Interview with Natural Hero

Mark Cooper

Name: Mark Cooper

Hometown: Edinburgh

Sports: Running, cycling, rowing, anything outdoors really.


To me, my biggest achievement has to be completing my first ever 10k race back in 2007, I had just given up a 20 a day smoking habit and this really proved to me that I could achieve things with the right attitude. Despite this I am probably best known for other things. Such as, running 129.2 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill in July 2011 and running 50 marathons in 56 days from Amsterdam to Barcelona.

Cycling Lands End to John O Groats in 2009 – 11 days 1,000 miles. Setting a course record for running Hadrian’s Wall – July 2010 100 miles in 16 hours 59 minutes.

I also took part in a team event this year called the Trip to Remember where we cycled from Dublin to Arklow, rowed the Irish sea, which took 19 hours and then hiked 20 miles to the top of Snowdon all within 33 hours, non-stop.

Tips for the top:

If you want to run then you have to really learn to love it, it has to become part of your life. Otherwise it will be a real struggle and you will probably end up giving in. Remember to keep sight of why you started and enjoy if for what it is – being outdoors and going to new places. It is really important not too concerned with what other people are doing in a race, just remain focussed on your own training. Also take time to run without your watch, without a goal, just run for the love of it (not that easy in the beginning when you feel like your hearts is going to burst).

Where it hurts:

Shin splints and knees strains are pretty common for the runner, knee injuries and metatarsal tares and feet problems. The key is to build up your training slowly, don’t push yourself too fast. If I had a really serious injury I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t run. Really thinking about your posture and getting the right footwear can help to prevent the majority of injuries. I never followed any of the rules to running when I started, I went from running 30 miles a week to over 100 the week after, silly looking back but I survived and fortunately I have never had an injury that has stopped me from training.

Greatest thing about the great outdoors:

There are two main things that I love about running. The first is meeting new people at races and the opportunities to talk with people that I wouldn’t meet any other way. The second is that you miss so much if you’re in a car or even on a bike. When you’re running you get to see things differently, from a different angle. You can go into the woods or down a track and then your back to basics. It’s me, my running shoes and the trail – nothing else.

Who are your sporting heroes:

Sporting hero, I would have to say Kelly Holmes, she is a tough and amazing woman. Watching her win double gold was a moment I still remember and for a young person like I was then to see that is very inspiring. Mo Farah is also up there, watching him win double gold in London was incredible. Again we can only hope that people like Mo can inspire a young generation to get active and perhaps create the future Olympians but more than that just get the youth more into sport in general.

Outside of sport it would have to be my Dad – A lot of questions were asked of him when my Mother passed away and he answered every single one of them perfectly, raising me and my Brother to be polite, caring and ambitious.

How I use Natural Heroes:

I have used the ginger rub for recovery after an run on the West Highland Way and found it to be soothing with a nice warming sensation. Would recommend it over products like deep heat as these only irritate the skin to produce heat.

Twitter: @runwithmark

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So you want to run to work?

Finding the time to exercise when you have a busy lifestyle can be challenging, one of the best ways to do this is to run to work. For two years I never took a bus to or from work, while at first this seems impossible after a couple of weeks and once you’ve created your routine, you will wonder why you ever took the bus.

My distance from work was 3.7 miles, so not terribly far. I used to run to work and then on the run home I’d add in extra miles to make my daily distance a minimum of 7.4 miles.

The best news is, if you live in a traffic congested city like Edinburgh, beating the bus home is a regular occurrence and actually a good challenge to aim for. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing that bus pull out and then seeing it pull in once you get home and have your feet up.

—It’s not difficult to do this but you do have to be organised—

The only thing that could possibly stop your dream of running to work would be if there are no shower facilities at your office/shop. Unless you want to walk around smelling like a yeti (and I did on occasions when the shower was broken) then you should always have a wash when arriving at work! Without fail!

You’ll also need to make sure you have the right amount of working clothes in the office so that you don’t get caught short, then there’s the dreaded realisation that you don’t have enough underpants and have to either go commando or wear those post run pants (also not good from experience)

There is a great website which is all about commuting to work on foot, click HERE to see some of it’s useful tips and advice on breakfast/kit and weight loss from running to work.

Here is my list of what you’ll need to think about before you start running to work…

1. Shower facilities at work or in a nearby gym – You definitely need these unless you work alone because if you don’t you might find yourself alone very quickly.

