son.
“Luke’s start to his life has been quite a challenge,” he said. “As a parent it’s important to show your children that no matter what, challenges can be overcome even if they seem impossible. This is why I want to drag myself 105km, to show him Joe Bloggs can do it.”
Aidan had originally been planning to run 102km in the Tarawera Ultra Marathon, but the event was cancelled due to Covid-19, so he decided to redirect his commitment closer to home.
“I run that area quite a lot – I quite often run the Tamahunga section,” he says. “Then, when Tarawera was cancelled, I realised I could do the whole 105km from Waipu south.”
But don’t be fooled by the rigorous regime – Aidan is not an experienced long-distance runner.
“I was never a runner. I always looked at running as a means of training for something else,” he said. “I got into running mainly when we were in Starship. It was always a good outlet. I found myself running when I got home from the hospital, to clear my thoughts and sort my head out.”
Aidan said when he committed to his long-distance run, he decided to try to raise a bit of money in the process, and thought if he could get $1000, that would be awesome. However, since spreading the word on social media, he has been overwhelmed by the response. As Mahurangi Matters went to press, more than $11,500 had been pledged, including $5000 from Aidan’s employer, Hiway Stabilizers.
“It’s just amazing,” he said.
Meanwhile, young Luke is now doing well, though the cause of his health issues remains a mystery.
“Luke has been a real trooper,” Aidan said. “He had all his genetics and our genetics sent to the US to see if they could find out what’s going on, but there’s no real conclusive diagnosis, and his medical case is sitting with a research group in Australia who look into rare diseases.
“But in front of us is this really cool kid who seems completely normal. He’s a little bit small, but other than that, he’s doing really, really well.”
Aidan will start his run at Waipu Beach at 7am and hopes to reach Puhoi at 3am on Sunday.
Donations can be made at https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/running-for-ronald
For anyone wishing to encourage Aidan along the way, here is a list of approximate times and locations along the route where you can show your support:
1. START – Waipu Cove Beach carpark – 7am, February 19
2. Corner of Cove Road & Bream Tail Roads, Langs Beach – 9.30am
3. Mangawhai Tavern – 12.30pm
4. Te Arai Beach Reserve – 2.30pm
5. Pakiri Beach carpark – 5pm
6. Corner of Govan Wilson & Matakana Valley Roads – 7pm
7. SH1, Dome Café – 10pm
8. Corner of Kaipara Flats & Smyth Roads – 11pm
9. End of Moir Hill Road – 1am (13/02)
10. Corner of Remiger & Ahuroa Roads, Puhoi – 2am
11. Puhoi Sports & Community Club – 3am, February 20