Mark Dobson: 'The real winners in the marathon are often those who cannot take part'
In his weekly column, transplant patient Mark Dobson, who is the son of former MLA Jo-Anne, pays tribute to the brave runners who took to the streets for the Belfast Marathon this week
I made the journey down to Belfast on Monday, and for a change it wasn't to attend the renal or transplant units to meet with my consultants - it was to support mum as she took part in the Belfast City Marathon!
She was wearing her Kidney Care UK T-shirt with pride as she joined the teams of runners all helping to promote organ donation on the streets of Belfast, raising awareness and much-needed funds to help support kidney patients and their families, both now and in the future.
I am so proud of her for doing this just seven weeks after we went through our transplant surgery.
I know that while we both remain in recovery she was absolutely determined to step out for transplant patients, organ donation and to show that people who take the brave step of donating a kidney can and are able to live as normal a life as possible post-surgery.
Mum joked that she had never taken part in a marathon before and ironically was doing so for the first time with just one kidney.
I will always remember what she has done for me and what she continues to do to support others who find themselves in a similar position to me.
As I stood on the pavement watching Captain America, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman (sporting a beard!) and politicians - running a marathon, but not running the country - I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that this annual spectacle really brings out the best in 'Our Wee Country.'
For many, the marathon is an extremely serious business involving times, microchips and a lot of sweating.
I marvelled at Mum's 'A Team' led by Mark Gordon and the teams of doctors and nurses from the City Hospital - also running for Kidney Care UK - who were extremely fit and taking it all in their stride. They really went that extra mile for kidney patients.
For others, however, it was a chance to don a costume, to wear a charity T-shirt and to run, walk and compete for a cause which they deeply believe in. It would be a tragedy if this annual outpouring of goodness were to be brought to an end.
I know I join so many people in being sad to read that a threat hangs over the Belfast City Marathon's future, given the policing costs involved, and can't help but think that the real losers would be the recipients of support, help and guidance provided by the scores of charities and organisations taking part and represented on the streets each year.
They say it's not the winning, it's the taking part and this is so true when we think of the marathon.
Ironically, the real winners are so often those who aren't able to take part. People who rely on the selfless support of others to overcome difficulties and get on with their daily lives.
For us, and because of my journey with kidney problems from birth, our cause is promoting support for renal dialysis and transplant patients and their families, and Mum sends her love and thanks to everyone who ran to support Kidney Care UK, organ donation and transplantation charities and causes.
As I stood watching the seemingly endless colourful sea of runners passing me, I knew that each held an individual story and behind the rosy cheeks and panting lay a deep desire to achieve - a desire to cross their own personal finishing lines, whether real or imaginary.
There's still a chance to support Team Kidney Care UK via their Just Giving online donation page - www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamkidneycareukbelfastmarathon2018