One Stirling man takes on the hills! We chat to Mark about his upcoming charity run, vegan diet and favourite Scottish trails.
Why did you decide to do the Fire & Ice Ultra? What motivates you?
I had completed a 65-mile race through the Alps in 24hrs (CCC), and I wanted to push myself harder and further. My first choice was to participate in the MDS (Sahara Desert race) which is also a multiday event. As I was sourcing this race and looking at more information on how to apply, the entry was not available at that time. The Fire and Ice race flashed up on a Facebook post and they were taking entries. I saw a comment that one previous competitor who had completed the MDS had participated in the Fire and Ice and quoted that it was ‘possibly harder than the MDS’. This was the selling point for me, so I entered.
Being motivated is all about self-discovery. Staying motivated at times is difficult but I do run trails and mountains around Scotland which helps to rejuvenate my motivation. This is paramount to my training plan pre-race. Motivation is intrinsic, it’s a built-in mechanism as failure will lead to a DNF (did not finish). I get my motivation when I run on the trails and I encounter people from all walks of life who stop and say hello, those who may struggle running 3 miles or walking 10 miles. They find the courage to complete their own personal goals.
Why is Erskine Hospital the charity you chose to support?
I was talking to my hair stylist Jeff one day and he was chatting about Erskine Hospital and how they looked after his dad. It made me think about how Erskine hasn’t really been in the limelight of recent years due to other charities. I visited the unit and met some of the residents who were former soldiers, sailors and airmen. It was a humbling experience which I empathise with, coming from a Forces background. I am ex-army, my father/ brother ex-navy and my grandad RAF.
What does your current training plan involve?
It mostly involves long runs back-to-back on sections of the West Highland Way and Ochil Hills, experimenting with various kit. Nutrition is important too. I’m experimenting with high calorific foods with minimal weight i.e. coconut oils, nuts and organic energy bars. Rest and recovery is also vital to my training and at times injury. I did have a setback in March regarding my tibia posterior ligaments. Luckily, through acupuncture, reiki, and expert advice from Matt Williamson at 'Physiofocus', I was able to recover and run 44 miles over the West Highland Way in 12hrs in a 6 week turnaround.
We see from Twitter that you’re a vegan. Has this diet changed your training and energy levels?
Yes, physically and psychologically. Eating meat and requiring it in your diet for protein is a myth. I have friends who run long distances and have eliminated red meat from their diet. They also feel more physically able in running and recover more quickly.
From a psychological and physiological prospective I know that my body can rely on plant proteins, oils and carbohydrates to sustain my energy levels to complete any race. As my body breaks down, I know I will get all I need from a plant-based diet to recover. I have everything I need without compromising my values and ethics. I completed the CCC (Mont-Blanc race) whilst being a vegetarian, and that included not consuming any gels/sweets with gelatine.
What are your running essentials when you’re on the hills?
What advice would you give to budding runners? And where in Scotland would you recommend?
As the saying goes ‘the last mile is the hardest.’ If you can run 1 mile then run 2, if you can run 10 miles then run 11. I heard a saying prior to my first 53 mile run in the peaks: if you can run 10 miles, then you can run anything. In essence this is true, as running is 70% psychological. Run with a friend and if you can’t run then walk, there is no shame in that! A mile is a mile regardless if it takes you 10 minutes or 20 minutes.
The West Highland Way is a good starting point for Scottish running – surround yourself with nice scenery! I started my long distance running in the Lomond Hills in Fife.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to personally thank Dave, Ian, and Andy at Tiso Stirling for their hard work and support. They have taken a genuine interest in my running over the years, listened to my theories and my moans and groans regarding conventional footwear! (I run in a minimal drop shoe.)