Queenstown man Stephen Hanrahan is putting in a marathon effort to support a cause close to his heart. By Debbie Jamieson.
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."
Follow Steve on Facebook: Steve's Marathon
- The Mirror