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Hawke's Bay Reserve Force soldier tackles world's toughest race for charity

Lying at home waiting for a back operation in 2017, New Zealand Army Reserve Force soldier Sergeant Andrew McCrory was scrolling through Facebook when something caught his eye.

15 April, 2024

It was a fundraising page for a young girl named Liv who needed Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy Surgery (SDRS) - a spinal operation that can give children with cerebral palsy greater walking ability, muscle control and improved balance.

“I read her story, and thought ‘I can help this girl’. I didn’t know how, while I was lying there with a herniated disc, but I messaged her mum and said I’d like to help,” Sergeant McCrory recalled.

Liv’s surgery would cost $150,000 and wasn’t covered by government funding.

“I was involved with CrossFit at the time and managed to get the crew on board for a fundraiser. It was awesome, they were keen as,” said the Hawke’s Bay soldier.

This sparked a fundraising passion for Sergeant McCrory which has seen him push his physical and mental limits ever since.

In 2019 he ran 100 miles - 160km - to raise funds for children needing SDRS.

He’s also run from Napier Pier to Rongomaraeroa-o-ngā-hau-e-whā Army National Marae in Waiouru to raise money for the Returned and Services Association, and during the summer of 2021-22 he ran the length of New Zealand - 2,060km - raising more than $50,000 for charity.

“I was stoked, my goal was $20,000,” said the 49-year-old.

He’s now set his sights on his toughest challenge yet, tackling the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon Race in July.

It’s one of the world’s most gruelling endurance events and sees a field of 100 athletes run a 135-mile (217km) race across Death Valley, California, including 4,450 metres of cumulative ascent.

He’ll be just the sixth New Zealander to be selected to participate in the race.

He credited his 14 years as a mechanic with the New Zealand Army and his time with the Reserve Force East Coast Company (5th / 7th Battalion, RNZIR) for helping him through challenging situations.

“We developed a mindset to keep going and not give up,” he said.

“When I hit the 100km mark, that’s my most challenging point at the moment. This is when I ask myself, ‘Why I am running?’ 

“Thinking of those children with cerebral palsy, I remind myself that some kids can’t even walk comfortably, if at all, until they have the surgery.”

He’s the first to admit he can’t do these fundraising runs alone, with his wife Kath – a former Regular and Reserve Force member of the NZ Army, and a trained nurse – by his side, every step of the way.

“She drives a support vehicle for me, and makes sure I’m mentally and physically okay throughout the run. If it wasn’t for Kath, I don’t think I could run these distances.”

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In Sergeant McCrory’s civilian capacity he helps train young people over a five-month course for careers in the New Zealand Defence Force, Police and Corrections with the Eastern Institute of Technology Services Pathways Programme.

The course includes taking students on a four-day trip to Waiouru Military Camp to experience what life in the military is like.

“The highlight for me though, is seeing them on graduation day with their respective service,” said Sergeant McCrory.

Speaking about his mates and fellow soldiers at East Coast Company, he said the camaraderie was “awesome”.

“During Cyclone Gabrielle relief we worked really well together.  We’re a really tight and supportive unit, right through from the new privates to senior staff,” he said. 

“It’s tough seeing people you know in such trying circumstances but they were stoked to see us out there. I think, and hope, we helped provide a bit of certainty for them and the wider community.”

And as for Liv, who kick started his fundraising and ultramarathon passions, she’s become a lifelong friend and one of his biggest supporters.

She is now walking with assistance and studying at the University of Waikato.