IT’S been ten years since marathon runner Mark Cooper decided to quit smoking for good, swapping his cigarettes for a pair of running shoes.
Now the centre fundraising manager at Edinburgh Maggie’s is preparing to mark a decade of being smoke free with a rather fitting challenge – running ten different races.
But the feat will hold extra significance for the 34-year-old, as 2017 also marks 20 years since his mum, Sheila, passed away from a brain haemorrhage when Mark was just 14.
As well as marking the two anniversaries, Mark is also hoping to bring in £2400 in sponsorship money – the cost of running the Edinburgh Maggie’s centre for a day.
Mark explained 2017 was a “massive year” for him and was looking forward to taking on the challenge, which he will start with a half marathon on March 5.
He said: “I’m the kind of person who needs to have goals. I love running but I still need to have purpose. I did think of doing 20 races but then I thought that’s a bit stupid! Mum didn’t have cancer but 20 feels like a big year.”
The races will vary in length from ten miles all the way up to 73 and despite the inevitable nerves which come with longer events, Mark admitted he had come a long way since he first took up running ten years ago.
“At first when I said I was going to stop smoking and start running [people] said there’s no way you are going to do that,” he said.
“Sometimes you get a reality check. I had a race in August. It was only a ten mile run [but] I realised, this is a long way.
“You realise I shouldn’t be so flippant about this. My first race was a 10k and I remember how hard it was and how proud I was.”
Just as important as personal improvement is the opportunity to raise cash for the Edinburgh Maggie’s centre, where Mark worked since July 2012.
His effort comes as the Evening News continues to push ahead with its Buy A Brick for Maggie’s campaign, which aims to raise £750,000 for a much-needed extension to the Edinburgh centre.
Mark explained he picked the £2400 amount because it helped people realise just what their money can do to help.
He said: “To run Maggie’s for a day costs £2400.
“Once you say £2400 and you break that down, [for example] £500 could pay for a family of six to get counselling from a psychologist, they start to realise it’s really important.
“Every single penny makes a difference.”
And according to Mark, his job at Maggie’s is more than enough when it comes to inspiration.
He added: “Working at Maggie’s, it teaches you if you want to do something don’t wait around – just do it,” he said. “It brings it home every day in the centre, it makes you think I’m going to try new things and not be scared.
“I always try and do something and the thing I can do is run.”
To sponsor Mark, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ultrachallenge2017.