Tuesday, March 23, 2010

RunnerDude's Runner of the Week: Mark Cooper

Recently I made a new running friend in Mark Cooper, who lives across the big pond. Mark is 27 years old and lives in Scotland. He describes himself as "just an average guy who discovered over the last couple of years an overpowering desire to push myself to my mental and physical limits. I am certainly no athlete but I am committed and focused on making my visions a reality." That's a bit of an understatement. After reading my interview with Mark, be sure to keep reading to learn about the amazing adventure he is set to embark upon in May.

RD: Where are you from?
Mark: I live in Edinburgh, Scotland

RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies?
Mark: I work in a law firm called DLA Piper, in my spare time I play guitar and sing in a band called The Nature Boys, I am a qualified Scuba Diver and also love to go climbing and cycling. Generally anything outdoors!

RD: How long have you been running?
Mark: I started running properly in late 2007.

RD: What got you into running?
Mark: I had been a 20-a-day smoker and heavy weekend-drinker and one day I decided without notice to stop all of this and get fit. Running appealed to me because of its low cost and the fact that I have always loved the outdoors.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running?
Mark: Apart from the two items above I love the fact that for most runners the competition is only against yourself and your PB. I think there is a wonderful spirit in running especially long distance kinds as everyone knows how difficult it actually is to run a full marathon. You have to really dig deep, for most of us the last 10K of a marathon is run with your heart not your head.

RD: What are your favorite training foods?
Mark: I generally try and stick to a slow carb diet, cous cous is a favourite, I try to avoid sat & trans fats found in most sugary snacks. If you go natural and fresh then you cant really go to wrong. I get a lot of recipes from a book called Go Faster Foods written by Kate Percy. It is a great tool for training.
RD: I've corresponded with Kate and have reviewed her book. Couldn't agree more...it's a great resource!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
Mark: I like to run with others but this is a rare thing to happen for me as I do most of my running before work and and on Sunday's when about half of the population of Scotland is in bed nursing their headache from the night before, I miss those days sometimes! Only sometimes though ;-)

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
Mark: The funniest thing I ever seen on a run was when I was on a morning run through a local park at about 7am and an elderly woman walking her dog came up to me and stopped me to ask the time, she then went on to ask me what event I was doing in the Olympics. That made me laugh. They would wipe the floor with me!

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
Mark: Most people think that my biggest accomplishment would be my first marathon distance and while this stands out I would have to say my first 5K race in 2007, I had given up smoking and cut down drink considerably and finishing this run showed me how far I had come and I have never looked back.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
Mark: I usually mix it up when it comes to shoe, I have custom made orthotics to even out my feet so as long as they are neutral I will give them a go. I am currently using Mizuno Wave Rider 12's, I like the look and feel of them. I might try a pair of Nike Free next.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
Mark: I love taking part in the organised BUPA Great Run's in Edinburgh. The 10K one is always a stand out with a great atmosphere. I am really looking forward to taking part in the Chris Hoy Half Marathon this year. There is also a possibility of me turning up to this event in a Mini disguised as a Highland Cow. Peter Vardy has donated a support vehicle for my trip, they have really been a huge help. Check out the Highland Mini, if you want a giggle....

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
Mark: No matter your age, fitness level or experience, stick with it. It is going to hurt in the beginning as any activity you haven't taken part in for a while will. I would encourage running over any other activity purely because I have gained so much from it. The feeling you get after a run is unmatched by any other activity. You push and commit 100% and when you cross that finish line and its all been down to you, your body and your mind, then you will understand why running has such a universal appeal. For me it is a passion and I believe that anyone can run as far as he/she wishes to, if they stick with it and have the drive. Basically work hard and push yourself and you will reap the benefits.

RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared.
Mark: The only regret I have about running is not running earlier in life but from reading a lot about the sport I have found that most runners reach their peak at about my age and this continues on until very late in life. I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter your age or fitness levels you can take up running, but you should do it sooner rather than later.

Mark is such a humble guy. He didn't even mention in the interview above the awesome journey he's about to embark on. In May 2010, Mark will start the first of 50 marathons in Amsterdam. He will finish 8 weeks later in Barcelona - by then he'll have run an amazing 1,300 miles for charity. [Click here] to see a map of Mark's route. Mark is aiming to raise £25,000 for the Edinburgh Headway Group through various forms of media coverage and fundraising events taking place in the build up to the proposed May 1st start date.

Since 1982, the Headway Group have been providing support to people who have suffered a head injury or some other form of acquired brain injury such as a stroke. Over 40 people attend Headway House (based in the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh) each week. Others are helped by their Befriending Project which provides trained volunteers to encourage and help brain injured people back into the community to enjoy the simple, social pleasures they have lost since their injury. The organization also supports relatives who care for the injured. To donate to Mark's cause and to help the Headway Group [click here].

Why the Headway Group, you may ask? Mark's mother, Sheila, passed away in 1997 from a brain haemorrhage. The Headway Group was the charity who helped his family during that difficult time.

Be sure to check out Mark's website to find out more about this amazing young man and his upcoming adventure. Below is the latest video diary from the website.


Lauren said...

wow very cool! He seems like a great guy with a lot of insight!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lauren! Yep, it's great to see a young person so inspired. Also, great that he got onto a healthier lifestyle early on in life!

Sputnik said...

Inspirational! Great interview piece and I really enjoy your blog!