Kiwi battler turns around life of addiction and abuse thanks to newfound love for running

For more than two decades, Chris O'Riley was trapped in a web of addiction and abuse.

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Chris O’Riley is set to tackle his first marathon after finding a special connection with his late mum. Source: 1 NEWS

Unfortunately for Chris, he made all the wrong choices as a result of a difficult upbringing.

“I was 16, got top of the form at Wellington Boys College, started smoking cannabis heavily and I went from the very top of the year to the next year I got very last,” he said.

Chris’ fall wasn’t because of a lack of love though – his mum Barbara was always there for him.

“Mum had the biggest heart, and the most caring person I've ever met,” he said.

“And I grew up like that too - she passed it onto me. I used to think it was a burden, caring so much, but it's a gift, I just had to learn how to handle it."

But beyond caring, his mum had her own demons; alcohol addiction and schizoaffective disorder.

It soon became a battle Chris would experience himself with his addictions eventually leading to a 14-month stay at a rehabilitation clinic last year however he'd barely been there a fortnight when tragedy struck.

“I was there for two weeks and I stopped hearing from [mum], couldn't get hold of her," he said.

"After about day seven, I worried, I had a gut feeling, but by day nine I just knew."

His mum was found dead in her flat after taking her own life.

"Weird thing was, I believed she'd do it for 30 years, but when she did it I couldn't believe it."

At that moment, Chris had two choices; fall back into his old ways of addiction or be the man his mother knew he could be.

"I couldn't do it for her when she was alive but now I will.

“She's given me a gift in leaving me. She always told me, ‘you're a late bloomer, you're going to be a late bloomer, you are going to do well’. "

And that's just what Chris is doing, driven by his newfound faith and his love of running.

On Saturday, Chris is taking on his first marathon since finding his new hobby and thanks to a scrapbook he was only given this week, he’ll have a piece of his mum with him when he runs.

In the scrapbook are his mum’s old running numbers. He said he plans to put one on his singlet for the Rotorua Marathon tomorrow.

"She'd be rapt. I don't know what she'd say,” he said.

“She'd probably say, ‘I told ya’.”

There's just 42 kilometres between Chris and the next milestone in his road to recovery and you can bet his mum will be with him every step of the way.

Source: TVNZ