Darron McMichael only started running recently, when he signed up for the Belfast marathon.
So far, training is going well and the Limavady man found he’s come to love his time pounding the streets and trails for its therapeutic effects.
The reason Darron decided to lace up his trainers is to raise money for two charities - NI Children’s Hospice and Butterfly Lodge - that hold a special place in his his family’s hearts.
Both charities have helped Darron and his partner, Moira McDermott, though some tough times, providing respite not just for them but for their son, Jonah, as well.
“My son Jonah is the real reason we are getting involved this year,” said Darron, explaining why he’s taking part in the relay race.
“Jonah is now two and a half years old. He has Down Syndrome, a Tracheostomy, since the age of six months old, and other complex medical conditions.
Plus, I know the real reason I’m running is for Jonah.Darron McMichael
“He had a very rocky start to life and he has shown me and others what courage and strength really is.”
The couple’s amazing son fought his way back from being seriously ill and spent a considerable time in hospital.
The brave toddler is now doing great at home.
“Jonah is a beautiful boy with fair skin and blonde hair.
“He has a fun personality, acting shy at first, but he will soon play games like peekaboo or act out signs to ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’,” said Darron.
“Jonah gives the best hugs and is a very loving boy. He has changed our families lives for the better. Although Jonah’s development will be delayed, he will meet his milestones just a little later than other children his age.
“For this very reason we celebrate everything new he achieves. His contagious smile will light up any room!”
Running along side Darron in the relay race are Katrine McDermott, Jonah’s carer and aunt; Andrew McDermott, Jonah’s uncle; Ryan Kennedy, a family friend; Diane McLaughlin, Jonah’s carer and James Carney, someone Moira and Darron have come to know through a few support groups
“Over the past few years I’ve talked about doing a marathon so when Katrine McDermott tagged me to the event I thought ‘why not?’” said Darron.
“Our chosen charities are NI Children’s Hospice and Butterfly Lodge as they have provided Jonah and my family with respite.
“Having these short breaks allows myself and Jonah’s mummy, Moira, to look after our health and wellbeing as Jonah’s care at home is 24/7 and can become quite intense.
Darron is pleased with how his training is going, considering, he said, “I never ran before.”
“I had a few aches and pains when I first started, but those have almost gone now. It’s a very nice feeling getting the opportunity to go out for a run as it clears the mind, therapeutic in a sense,” he said.
“Plus, I know the real reason I’m running is for Jonah. Ryan and James are more experienced runners and they will be encouraging myself, Katrine, Andrew and Diane on, on 1st May.”
Darron wants to thank everyone that has supported him so far on his fundraising journey.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated through the Just Giving page,” said Darron.
“Also to those who have sponsored ‘Team Jonah’.”
Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice is the only service of its type in Northern Ireland caring for babies, children and young people with life limiting or life threatening conditions.
‘Butterfly Lodge’ is situated in the grounds of Altnagelvin Hospital - a unit for supporting children with complex healthcare needs.
It is a base for a team of Staff Nurses and Children’s Healthcare Assistants who assist in the provision of care packages and short breaks for children with complex healthcare needs within the Community Children’s Nursing Team.
Darron added: “Everyone has been very generous and supportive.
“This means a lot to us and our chosen charities as other families will get the benefit of the funding to.”
To donate to ‘Team Jonah’ go online to justgiving.com/fundraising/Darron-McMichael