Ahead of his upcoming 50 mile challenge, Sperrin Harrier’s Public Relations Officer, Andrew Newell, caught up with Mark to gain an insight into what’s inspiring him to complete a 50 mile run around Cookstown.
Andrew: For most people, running 50 miles is a very daunting prospect. What’s your reason behind it?
Mark: I have a couple of reasons for wanting to run 50 miles. The first is in memory of my late father, Stanley, who took up running at the age of 60. He was a great man and a real inspiration to me and raised a lot of money for various charities until he took a stroke aged 69. The second reason is to raise money for The Hub BT80 who helped me through my depression and gave me the help and support I needed. If by me telling my story helps even 1 person to reach out and ask for help and support then it will be worthwhile.
Andrew: Could you tell us more about the Hub BT80?
Mark: As well as helping people with Mental Health issues they also have yoga and slimming world classes, aromatherapy, massage, reflexology and host Alzheimer’s carers support group and have rooms to hire for meetings.
Andrew: Would you like to talk about your own experiences when it comes to mental health?
Mark: In November 2019 I didn’t feel right and so went to the doctor who diagnosed me with having depression. It was a bit of a shock for me as I never thought I would ever get depression but it is a very common issue among people especially with Covid and lockdown restrictions. I was off work and not running and had no real interest in doing anything, even getting out of bed in the morning was a struggle. But for walking the dog, I would have been content just sitting in the house 24/7. As the weeks and months went by I knew I couldn’t continue with my life the way it was and so I decided to seek help. I messaged Carol Doey to find out if The Hub offered counselling for Mental Health/Depression. Thankfully they were able to give me the help and support I needed to get me through what was a very difficult period in my life. Paula Glasgow and Tanya Quinn, from Sperrin Harriers, were a great help in getting me back to my running. I can honestly say I am enjoying life again and ready to take on my 50 mile challenge.
Andrew: If anyone reading this was finding themselves in a difficult place, what would you say to them?
Mark: I would say to seek help and support from places such as The Hub BT80, which offers counselling services. You don’t have to try and get through it on your own, speak to someone and ask for help. I know there are probably a lot of people who are struggling to cope with the current situation, so please ask for help if you are finding things difficult.
Andrew: Back to the 50 miles, how have you set about training for such a long distance?
Mark: I have ran three 27 mile distances in preparation for my run. One each month in January, February and March and have been practicing taking gels and fluids on these. I have slowed my training run pace down and have been running with Sperrin Harriers club members Tanya, Paula and Gillian who have been a great help and support to me.
Andrew: Have you ever done anything like this before?
Mark: When I was 40 I ran from Portrush to Cookstown. Although that was 10 years ago, the experience will be of a great help to me on the day.
Andrew: You obviously have years of running experience, but are there any particular highlights when you look back over the years?
Mark: There are probably a lot of highlights for me over the years. One that stands out would be, back in 2001, when my late father organised a 100 mile relay run from Cookstown to Portrush and back for charity which we completed as a family. Although this was 20 years, I still remember it was a great achievement and a very proud day for us as a family. My own 40 mile run from Portrush to Cookstown was a personal achievement of mine. Another highlight is having completed the London Marathon 4 times as it’s such a great event and it’s not easy to get an entry. In addition, the amount of people I have met through running and the friendships I have made and being part of a great friendly club in Sperrin Harriers. It was a great honour and legacy for the club to have renamed the 5 mile race in memory of my late father, The Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic and winning the award for best 5 mile race at Spirit of Running Awards Gala Night, held in 2019.
Andrew: When it comes to doing the 50 mile challenge, what will you be relying on to get you through the distance?
Mark: Knowing that I am running 50 miles in memory of my late father will help get me through my run. I know he will be with me in spirit every step of the way. In addition, knowing that I am raising awareness regarding Mental Health issues and running for The Hub will be a great motivator. And of course the support I get from Sperrin Harriers will be a big help to me.
Andrew: As you’ve said, you are doing this to support the Hub in Cookstown, do you have a fundraising target in mind, and if people wish to donate, how can they do that?
Mark: I have a target of £ 1000. If people would like to donate I have a GoFundMe page and sponsor sheets.They can go to The Hub or Sperrin Harriers Facebook page and click on the link.
Andrew: I think it’s safe to say that everyone in Sperrin Harriers and the wider running community are behind you every step of the way.One last question, if the rules and regulations allow it, will the Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic be back this year?
Mark: Yes of course, as long as the restrictions are lifted and we can get the necessary approvals, then I would like to see the Stanley Reid Memorial 5 Mile Classic race back on this year.