YOU could say that Craig O’Shaughnessy went the extra mile when he decided to do something to raise money for charity.
He came up with the idea of running four miles EVERY four hours for seven days in aid of the Helpful Steps Charity.
Craig ate, slept and lived at his dad’s gym for the entire first week of December while carrying out his energetic mission.
His runs, around Blackrock and Cork took place daily at midnight, 4am, 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm.
“I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again!” said Craig with a laugh after completing the task.
Craig is a multiple kick-boxing world champion, like his dad Colin, who owns the Elite Fitness gym in the Marina Commercial Park.
“The support and lovely messages I got all week was fantastic,” says Craig, who works as a personal trainer at Ketogym Penrose Wharf.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to my friends and my family for all their support.”
Some gym bunnies don’t get going before dawn.
“I didn’t have much company running at 4am in the mornings, but it picked up around 8am and at 12pm!”
His aim was to fundraise for a new exoskeleton bionic suit, which enables people with any lower limb weakness to stand up and move in a walking motion. The user gets the benefits of walking that they wouldn’t otherwise get by remaining in a seated position.
Craig’s father, Colin, and Nathan Kirwin, who is a C4 spinal injury survivor, founded the Helpful Steps Charity and fundraised for the first exoskeleton suit, aptly named Lazarus. It is currently the only one of its kind in Ireland and based at Elite Fitness at Marina Commercial Park.
Now Colin’s son, Craig, has put in a mammoth effort to help fundraise for a second exoskeleton suit, which allows people with various conditions, from Multiple Sclerosis to quadriplegia, to experience the benefits of walking.
“There is a five year time span for the exoskeleton,” says Craig, 30 from Passage West. “So we are hoping to get another one.”
He must be very fit, to run four miles every four hours through day and night?
“I am fit, I do my best,” says Craig who has three brothers, Dalton, Cameron and Jake. Dalton and Cameron are also world champion kick-boxers.
“My brothers train on a daily basis,” says Craig. “Jake is only nine and he’s pulling in our footsteps!”
Craig observes people striving to be better every day. “I am in the gym every day and I see amazing people do amazing work. They are all around me and I get my motivation from seeing people working in the gym on a daily basis.
“I see others every day who would kill to be in the pain I’m in and would love to be able to do the challenges I do. It is not hard to get motivated, seeing these people. My body and my health are a privilege and I use my body in the best way that I can.”
Craig is very familiar with his dad’s gym.
“I used to work with people there and I’m used to being around them. I train there myself and feel the benefits from it.”
How much is the exoskeleton suit?
“It costs €150,000 and it is made in California,” says Craig. “We have the only one in the world here in the gym that is not in a medical facility.
“People who have been in accidents or in hospital for rehabilitation can use the exoskeleton here and they don’t have to be reminded of a medical facility where they may have spent some time.
“Having the exoskeleton in the gym instead of a medical setting is mentally beneficial for people.”
Elite Fitness is all-inclusive.
“Here at the gym there are athletes working, people in wheelchairs and elderly people,” says Craig. “They have all got the same goal and they work hard to better themselves.”
Was it hard to live in the gym for a week for his fund-raising mission?
“I made up a mattress and stuff,” says Craig. “I ran every four hours, which took me 35-40 minutes. In between runs I changed my clothes, re-fuelled my body and did some recovery work on my legs.”
Then it was nap time until the next four mile run.
“I had an hour and a half of sleep before the next run came around again. Then off I went again!”
Was his body clock out of sorts?
“Probably!” says Craig. “My body was a bit mad with me in the mornings.
“Sometimes I was out of sorts and thinking, what day is it? What time is it?
Craig is both physically and mentally fit.
“I have a good mindset - I know using my body and my health is such a privilege. I look on it that my body is there to be used in a good way.
“I see people struggle with their health and with their mental health. I am using both my body and my health, hoping people will get inspiration.
“When the body and the mind work together we are all capable of more than we think. If we don’t have goals to work towards, we don’t have anything.”
What did Craig’s mum, Karen, think of her son’s incredible gesture?
“She thought I was crazy!” says Craig, laughing. “My mother is a typical Cork mother. At 30, she still treats me like I’m the baby, and I’m the eldest!”
But she’s super proud of her baby?
“She is super proud of me and so are my brothers,” says Craig. “They are my biggest inspiration.”
He is inspiring.
“Physically, the regime took its toll,” says Craig. “But the mental side kept driving me. Each run got easier.”
Has he future plans for other physical and mental challenges?
“I’ll probably tackle something crazier!” says Craig. “I love the mental challenge. I love being uncomfortable with the position I’m in. I come out the other side battle-hardened.”
His week of running will help others get up and walk now.
“My breathing got better and my muscle tone increased using the exoskeleton suit,” explains Nathan, 33.
“The exoskeleton gives people in wheelchairs the ability to get up and get the benefits of walking. It increases blood flow. Bowel and bladder functions work better too.
“Able-bodied people need to walk to stay healthy and that is especially true for wheelchair users. I think what Craig did was absolutely phenomenal,” says Nathan.
“He did a whole week of endurance in one of the darkest weeks of the year.”
Helpful Steps fundraises for state-of-the-art rehabilitation devices and training equipment for wheel-chair users. See helpful steps on gofundme page.