Neurological Foundation - Chair of Neurosurgery

Race chance to repay community

September 2012


Austen Haig
Austen Haig

Austen Haig celebrated a 21st birthday of marathon proportions yesterday.

For Haig, the past 18 months have been about recovery and a total refocus of his life's path.

Five minutes into a rugby game in April last year, Haig landed the wrong way in a ruck, suffering a dislocation between his C5 and C6 vertebrae, becoming numb from his chest down and losing all orientation and control over his arms.

After four months of intensive physiotherapy at the Burwood spinal unit, the Mosgiel man considered himself lucky to be walking again.

He was released from Burwood Hospital in August last year and came under the care of Dunedin physiotherapist Mark Shirley.

After six weeks of physiotherapy, Shirley started Haig running small distances of between 500m and 600m.

"That became a big goal: to get back running again," Haig said.

"I never thought it could be possible and I know I'll never get back into competitive sport again."

With Haig showing great progress and determination by Christmas last year, Shirley set him a goal of running the half-marathon yesterday.

Trevor Mowat, from Olympic Gym, in Mosgiel, came on board to assist with Haig's build-up and training schedule.

Both felt, if Haig committed to the task, they should run in the Moro-sponsored event, too.

All three agreed to run, and to raise money for the Chair in Neurosurgery at the University of Otago.

Haig completed the course in 1hr 57min 26sec.

"I'd never run the 21km before.

The most I did in training was 19km," he said.

"It's great to give back to the community that was there to help me when I needed it."

Haig becomes fatigued a lot more quickly than normal but maintains a strong sense of optimism.

"I like to look on the bright side," he said. "It could have been a lot worse, and there are a lot of people out there a lot less fortunate than me."

 Donations for Haig's neurological fundraiser can be made at the Give A Little website (