2. Get your kit organised at the start of the week, I used to take the bus to work on a Monday and take all my work clothes for the week in with me and then I only had to run to work and get dressed when I arrived. On a Friday at 5pm, i’d take it all back home again. This sounds like an almighty chore but once you get into a routine you’ll be packing your things in less than 10 minutes.

3. Kit you’ll need

Proper running shoes (obviously)

Running backpack or bum back for your phone/keys/wallet. Try and carry as little as possible unless you are used to running with weight on your back. I run with an OMM Ultra 15 bag and a Nathan waist pouch with water bottle holder.

Leggings and shorts for cold/hot seasons weather.

Running top that wicks sweat away from your body .

Running socks – I recommend Injinji toe socks.

Waterproof Jacket – I wear a Montane lightweight jacket that’s great in all weathers/seasons.

And for your recovery I’d recommend the amazing Natural Hero, hot ginger rub just DO NOT touch your eyes afterwards! It’s burns.

Here are some links to other interesting articles on running to work…GET OUT THERE!

Run to work

Running to work

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The best presentation I’ve ever seen

My life is richer because I came across this video and watched it, thank you Scott Harrison

Visit for details on how to help

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Slow Life Down

At work today I was chatting with some colleagues and the topic of time passing so quickly came up. A prime example of that was this year and how the hell it’s only 12 weeks until Christmas 2013. It got me thinking about ways in which I could slow down time. Not literally but seemingly.

Modern live with all of our new technology are meant to save us time but instead we have become obsessed with them and as a result life can simply pass us by as we stare at our phone screen or browse the www, I realise the irony of typing this while sitting at a laptop but these new shiny gadgets are exciting and fill us with moments of entertainment. In my experience this enjoyment is fleeting and eventually lead me to questions like; What else could I be doing with my time that is more productive and meaningful.

I am not entirely sure that it has to be like this so I’ve come up with some new approaches which I am going to try and integrate into my daily life.

For this slow life to work I am going to have to take the time to enjoy my mornings, get up an hour earlier and sit with my own thoughts and have some breakfast and coffee. Too long have I woke up, run into the shower and then right out the door with toast in my hand. I’ll have to be in the moment and mindful instead of letting my mind wander off worrying about work and what I don’t have or what I do have. I’ll get back out running and into the outdoors to just be and enjoy everything the world would have to offer if all of the gadgets and conveniences were to disappear.

This is a decision I am taking and I am sure it’ll lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. Not that I am not happy but I reckon I could be even happier if I follow these simple steps.

The plan

1. Clear the diary. It’s in my nature to want to be busy, I get bored easily but I am going to make a choice to cut out a lot of activities that I used to do. I don’t mean catching up with Friends and Family, I mean looking at my phone, watching television or looking at the internet. I’ll focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest.

2. Be in the moment. By this I mean pay attention to what you are doing, I often eat lunch and realise afterwards that I haven’t even tasted any of it, i’ve been that distracted by work or checking the news online. From now on I’ll stop to have a quiet moment in the day to enjoy what I am doing at present. Focus on your actions, on your environment, on others around you. This will take practice but I reckon it’s vital.

3. Turn the phones etc OFF It’s simple, switch your phone or laptop off and don’t wonder if anyones been in touch, you deserve a break from it at points in the day.

4. Focus on people. I was at the pub with some mates, there was 5 of us, I looked around the table and not one of them were having a discussion. Instead they were playing games and on social media. What is going on??? If you are with a Friend or Family member surely you are there to see them? I’m going to stop and pay more attention, simply visiting someone is not enough if you can’t genuinely spare some time to pay attention to them.

5. Appreciate nature. There’s nothing more grounding than sitting in a forest or walking on a beach to make you realise that you are only an mammal on this earth. You might think that you control life and that we rule the world but in actual fact we are only here at Mother natures mercy. It’s really soul affirming to spend sometime getting back to nature.

6. Eat slower. Instead of cramming food down our throats as quickly as possible — leading to overeating and a lack of enjoyment of our food — learn to eat slowly. This is something I am definitely going to struggle with!

7. Find pleasure in anything. Whether it’s the housework or washing the car, try and find something enjoyable in what you are doing. Nobody likes to do the ironing or hoover the car out but why not do it with someone and make it fun, yes you are doing a task or chore but if you’re doing it with someone then it’ll be more fun.

