Adventurer Andrew Wallace is taking on the gruelling Race in honour of his late mother Eileen.
The Bridgend man is known for his hurling and Gaelic success in Burt and for Donegal, but he has recently trained as an adventure-racer.
This year will see Andrew taking on one of his biggest tests yet – the 250K 24 hour Adventure Race.
He also has a large emotional challenge to overcome on this journey.
Throughout his career, Andrew’s mother Eileen was always there, cheering him on from the sidelines with her husband Austin.
Eileen sadly passed away in 2015 of amyloidosis – an unknown disease that needs more awareness, according to Andrew, who has launched a fundraising campaign in his mother’s memory.
Andrew said: “I’m hoping to raise funds for the Amyloidosis Foundation by competing in The Race but I very much want to use my participation to raise awareness about amyloidosis here in my home patch. It’s an extremely rare disease all over the world. In America, for example, with a population of 328 million people, only 4,000 cases are known. My mother was therefore very unfortunate to contract this killer disease.”
Amyloidosis is – as Andrew says – a ‘minefield’.
He said a major challenge is the current lack of early diagnosis for a patient. Awareness is essential in order to turn this around, which is what Andrew has set out to do.
During his mother’s illness, the Wallace family learned that Eileen had contracted the so-called ‘wild-type’ strain of the disease. Symptoms can include: shortness of breath, swollen tongue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, edema, and carpal tunnel.
The Wallace’s weren’t aware of the danger signs when Eileen first became ill.
Andrew reflects ruefully that an earlier medical intervention might have made a difference: “Of those symptoms listed above, Mum started off with a swollen tongue. She also had carpal tunnel on both hands (tingling, numbness and pain in the thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger) so it’s so frustrating knowing what we know now. It just took too long to diagnose and the hospitals have no idea what they are looking for – hence me trying to create some awareness.”
Andrew is no stranger to adventure racing, but The Race is an event like no other. On March 23rd, Andrew will tackle the rugged landscape of North West Donegal as he faces 15km of kayaking, 166km of cycling, 5km of mountain running and 64km of road and trail running in the ultimate 24-hour test of endurance.
This may be the toughest challenge of his sporting life, but Andrew is confident that he has put in the preparation
“The race itself is pretty simple,” he explains. “It’s an endurance adventure-race and just way bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. It will be a one-off. It’s way too time consuming and the preparation requires a huge amount of time spent away from my family. That isn’t good – it’s only palatable because of the charity and the cause.”
Andrew is assured that his mother’s unwavering support will still be with him on the day.
“I know I will be alone for most of the day and will have good and bad spells no matter what the weather throws at us on the day. I know Mum will be looking down and cheering me on as she always did, that alone will get me over the line…,” he said.
The main motivation comes back to his ultimate goal: fundraising for the Amyloidosis Foundation in memory of his mother and raising awareness of the disease among people here in Donegal.
“Lately I’ve heard of more and more people locally contracting this disease. If we’d had more information on this we just might have got to spend a few more years with Mum. If doing this raises awareness and helps just one person then every yard of the 250km will be worth it,” Andrew said.
Anyone wishing to sponsor Andrew can do so by visiting www.gofundme.com/the-race-250k-24-hrs-amyloidosis or by contacting Andrew directly or any family member.
More information on amyloidosis is available on http://amyloidosis.org/
He has a facebook page set up called Andrew Wallace “The Race” 250k 24 hours Amyloidosis Fundraiser. Give it “a like” please and follow updates on training etc.
A tea/coffee morning in O’ Flaherty’s Bar, Buncrana, on Friday, March 1, between 10am–2pm, is also taking place with all proceeds to the Amyloidosis Foundation.