Press Release – Air NZ Hawke’s Bay Marathon
Wellington runner Matt Toole didn’t choose his condition, he didn’t choose the life-long struggle with chronic renal failure, but what this amazing 27-year-old has chosen is to be an inspiration to others by sharing his journey and celebrating the triumphs along the way.
And he is hoping that the next such event will be at the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon, where, despite his one kidney operating at about 13% capacity, he aims to complete the 10km run option, it is if you like, his own version of a marathon journey, and one he is determined to conquer.
Born with one kidney that then suffered irreversible damage through reflux, Toole has known a lifetime of coping with chronic renal failure, and that one day he would need a transplant to survive. But his attitude and story is one of living life to the full and making the most of every opportunity.
“I have always had chronic renal failure, since I was born, so it has always been lingering there. But I have never let this stop me doing anything. However, in August 2015, I went into stage three renal failure and I decided to travel, it was only when I got back about a year ago when it started to get really bad.”
Rather than hit the couch and feel sorry for himself though, Toole knew that the healthier he was going into transplant surgery, the better he would be coming out the other side.
“They said exercise was as good as taking drugs in trying to slow the process down and keep on top of things. So, the first step for me was to do Round the Bays in Wellington and now I am continuing with that and racing at the Hawke’s Bay Marathon.
“It has been tough dealing with the stress of my situation, I am operating at about 13% at the moment, but it is just one of those things when you don’t fit into the norm. Being 27 this is not something that most people my age have to deal with, but I am taking it in my stride and making the most of it.”
The call centre rep has that transplant lined up already, he is one of the lucky ones with a suitable donor with brother-in-law Iain Goodacre standing by for the moment when he is needed, but until then, it is pedal to the metal for Matt.
“Luckily for me my brother in law is lined up, for me it is waiting now, that is probably the most stressful part. We have been through all the testing, I am literally waiting to go into complete failure before the operation can be considered. I still work fulltime and it has been a lot of waiting around, but you can’t stop living life. Part of what I am doing in trying to train for these 10k runs is to take my mind off it a little bit and give me a goal to aim towards and ultimately, I am aiming to improve my recovery time after the operation and do the hard yards now so the other end is a bit easier.”
Toole is writing a regular Facebook blog labelled ‘The Adventures of Billy Bob and Billy Jean’ (see explanation below), in the hope of not only communicating with his circle of family and friends, but to help publicize the need for organ transplant donors and better understand what people are going though.
“When I first found out when I was younger that I would need a transplant, the only way I could deal with it was to have a sense of humour. So I called my only working kidney Billy Bob and that kind of stuck. Billy Jean is my brother in law’s kidney that I hope to introduce to my body in less than 12 months’ time.
“I have become quite passionate about the whole donor thing, especially once I knew I needed one! My blog is open to everyone but is a way for me to share those thoughts and challenges with my family and friends the daily struggles and triumphs that I am going through. The most important thing is that I don’t shy away from it, I am open and honest about it, it is scary but at the same time if I am too scared to talk about it, no one else will open up. That is just my way of dealing with it.”
Taking on 10k for Matt is no easy feat, in fact it is hugely daunting. But like most runners and endurance sport competitors, the finish line makes it all worthwhile.
“It is not easy, it is the lung capacity, the oxygen, the mental side of things. I am not up to a half marathon, but the 10k for me gives me something to push for. It is hard on the body in that I am physically and mentally tired to start with, but once I get going the actual finish is worth it, you get that boost of energy and you feel that bit more alive afterwards. It is a shame that I have to prep myself so much mentally and physically beforehand just to get to that point.”
Toole will not lack for support on the day, with those sorts of messages a regular occurrence in feed back to his online postings. Appropriately given the event falls on Mother’s Day weekend, he will have his mum Pat there on the day to share in that finish line excitement as well and no doubt give her a huge hug for the amazing support that she has given throughout his 27 years.
Having completed Wellington’s Round the Bays earlier this year, Toole feels better prepared to take on the 10km event at the Air New Zealand sponsored event.
“I won’t claim to running the whole way. I had a bit of mild pneumonia in January which spoilt my training but I made it, I want to give it a better shot this time so I looked up the next opportunity to give me a two or three-month window to get ready and Hawkes Bay was it so that is the next step really.”
“I think mentally it will be easier because I know I have done it before and I have done the training. But physically it will be harder, even though it is a slow decline the last few months have been tough on the body. So there are positives and negatives but I am pretty strong mentally so I think I will win out on the day.”
There is an often-asked question that Matt says he simply does not have an obvious answer for.
“One of the things that people ask is how do I do it? There is no real answer to that other than ‘you have to’. Sitting and feeling sad about it isn’t going to help you, so you have to make the most of it and make the most of the time that you have while you are fit and relatively healthy.
“I still want to live that life that everyone else has. That makes me pretty stubborn, but that is what gets me up in the morning, and keeps me working fulltime. Others might say running 10k like this is nuts, running on empty, but you have to push yourself.”
Matt doesn’t want to end his running in May either, he has plans to continue on the fitness trail post his transplant operation, whenever that might occur.
“I hope to one day compete in the World Transplant Games. This year (Spain) will come too early for me but I have definite plans to be there in the future. If you have had any form of transplant you are eligible to compete in age categories in all sorts of sports. It is the coming together of like-minded and like-bodied people to show what can be done despite some shortcomings and being given a second chance at life.
“For me being given that opportunity even though I haven’t yet gone through the transplant, I feel as though I should make the most of it, and what better way to show than to go to the Games and participating.”
Entries to the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon are open online, with all entries prior to April 18going in the draw to win 1000 Air NZ Airpoints Dollars.
The Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon
Saturday May 13