Back to the mountain: Disabled Kiwi determined to conquer Coast to Coast
Richard Warwick will embark on a 30.5 kilometre mountain run this weekend - his second attempt to conquer the harsh leg of the Coast to Coast multi-sport event.
The Nelson father-of-five is almost completely paralysed down his left side after he was struck with a brain bleed at 16-years-old caused by a condition called arteriovenous malformation.
Warwick's first attempt at Goat Pass (the major running leg of the event) ended in failure two years ago - he was airlifted by helicopter off the course for his own safety - all runners have to be at certain point near the end of the run by a 4pm curfew.
This weekend he will return to the peak, more determined than ever.
"Discipline," he said, "is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.
"What I want most is to get over that mountain."
Warwick was casually challenged to mountain run by a long-time mate in Christchurch a couple of years ago.
"It will change your life," his mate said, and another offered to accompany him for support.
Warwick admits he was "scrambling to some extent, looking for a decent excuse".
Nonetheless he replied, "Well, let's do this."
Coast to Coast organisers "straight off the bat were really supportive," Warwick remembers.
"Richard Ussher, the race director, basically said 'how can we help?'"
Warwick also credits Achilles International, an organisation dedicated to helping disabled athletes in mainstream events, as being a valuable source of encouragement, providing opportunities to recognise his potential.
Richard vivdly recalls race day in 2015.
"We got our early start, but by 3.30pm we still had a way to go and knew we weren't going to make it.
"I was pretty exhausted, we'd been going for eight hours."
With a further 12km of territory to traverse and a helicopter ready to depart, they decided to view the second half of the race from the skies. Peering out of the window, Warwick thought, "if I ever did that again, I'd have to do that completely different".
Warwick didn't allow himself time to wallow at the time, instead turning his attention to the US.
While in training for the 2015 Coast to Coast he was invited to take part in the New York City Marathon by Achilles chairman Peter Loft. Warwick initially turned down the idea, saying he couldn't run.
"Why can't you run?" Loft asked him. "Can you move and can you keep moving?"
Having his self-limiting beliefs confronted had a profound impact.
"When we were sitting there in the cafe and he [Loft] said that, it almost felt like being in a movie," Warwick said.
"In my head, it all just sort of tumbled back. I was 16 again and being told 'you'll never run again'.
"I've never even challenged that thinking."
With a bold new perspective, he continued to push himself further out of his comfort zone by travelling to the Big Apple for the first time and completing the 42km NYC marathon in November with Cigna CEO Lance Walker as his guide.
Now, back on home soil, Warwick is fully focused on conquering the Coast to Coast mountain run. He has been training since March last year.
He has racked up 1200km in 300 hours over 139 sessions in training and while he doesn't follow any prescribed diets, he's given up alcohol.
In the wake of his own achievements so far, Warwick remains humble and reflective.
Recounting an experience where a young man who recently suffered a stroke came to him for advice he said: "The sooner you can embrace who you are, the better. Being disabled isn't a struggle learning to live a non-disabled life; being disabled is about living an effective life with a disability."
Of his own path to self acceptance, Warwick candidly says that he "spent a lot of time keeping it at arm's length. I didn't want to identify as disabled, so I avoided things that would point to me living with a disability".
The upcoming Coast to Coast is his most epic challenge yet. Warwick attributes it all to the power of saying yes.
"None of this would have happened if I hadn't just said 'OK, let's do it'.
"Just saying yes, then figuring out the how."
*The Coast to Coast is happening February 10-11. coasttocoast.co.nz.