Ballynahinch runner heading for the North Pole

Ballynahinch runner heading for the North Pole

10 January 2018

A BALLYNAHINCH man is battling the debilitating side effects of meningitis in a bid to become the first runner from Northern Ireland to compete in the North Pole Marathon.

Gareth Armstrong, who suffers from severe fatigue following meningitis three years ago, is already in training for four marathons next year having registered for Chicago, Belfast, Cork and Berlin.

Running up to 10 miles a day to get fit for his 2018 schedule, he has also set his sight on the North Pole where a select group of up to 30 individuals run a big profile marathon every year.

Gareth hopes to go to the Pole to raise money for the Meningitis Research Foundation, whose research he believes may be the reason for his own survival.

He raised £3,000 for the Foundation last year through several marathons and is hoping to raise a similar 

amount through sponsorship for all his marathons next year to help fight the disease.

Gareth was just 31 when he became very ill with viral meningitis. 

Never expecting to suffer from the disease, which more typically affects children and young adults, he was gravely ill by the time he sought medical attention.

Although he had classic symptoms, including a sore neck and sickness, he presumed he had a stomach bug or food poisoning because of his age and general good health.

It was only when he lost his vision that he attended his local GP practice where he was diagnosed within seconds of speaking to his doctor.

With no memory of the 24 hours that followed, Gareth said he was given emergency antibiotics by his doctor before being rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he stayed for the next 10 days.

With a full two-year recovery period to follow, Gareth said he continues to struggle with chronic fatigue but manages that by sleeping up to 13 hours every night and training for marathons when he can.

He raised £3,000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation last year through several marathons and is hoping to meet the same amount the year.

“Before I got sick I used to run marathons in just over three hours but now I am lucky to finish in four-and-a-half hours,” he said.

“That is a bitter pill to swallow but I have to accept that change and enjoy the buzz I get from completing each one.”

Anyone who would like to sponsor Gareth may do so via or text BMWM88 £5 or £10 to 70070.