In challenging times, look for inspiration...

Mark Pollock.

IN challenging times, it is important that we all look for inspiration. And this has perhaps never been as important as it has been in recent months.

One person I’ve often looked to for inspiration is Mark Pollock.

For those who don’t know Mark, he became an adventure athlete in 1998 competing in ultra-endurance races across deserts, mountains, and the polar ice caps including being the first blind person to race to the South Pole.

He also won silver and bronze medals for rowing at the Commonwealth Games and set up a motivational speaking business.

In 2010 a fall from a second story window nearly killed him. Mark broke his back and the damage to his spinal cord left him paralysed.

Now he is on a new expedition, this time to cure paralysis in our lifetime by exploring the intersection where humans and technology collide.

Since 2011 Mark and his team have co-created projects valued at over €2.5 million involving: rehabilitation; robotics; exercise physiology; neuro modulation; neuroscience; bioengineering; and pharmacology.

As a motivational speaker Mark seeks to inspire people to build resilience and collaborate with others so that they achieve more than they thought possible. In addition, Mark is the subject of the acclaimed documentaries ‘Blind Man Walking’ and ‘Unbreakable – The Mark Pollock Story’.

Mark is also the co-founder of the global running series Run in the Dark. It is the principle fundraiser for the Mark Pollock Trust which supports Mark to deal with the ongoing impact of his catastrophic spinal cord injury while enabling him to pursue his personal mission to cure paralysis in our lifetime.

Mark Pollock using an Ekso Bionics robotic exoskeleton at Trinity College Dublin in 2015. Picture by Peter Macdiarmid for the Mark Pollock Trust.

For those who don’t know, Run in the Dark has taken place in 72 locations around the world and has involved over 120,000 runners. Last year, a Run in the Dark took place at Stormont Estate with thousands from Northern Ireland participating.

This year, Mark is refusing to let Covid-19 prevent Run in the Dark from happening.

Whilst Covid-19 means that runners can’t run side by side, Mark has decided to stage Run in the Dark in November as a virtual event. Thousands of runners and walkers across the globe will therefore light up the night on Wednesday November 11, and participants will run individually and track their run on the Run in the Dark mobile application to place on a global leader board. I would expect many from Northern Ireland to participate again.

It’s another example of Mark’s determination to overcome adversity; refusing to let Covid-19 stop such an important event from happening. It’s also a great example how technology can help us to continue to lead our lives in the face of the pandemic. The virtual Run in the Dark will get thousands of people active, support physical and mental wellness, create competition and camaraderie, and raise money for a great cause.

Truly inspirational, and an event that I will definitely be participating in.

Patrick McAliskey is co-founder of Novosco, which employs around 300 people, mostly in Belfast, and was acquired last year by Cancom in Munich

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