Six-year-old runner who beats most adults born with critical heart disease
The next time you pass through Christchurch’s Hagley Park, you might notice the little boy running through the crowds with his father on his bicycle by his side.
At 6, Harrison “Harri” Brown set his personal best last week, completing the Hagley 5-kilometer parkrun in 21 minutes and 26 seconds – faster than most adults, including his father.
His time placed him 20th out of 9,577 people who completed the Hagley parkruns in his age class.
However, what makes Harri’s run truly phenomenal is that marking his 7th birthday on Sunday also marks exactly seven years since he was rushed to the Starship Children’s Hospital within 30 minutes. His birth.
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Doctors were fighting to keep her heart beating, and the newborn was diagnosed with critical heart disease – aortic stenosis with severe left ventricular dysfunction. He had open heart surgery within a day.
“It was pretty heartbreaking, the uncertainty of what his future would look like,” said Father Rod Brown.
“He was a really sick child.”
Brown said he didn’t think it would be possible for Harri to play sports and run like other children.
When Harri asked to run with her father at the age of 3, Brown thought it was “probably not for him”.
They started by running 100 yards, then Harri was carried the rest of the way on her father’s shoulders. But at the age of 4, he was going up and down the Halswell Quarry on his own.
He has now completed 24 Hagley parkruns, setting personal bests 15 times.
“He just keeps going faster,” his father said.
So much so that at the age of 5, Harri had achieved her ultimate goal by running: “drop daddy”.
Brown had since had to ride a bike to stay by her side, while Harri said “it was like I was walking”.
Harri’s personal best last Saturday was faster than the Association of Road Racing Statisticians’ 5k world record for 6-year-olds – although Hagley was not a certified measured course.
“It’s pretty amazing that Harri can do what he can do… I never would have thought,” Brown said.
He was given the green light from a cardiologist to run and had not taken any medication since he was 1 year old, but was monitored annually.
Their neighbor, Robert Loveridge, who won 10 titles in various championships from coast to coast, supported Harri in his race, as did former Olympian Donald Greig, who represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in 1982.
“He’s pretty amazing… I don’t know any other young man that fast,” said Greig.
He sometimes joined Greig’s running training groups where he was among 30 to 40 people, at least four times his age, and was in the third fastest group.
“He trains the elderly to his capacity,” said Greig.
Harri said he liked running because “it was fun”, and he liked to challenge himself to beat his personal best.
Brown said it’s important with the kids to keep having fun so they don’t burn out.
After competing in cross-country competitions, Harri was now part of Peninsula and Plains Orienteers, a Canterbury orienteering club, and planned to join a soccer team next season.
“It’s important for kids not to specialize in one area too early and to try out lots of sports,” Brown said.
Brown decided to share his son’s story to help raise awareness of the The Starship Foundation’s fundraising to expand its pediatric program intensive care unit (PICU) and fight against the shortage of beds.
The shortage meant six patients had suffered delays in surgery this year, as of April 13, and six more had suffered delays in 2020, with an average delay of around 14.5 days.
Over $ 1.3 million has been raised since the campaign launched on April 13.
Brown hoped Harri’s positive result after her surgery and diagnosis would show the importance of PICU care.
“Not all children will run, but I hope they continue to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives, whatever that may be for them.”