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Richard’s story: A landmark challenge in support of my son  

His positive attitude and perhaps more than anything, his resilience, have truly humbled both his mother and me.

Image credit:  Peter Morrison - Belfast Telegraph

Richard Whiteside, a GP based in Comber Northern Ireland, has set his sights on a grand challenge this year in support of his son who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2021. This April, Richard will be taking on the London Landmarks Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile course that tours London’s most iconic landmarks including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, and The London Eye. Explaining his inspiration for taking on the challenge, Richard shares his story:

Diabetes is something I am very familiar with, having worked as a GP for 24 years, however, a few short years ago, my family and I were shocked when my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age 19.


My son ventured across the water to Exeter for his studies, and after his first term, I was picking him up from Belfast City Airport. He had been home just six weeks prior and was fit and well, but as soon as I saw him I knew something was wrong and recognised he was displaying symptoms linked to diabetic ketoacidosis – most noticeably, he had remarkable weight loss.

Adam received tremendous support from the diabetic team at the Ulster Hospital and Dr Claire McHenry, who has since moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital, was simply brilliant to him and me. The diabetic team at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald continues to provide excellent support particularly as he is away from home so much with his studies. His friends, especially his university friends in Exeter have been absolutely brilliant in accepting Adam’s diabetes and playing a huge part in keeping him safe while he enjoys student life. My wife Martina and I can never thank them enough.

Richard whiteside and his son

Positively inspiring

After the initial devastation at the realisation of the new diagnosis, Adam has been truly amazing in how he has handled it all. He never once let it overcome him, whether that be in self-pity or pity from others. His positive attitude and perhaps more than anything, his resilience, have truly humbled both his mother and me. His outlook has been an absolute inspiration to us and his younger siblings, helping us all adjust so well to supporting him with his diabetes.  

I think when it comes to a diabetes diagnosis, positivity is paramount. We have seen this tenfold with Adam and also with the hospital team that treated us so well. From the very first hour following diagnosis, the staff were so positive and encouraging when we were faced with the shocking realities of diabetes.

Exeter offered to defer his exams until the summer, but undeterred, Adam returned to Exeter four weeks after his diagnosis. At this time, he sat his first exams in Economics and Finance, all of which he managed to pass. We are so tremendously proud of Adam and his attitude to diabetes. We are genuinely humbled by the positivity and resilience that he has shown throughout which led to the half marathon! I thought running the half marathon for Diabetes UK would be a fitting way to show support for this resilience, hard work, and amazing positive outlook. It can also go such a long way in raising further awareness of this condition that affects so many people in Northern Ireland.

Ready for the finish line

I’m really looking forward to the marathon, now just a couple of months away. Right now, I am focusing on my training to ensure I’ll be in my best form for April. I’m up to 10k so far after three weeks, so it feels like it’s going to plan so. For each run, no matter how long or short, I like to divide it into thirds. The middle third is devoted to thinking about how fortunate I am to have the family I do, my wife Martina, and three children Adam, Laura, and Paddy. They are all truly amazing, the middle third absolutely flies by. Roll on April!

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