Daily Record: Mark Cooper quit smoking, smashed an endurance record and landed dream job.. all in memory of mum

FIVE years ago Mark Cooper smoked, drank and took no exercise – today he is one of Scotland’s top endurance runners, completing a staggering 50 marathons in just 56 days.

Not only has the 29-year-old sportsman smashed comedian Eddie Izzard’s previous marathon record, he has raised more than £33,000 for charity along the way.

Mark, from Edinburgh, completed his marathon challenge in 2010, in memory of his mum Sheila, who died in 1997, aged just 43.

From that moment on, he knew he wanted to make a career out of charity fundraising, and last month landed his dream job with Maggie’s Centres.

Mark, who is now a community fundraiser for the cancer charity, said getting bitten by the running bug completely changed his life.

He said: “In my early twenties, I lived to party. I spent my weekends going out with friends and did little, if any, exercise. I also smoked, which drove my dad crazy. I once tried to run round the park beside our house and had to stop halfway for a fag.

“In 2008, I decided enough was enough and took up running as a way to help me give up smoking.”

He added: “I entered my first ever 10k in 2008 and was daunted at having to run so far. It became my own personal Everest.

“I managed it in 55 minutes, which was great. Completing that race is still my proudest moment. After I started, I just could not stop. The running bug had caught me.”

Mark, who has worked as part of a health and safety support team for several law firms, ran from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 2009, to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children from three to 17 who have life-threatening illnesses.

But it was in 2010 that he took his love of racing to a whole new level by attempting to run the equivalent of 50 marathons around Europe.

Mark, who was just 14 when his mum suffered a brain haemorrhage, decided all the money he raised should go to Edinburgh Headway, a charity supporting people with head and brain injuries.

Mark Cooper - Me with my Mum and Brother

Mark Cooper – Me with my Mum and Brother

He said: “My mum went to work one day and just collapsed. We got a call to say she’d had an accident. We just assumed it was nothing serious but when we went up to the hospital, she was on life-support.

“Just three days later she died. She was a lovely person and the time after her death was pretty traumatic for our whole family.

“I was only 14 and had never imagined I would lose a parent. It was such a shock and I really struggled to come to terms with it.”

He added: “I don’t get upset about it now as I have been forced to move on. I’ve had to think rationally and keeping going was the only option.

“I’m still sad my mum is no longer here. Doing the 50 marathons and raising money for a brain injury charity means something good has come out of a bad situation. I think my mum would be proud and shocked that I managed it.”

Mark, who has a brother, Alan, 33, ran 100 miles a week in preparation for his mammoth feat, which began on May 12, 2010, in Amsterdam. He ran 1311 miles in 56 days, through Holland, Belgium, France and Spain, beating Eddie Izzard, who ran
43 marathons in 51 days in the UK.

Mark, who lives with partner Serelith Knowles, 27, ended his challenge in Barcelona, where he ran the final mile with his dad Angus, 57.

He said: “My dad met me in Barcelona and we ran the last mile draped in a Scotland flag.

“I found some days tougher than others, especially the days when I was running on my own.

“My partner and several friends flew out and ran with me on several stages, which gave me a real boost.”

Mark Cooper - Crossing the border from Netherlands into Belgium

Mark Cooper – Crossing the border from Netherlands into Belgium

Mark, who is in the band The Nature Boys, added: “I lost two stone along the way but it was all very much worth it.

“When I did my first 10K, I could not walk the next day but when I finished the 50 marathons, I just wanted to keep running. I was disappointed it was all over.”

Since completing his incredible challenge, there has been no stopping the athlete on either the running or fundraising fronts. In 2011, Mark took part in all four Edinburgh marathon events, ran 129 miles on a treadmill and completed a 36-hour challenge – cycling 50 miles, rowing 96 miles and hiking 20 miles – all for charity.

Earlier this year, he made the decision to turn his love of fundraising into a career and joined Maggie’s, a network of drop-in cancer care and support centres.

He said: “I didn’t get into running to raise money, I started because I wanted to get fit and then it was because I loved the challenges.

“But the more I was able to raise and help people, the more I knew I had to change my career. I’ve now got my dream job.”

Mark is currently getting ready to embark on his first challenge for Maggie’s – taking part in the freshnlo Pedal for Scotland cycle event. On September 9, he will join around 9000 people and cycle the 47 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh, as part of a Maggie’s team.

He said: “Maggie’s is the official charity partner for Pedal for Scotland and we are hoping that the public will get behind us. I’m up for anything and I’m sure it will be my first challenge of many for the charity. I’m just delighted that I can combine my great love of sport with helping others.”

For further information or to make a donation to Maggie’s Centres, log on to www.maggiescentres.org

For more details on the freshnlo Pedal for Scotland event on September 9, log on to www.pedalforscotland.org

For original article from the Daily Record please click here.

 

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