Real story: "Now I've learnt how far I can push myself"


20 Feb 2024

Robert giving the thumbs up during the Walk 30 Miles in November challenge

Robert during our Walk 30 Miles in November event (Image: Dr. Jacqueline Wylie)


Did you join us for our first-ever virtual challenge - Walk 30 Miles in November? Around 180 fundraisers from all over the country took part, covering 30 miles in their own time, at their own pace, and helping to raise over £6,000 to support those with osteoporosis.  

If so, you might have connected with 62-year-old Robert Cleland from Belfast in Northern Ireland. We caught up with ROS member Robert to find out more about the event and why he wanted to play his part. 

Robert’s osteoporosis and spinal fractures were only discovered when he went to hospital for a blood clot on the lung back in 2022. “When all of this started, I was looking at Google and I’d basically put myself 6 feet under,” he explains. 

“But then my doctor told me not to look at Google, but to come to him and the ROS, saying they’d give me guidance on what to do next. He says I’ve still got a life, and things are just being put on the back burner for a while. But there are still things I can do.” 

Time for a challenge

Fast-forward to 2023, and after seeing the virtual event advertised on the ROS Facebook group, Robert decided to take up the challenge. But why?  

“You’ve just got to hang on. Yes, you will have bad days. You will have days when you can’t move. Days where you just want to lie down. But if you can, go out there and do something. Don’t just sit back and do nothing.”  

And that’s the beauty of a virtual challenge. You can take it at a pace that’s right for you. 

“I live near CS Lewis Square (a public space commemorating the Belfast-born author) and on the second day of the challenge, I took some pictures of all the statues from the books and posted them on the ROS Facebook group to share with other people taking part,” says Robert. 

“Then everybody else started sharing photographs of where they were walking and the routes they had taken. It started a big craze!” 

“It was really nice to see where other people came from and read the comments about their locations. It helped me to connect with people from all over the UK.” 

That connection had a lasting effect, long after the challenge was over. “I’ve been speaking to people on the Facebook group since, learning about their osteoporosis stories, what happened to them and how they cope with it.” 

Support that makes a difference

Robert wasn’t short of offline support, either. 

“My friend and carer Jackie has been with me since my diagnosis. She’s been very supportive and was there beside me at different times during the walk. And Joan, the leader of our Belfast ROS support group, also supported me with the challenge, sponsoring me £1 for every mile. She is also mentioning me at the next support group meeting.” 

All those who took on the challenge received a free, orange ROS T-shirt, which certainly helped to catch people’s attention. “If it wasn’t good weather or I needed a rest, we’d call into a coffee shop during a walk” says Robert. “I’d take off my jacket and people would come up to me and say ‘hey, are you raising money for osteoporosis?’ and I’d say yes! Some people asked for the charity’s web address so they could find out more about it.” 

“It was my birthday in November, too, so Jackie and I decided to go to Portrush to celebrate. I was wearing my ROS T-shirt and logging my distance on the ROS activity tracker as I went. We went for lunch and Jackie told the staff about the challenge so they wished me a happy birthday - and donated £10!” 

Robert raised over £100 for ROS in the end - money that goes towards vital services like the support groups. 

“I find the support group really valuable,” he says. “The first meeting I went to, we heard from Professor David Armstrong and he was absolutely wonderful. He spoke about fractures but also bought a sense of humour to the event, which made him very easy to listen to.” 

“There are four or five men at the Belfast support group. And not just older people – there are younger people there, too.” 

Could you follow in Robert's footsteps?

So what’s Robert’s message to those considering a virtual challenge this year? 

“I would say go for it! It’s fun and enjoyable and you’re supporting a good cause. It’s like one big family! And I’d like to say a massive, big thanks to everyone who gave me money towards the event. Now I’ve learnt how far I can push myself.” 

Karlie Evans, Fundraising Events Manager at ROS says: “We are so proud of Robert! This challenge was all about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and Robert definitely did that, whilst managing to raise a great amount to support others. It made us smile to see where Robert ventured to every day – that's the beauty of a virtual challenge, you get to connect with people all over and cheer them on from where you are.” 

Check the ROS Facebook page to see the virtual challenges taking place in 2024 or go to  

Are you or a loved one living with fractures like Robert? See our fact sheet on how to make daily living that little bit easier or find a local ROS support group near you. 

Help our specialist nurses continue to support those in need