This is a story that will not only inspire you but blow your mind. It’s about a man in his 50’s who felt that he hadn’t fulfilled his potential as a young athlete and wanted to come back and achieve what he’d missed….30 years later. It’s an incredible journey about talent and dedication leading to world-class success. Mark is now the fastest GB sprint tri-athlete and in top 10 in the world. But the story hasn’t finished yet….he has ambitions to go beyond his age category (55-59) and bring back a medal for GB in the World Championships.
Mark is originally from Stalybridge and now lives in Prestbury. As a youngster, football was his first love and he enjoyed success as a junior, as school captain and being selected for trials for Manchester City. He’s still a proud Blue!
After football, there was a void of sport in his life. “In my early twenties I didn’t do much sport and then in my late twenties I was persuaded by work colleagues, Ian and Andy, to do the Blackpool 10k. I thought I could do that easily but in reality was a shock to the system. Everyone enjoyed it, with Ian and Andy finishing in 40 minutes and me in 41 minutes.” After that race, Mark’s competitive spirit took over and he started to run with his colleagues ….of course, he beat them in the next race!
Doing a combination of gym and jogging, his running rapidly improved and he, Andy and Ian decided to join Wilmslow Running Club. Over the 12 months from his first race, his 10k time reduced from 41 minutes to 33 minutes.
In 1997, at the age of 37, he did his first marathon, which was London, and finished in 2.57. During this period in his running career, he was training 3 times a week with Tuesday intervals, Thursday tempo run and a weekend long run.
After a couple of seasons with Wilmslow Running Club, he was running for Cheshire in both road races and cross country, alongside Bill Heaton, Tom McGaff, Malcolm Fowler and Nick Bishop.
After 10 years of successful running, he fell out of love with the training regime. He continued to keep fit but in a much more relaxed way.
This all changed six years ago at the age of 52, when he decided to get going again. “I knew I had a talent and I didn’t want life to pass without seeing what I was capable of, so I started to get back into training.” After a couple of years with a more structured approach to training, he completed his first triathlon, from Wilmslow Leisure Centre. “I had no expectations and took a very relaxed approach. I did well and I enjoyed it, so two weeks later I competed again, this time at Chatsworth House. I had a better result and knew I was hooked. By that time, it was the end of the year’s season, so I took the plunge and entered an Iron Man the following January. I had 6 months to train for the July event in Bolton.”
Mark taught himself all he needed to know about training techniques and equipment, especially bikes. This, combined with intensive training, saw his potential develop quickly. He completed the Bolton Iron Man in 11 hours and 42 minutes, winning his age group. His success resulted in an invitation to the Iron Man World Championships in Hawaii, taking place in pleasant October weather. “I can’t describe the feeling of looking down Ali’i in Kona, Hawaii, at 5am at hundreds of triathletes gathering. It was a spectacle I’ll never forget. “
He had a great performance and finished 30th but was determined to improve and be back in Hawaii the following year. Unfortunately, his ambition was put on hold when he had a serious cycling accident the following January. He broke his collar bone in two places, which required a metal plate to support it. “I was back training within eight weeks but I had issues with my shoulder. I realised that competing at the highest level in an Iron Man was going to be especially difficult with this injury.”
On his remarkable road to recovery, Mark took part in the Llandudno sprint-triathlon to test his fitness. He won his age group V50. “I met a guy who represented GB and he encouraged me to enter a GB qualifying race for the Sprint Distance Triathlon World Championships. I won my age group and qualified to go to the world championships in Rotterdam in 2018. Around this time, the metalwork in my shoulder was hindering me, so I had it removed.”
Mark competed in a number of sprint triathlons in quick succession, winning his age group consistently and qualifying for Australia World Championships – Sprint in 2018. There he was second for GB and 25 in the World.
On return from Australia, he won his age group at St Neots and qualified for the European championships in Holland in May 2019, where he was 17th overall.
His next challenge was the World Championships in Lausanne in August, where he finished 4th GB and 2nd in his age category.
“In between, I’ve been competing in races to qualify for The World Championships in Canada and the European Championships in Sweden in August 2020.
My ambition is to come home with a medal and with the right coaching and training, I believe I can do it”
So what does a typical training week look like for Mark?
AM 5k or 10k run
PM gym for stretching and weights
AM bike session (indoors in winter)
PM bike session
AM swim (1.5m)
PM swim (1.5m)
AM run (or swap with pm)
AM swim (0.5m)
Long run (6 to 13 miles)
AM long bike ride (60 to 70 miles)
This is whilst running his own contract business for high-end domestic interiors and refurbishments. “It takes an obsessive personality and a lot of discipline to do this for weeks, months and years on end.”
He performs best at running, then bike, then swimming.
This amount of training also needs to be supported by lots of stretching, physio and massage.
In addition to training, sleep and recovery is very important. Mark goes to bed early and sleeps for 8 to 9 hours a night and then gets up early for his first training session.
Mark is also very diet aware and whilst conscious to take in enough calories for this volume of training, they have to be quality calories. Fruit, veg and fish are high on the list. He’s careful to take magnesium in tablet, oil form and in the bath.
He’s maintained a weight of 11 stone, although his body shape has changed through triathlon to be more muscular than running alone.
He loves his gear….cycling on a Pinarello Dogma, running in Nike Vaporfly shoes and swimming in a Hub wetsuit.
His best advice to others:
- Train and compete with better athletes
- Stick it out and you’ll get rewarded
- Don’t be intimidated by people who are better than you
To date, Mark has been self-taught and self-coached and motivated himself on this incredible journey. “My motivation and my goal is to be in the top 10 in the world. I believe that I still have another 10 to 15% in me, which is enough to achieve my goal.” In order to do that Mark is going to engage a professional coach, who will target him not just on the top 10 but the top 3 in the world. Determined to dig deep to realise his full potential and prove his talent to himself and others he’s competed with throughout his sporting career.
We have 100% confidence in him and wish him all the best…we’ll keep you posted!
A 4 year track record of WINNING an event twice per year, every year.
• 9th – Wilmslow – Sprint
• 3rd – Chatsworth – Sprint
• 1st – Llandudno – Sprint
• 5th – Rhyl – Sprint
• 1st – Leeds – Sprint
• 3rd – Eiras – Standard
• Manchester Marathon
• 1st – Bolton Iron Man
• 1st – Leeds – Sprint
• 30th – World Championship Iron Man Kona
• 1st – Salford – Sprint
• 1st – Castle Howard – Sprint Plus
• 1st – Leeds – Sprint
• Redcar Qualifier – Sprint
• Broke collar bone 2 places
• 21st – World Championships Rotterdam – GBR Grand Final
• 2nd – Eaton – ITU Sprint Qualifier
• 1st – Leeds – ITU Qualifier
• 1st – Cardiff – ITU Qualifier
• 1st – Castle Howard – Sprint Plus (age group 55-59)
• 1st – Castle Howard – Sprint Plus (age group 50-54)
• 2nd GBR Australia World Championships – Sprint (TOP 25 in World)
• 17th ETU Triathlon European Championships – Holland
• 4th GBR – 23rd overall at ITU Worlds – Lausanne