It was good to meet up with Colin White at last week's Night Run in Parkwest. Colin, who is National Projects Manager for the Irish Kidney Association, was in celebratory mood as he posted 24:51 for his 5K - a little slower than his personal best of 21:26, achieved eight years ago, but still a very satisfying effort.
I first met Colin back in 2005 when I worked as PRO with the Irish Team which travelled to the World Transplant Games in Canada; Colin's first experience in the demanding role of Irish Team Manager for the event.
I was reminded of that 2005 trip as I stood talking with Colin at the finish of the Parkwest Night Run. The scenes at Parkwest evoked the rewarding experience of working with members of that Irish team back then - one that still resonates with me.
I especially recall two of the Irish team members who I was privileged to connect with on that trip: Tony Gartland from Wicklow and Marie O'Connor from Clare. Their deep sense of gratitude at being able to run is something that has stayed with me since.
The day he won his first-ever gold medal at these games in the 800m Tony, who had received a liver transplant, told me: "My donor gave me a second chance at living. I never forget that and the only way to repay my donor is by living my life fully. Sport helps me do that."
I also have great memories of talking with Marie O'Connor on that trip to Canada and I can still recall some of what she said as she celebrated winning three gold medals across a range of sports on that joyous occasion. Talking to the Clare woman back then I came to understand that, like her Irish team mates, Marie was living life more deeply and more vividly than before she was saved by a donated organ.
"You stop and appreciate the simple things in life," Marie said as she talked about her transplant experience. "The first thing I did when I won my gold medal in Canada was to give thanks to my donor for the gift of life," she told me on that occasion. "The person up there - my donor - is my real gold medal. That's how I look at it now."
Last August an Irish team of 34 competitors competed with distinction at the European Transplant and Dialysis Championships in Poland and the Irish team finished third in the medals table out of the 24 countries taking part. Marie O'Connor again came home with more medals, though Tony Gartland did not compete on this occasion.
On Saturday next, October 18, the Irish Kidney Association will host their annual Run For A Life event in Corkagh Park in Clondalkin with a range of runs over distances from 2.5K to 5K and 10K. This event is supported by Astellas Pharma Ltd and will be an important fundraiser for the Irish Kidney Association, as well as being an imaginative means of promoting organ donation awareness. Among the entrants on Saturday will be Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Colin White is race director for the event, so he will have to settle for the role of spectator on the day.
This promises to be a great event for what is a very worthy cause. Visit www.runforalife.ie for more details. See you there.