8. Breathe. When you can feel that your blood pressure is rising and that you are getting slightly frantic, take a deep breathe and remember that most things in life are actually pretty trivial and often not as bad as they might seem.

Good luck!

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The Maggie’s to Maggie’s Challenge


When a Friend of mines, Alan Kennedy (who just finished his first ever Ironman! Congrats) asked me to speak at his new cycling themed cafe in Glasgow on Great Western Road I of course said yes.

It was only after I said yes that a thought struck me, what am I going to talk about?

In the past i’ve always spoken about my previous runs, there have been a few but this time I wanted it to be different.

I’ve been the Community Fundraiser at Maggie’s Cancer Care for just over 12 months and in that time I’ve learnt so much and met so many incredible people. I want to focus on this when I do my talk at Surface+ Cafe but also since all my previous talks have had a running story to tell I need something new to talk about.

On that note, I’ve decided to undertake a Maggie’s to Maggie’s Challenge, we have had several people who have cycled between Maggie’s centres in the UK but I’m a runner so I’ll do this on foot.

The plan is to run between the following places…

Edinburgh to Glasgow to Dundee to Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh

The distance is roughly 225 miles and I’ll aim to do the challenge in 4 days meaning a distance of around 57 miles each day.

I’ve not run an ultra since April 2012 and my training has been up and down since then but that’s because I now have a job which I love and it keeps me busy.

There comes a time though when my love of running screams out to me and this is one of those times.

You can donate to my page by clicking HERE


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I am running again!

I got my running mojo back!

I ran the Highland Fling Ultra in April 2012 and since them I haven’t run another race, I made this decision on purpose, in three years I ran nearly 9,000 miles and when my body and mind decided it needed a rest I had to oblige.
It is with great delight that I have started running again and have a load of exciting races planned for 2013, the sad part is that whilst I used to be able to string together 6 minutes miles on road now I am struggling to piece together 7min 30sec miles, this will improve though, I am sure.

Despite this I have given a new approach to my running, no longer will I strap my garmin to my wrist and hold it close like it’s some priceless piece of kit, no longer will I worry about what my resting hear rate is and even more boring that that, my VO2 Max levels, this wasn’t why I started running back in 2008, I started to stop smoking, get a sense of what I was about and to see new places whilst meeting new people.

So in 2013 that’s exactly what I am going to do, I have signed up to several races that I have never done before, it starts in March with the Endurance Life ultra in Northumberland, it’s part of their great Coastal Trail Series, it’ll be refreshing for me to do a set of new races which prevents things from going stale.

I will return to the Highland Fling in April for one reason, it’s the best race I have ever taken part in, a great day out and truly challenging.

Then I will take huge pride in running the Paris Marathon with my Girlfriend, she hasn’t run a marathon before so it’s going to be a special trip for us both as we are staying together for the entire run.

In May I get to enter Maggie’s monster bike and hike with my colleagues at Maggie’s, this will be another special event for me.

What does everyone else have one for running this year and has anyone else decided to take a break from running? I’d be interested to hear what your plans are for 2013

I have a list of all 2013’s challenges on my personal website, feel free to check the events out – CLICK HERE

All the best


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Homemade Energy Bars

Back in April I decided to make my own energy bars for the Highland Fling Ultra.

They were amazing and since then I have been asked to share the recipe by a lot of people, so here it is.
Peanut Butter, honey, oat bars


Peanut Butter, runny honey, dried fruit (I used cranberries), oats, pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts.


1. Pour as much peanut butter as you want into a bowl, make sure you know how much you have poured in.

2. Pour in half that amount of honey.

3. Heat in a microwave for 30 seconds or until the peanut butter is soft, it shouldn’t be bubbling just softer so you can mix it.

4. Mix both together and add your hazelnuts, dried fruit and oats. Amount isn’t important, just mess around until it’s a good consistency.

5. Someone said I should have added Chocolate chips, I wish I had so i’ll try that next time.

6. Lay the mixture out on a baking tray which is about at least an inch deep and stick it in the fridge.

7. Remove from fridge after about an hour and slice into portions

Enjoy! Simple and they taste amazing, they lasted well on my 10hr run, they didn’t melt and kept me fueled for the entire race.

At the end of the race, delighted with our time

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