Latest News

MS: A Marathon, But No Walk in The Park

May 29, 2024 | Uncategorised

Entrants in the iconic Red Stag Rotorua Marathon take up the challenge for a wide variety of reasons. Some like Michael Voss (two hours, 23 minutes and 48 seconds) are driven by the need for speed and the joy of winning. Further down the field the reasons can be quite different.

Take entrant #2060 for example- an older guy participating in the walk category. His name is Michael Brennan and his rationale for pain and endurance is concentrated less on the effort (although there was lots of that!) and more on the meaning.

That’s not to say Michael didn’t burn up the course. In a highly respectable time of 06:30:33 he finished the 42 kilometre walk 58th of 116 entries and came third in his age group, an average speed of 6.5 kilometres an hour!

Michael trained for and entered the marathon to raise the profile of a debilitating disease that affects one in a thousand New Zealanders. Michael was walking for his wife, Susan, who has multiple sclerosis.

World MS Day is on May 30 every year and along with raising that profile, Michael was looking for invaluable monetary support: “We moved from Auckland to Taupo just over eight years ago. I have always tried to support MS societies wherever we lived, collecting in the annual appeals and getting behind fundraising opportunities.

“Another way I wanted to support her was by joining the committee of MS society Rotorua and districts where I have been the president for a few years now. We have a small committee, but they are dedicated to doing what’s best for our people with MS. This of course takes money and fund raising is always a major issue.”

The difficult and often confronting aspect to multiple sclerosis, a chronic disease of the central nervous system, is its unpredictability. Some people may be only mildly affected. Others, like Susan, who has a type of MS known as relapsing remitting, can end up largely confined to a wheelchair She has had the disease since 2009 and in her case, it has manifested as a loss of sensation in various parts of her body, burning and electric shock pains and balance issues with occasional confusion and slurred speech.

“Since moving to Taupo, I have had our bathroom altered to a wet area bathroom and then just before 2020 lockdown I rebuilt our dining room to make it more wheelchair accessible. I also built a concrete ramp to make her life easier as she is in the wheelchair 99 percent of the time now”.

Michael says, “It has been hard to see my wife’s health deteriorating because of MS over the years”.

While being an MS carer is also tough, Michael needed more. “I wanted to do my own fundraiser of some sort for our local MS society So, I decided in August last year to walk the Rotorua Marathon. The last time I did a marathon was a half marathon in 2013 with my son.

“I work as the caretaker at Tauhara College. I’ve have been lucky to be coached by several teachers who have done marathons themselves. I have been training since October 2023 walking six to ten kilometres two or three nights a week and longer distances on Saturdays from; 10 kilometres building up to 31”.

He says the walk went really well and he was happy with his finishing time. “While I found the course good, the last three kilometres were the hardest. The camaraderie between competitors was awesome with runners and walkers giving advice and encouragement along the way.

“It was sad to see a few people fall or having to pull out but the organisation of emergency services along the race path was terrific. I was very emotional at the end because my son and daughter in-law were able to bring my wife, so she could see me cross the finish line. Having family there was amazing. Several of our members from Rotorua were also on the side of the road to encourage me as I walked past.

“I started the walk with $1800 donated with a new total of $2400 by Sunday night and it has been climbing steadily since”.

We think Michael has achieved great things. If you would like to donate to his cause please see:

Credit to Rotorua and Taupo Multiple Sclerosis Society for the story and pictures. 

The finish line beckons.
The man, the medal and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Michael and Susan Brennan pause for the cameras post-race.