How comeback cyclist shed 23kg and serious illness to win

Posted on: May 12th, 2017

How comeback cyclist shed 23kg and serious illness to win

How comeback cyclist shed 23kg and serious illness to win

Mark David Heather’s plans to take up racing were set back by very serious illness. But he’s now in the Irish peloton. And he’s winning (Photo: Sean Rowe)


By Brian Canty

Scroll down the stickybottle results in recent weeks and you’ll have noticed the name Mark Heather among the winners in the A4 races.

He raced as a kid, for Swords CC between the ages of 11 and 17 years. But then the neon lights of the pub and nightclub industry, where he earns his living, intervened.

The 36-year old comeback man from Dublin has taken the A4 events at the Waller Cup and the Dunsany GP of late. And and has bagged a series of A4 prizes when riding against the higher category men.

But the father of three-year old Eva has come back from long odds to be here at all; having overcome viral meningitis in recent times.

“In December 2015 I started to get bad headaches so I called my GP,” the Clontarf CC man explained to stickybottle.

“That call indicated how bad it was because I couldn’t get out of bed. They suspected it was viral meningitis.”

He was admitted to Beaumont hospital where he spent the next couple of months.

He managed to get discharged for a few days as it was his then one-year old daughter’s second Christmas and she was days out from her second birthday.


How comeback cyclist shed 23kg and serious illness to win

Heather, now riding for Clontarf CC, rails it into a corner during the Mondello Park Race Series in Dublin recently. (Photo: Sean Rowe)


“I ended up back in there until February,” he said of returning to hospital after family time over Christmas, 2015.

When he got out 15 months ago he made a decision to get fit. So he enlisted the services top A1 rider and coach Matteo Cigala.

“I met him before Christmas 2015 but training went on the back-burner. When I got out of hospital I was out a week, I did a 9k spin with two coffee stops.”

That was his ability back then due to the effects of serious illness on his body.

But he gradually improved over the following two months, until a routine check-up told him the worst was not yet over.

“At the end of March I went onto a plan with the view of going racing,” he said of his growing training regime.

“Being sick gave me the motivation to go back out and do something. I did a good March and April.

“And I was coming into good shape in May but I ended up back in hospital at the end of May with benign recurring meningitis.”

Since then it has been visit after visit to Beaumont hospital.

“I had five lumbar punctures between December 2015 and May 2016 and then the sixth on September 28th last year; my birthday.”

Lumbar punctures measure white blood cells in the spinal fluid.

He has made a miraculous recovery and he’s just finished all his outpatient appointments in the last month.

Heather is back with his GP as opposed to Beaumont Hospital doctors; something he’s very relieved about.

“It’s a huge weight off me, literally. When I met Matteo in October 2015 I was 107 kilos.

“I lost no weight in hospital, probably because I was eating bags of Maltesers and Wine Gums. But I’m just under 84 kilos now so down 23 kilos and I feel great.”

Moving up the ranks

And this week, he made his debut as an A3 rider in the Mondello Park race series.

“The A3 group was fine, I was hanging in there,” he says modestly of that first outing.

“I was able to mix it in the sprint but I made a hames of the last corner. I was still in the top 10 or 15. A bit more race craft and I’ll be able to mix it a little bit better.”