Mark Cooper is about to take on the challenge of a lifetime, running 50 marathons across Europe in 56 days, raising money for the Edinburgh Headway Group. Mark tells scottishrunningguide.com his story...
I took up running in 2007 in a bid to get fit after giving up smoking and other unhealthy habits. Running soon became a passion and I completed my first 5K and 10K that same year. I noticed a difference in myself, not only in my fitness levels, but also in my outlook. I started running everywhere I went, I didn't see the point in sitting on a bus when I could run and get there faster and fitter!
My thoughts soon turned to what I could do with my love for running and this is when I dreamt up my challenge. I want to raise money for the Edinburgh Headway Group (EHG), who support people and families affected by traumatic brain injuries, the most common being strokes. The EHG is the only support system available to people in the Lothians when they come out of hospital with a brain injury. They were a great help to my family when my Mum passed away in 1997 from a brain haemorrhage. I have always wanted to do something in her remembrance and pay tribute to the work that the charity does.
My journey across Europe starts in Amsterdam on May 1 and will finish up in Barcelona, passing through Belgium and France on the way. The route is an existing cycle course, written by Paul Benjaminse, who has devised many routes across Europe, some of which have won awards. They can all be viewed on his website.
Once the route had been decided, I started an intensive training programme, I was running on average 40 miles per week already, but in two weeks I had increased that to 80. I have been lucky that my body has been easily able to adapt to these changes and I have been running between 80 and 100 miles per week since, with only Saturdays to recover. My body has taken to the training really well and I have been able to avoid injury thus far.
When I get back from my trip this summer, I would love to do some more adventure running, I might try Antarctica! I am interested in ultra running and would love to do some of the ultra races across Death Valley and the Yukon. I would also like to do some work on a local level, visiting schools across Scotland to highlight the importance of fitness and healthy living.
My advice for anyone looking to train for an endurance race such as this would be to take it slowly and run at a pace that you can sustain. Keep a logbook to track your progress and set targets to keep you motivated. The sense of achievement when you reach your goals is unbelievable. You can do anything if you put your mind to it, those little voices in your head telling you it is too hard need to be pushed to one side. Also, turn your fears and doubts into positives, motivations to keep you going.
Running is something that should be enjoyed by all who do it, I will run until I don't enjoy it anymore and I hope that day will never come.
For a half-way update on Mark's challenge, see our news piece.