David Pretorius says running tomorrow’s Auckland Marathon is a form of catharsis, but when the finishing line is the dream of his daughter walking again the end is always out of reach.
The mere 12km he’ll tread partly across the Auckland Harbour Bridge is a warm-up for the full 42km New York City Marathon he will run seven days later.
As chairman of the CatWalk charity, Pretorius has helped raise more than $250,000 towards research into spinal cord injury from those two races.
“That’s where my catharsis comes from, that every dollar we raise here is actually being put to good use,” Pretorius said.
The money goes exclusively to Auckland University’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Facility, and it’s a cause Pretorius said he had “totally delved into” since the horrific accident in 2010 that changed his family’s lives.
A car accident involving his three children left his now 15-year-old daughter Holly a paraplegic, and killed his then 4-year-old son Adam.
His eldest daughter Alexandra escaped unscathed, but eight years on was still “so raw” with the emotional scars.
“It’s always something that will be on my mind for the rest of my life, it never goes away,” he said.
“I look at it now and think my god how does anyone cope with the loss of a child and the permanent disablement of the other one? It’s a pretty appalling story.
“I think the ultimate dream would be to see Holly walk again. That would be incredibly satisfying.”
Among the 80 runners raising funds for the CatWalk charity in the 2018 ASB Auckland Marathon, there is no shortage of inspiring stories.
Linda Smeele will be walking 12km with a replaced knee in support for her son Brad, who in 2014 was left a quadriplegic after a wake-boarding accident in the US – a sport in which he competed professionally.
When asked about the fundraising effort for her son, Linda brushed it off as though she never gave it a second thought.
“Anything I could do to help, as a mother you feel so helpless, because mothers normally make things right. You can’t in this situation, there’s nothing I can do,” Linda said.
“I can’t run but I’m doing the 12km walk which is nothing compared to what I would love to do.
“Brad has been so inspirational with how he’s dealt with this, it keeps me strong because it breaks my heart every day.”