The Man (of Steel) behind the jokes…

For the second of our members’ blogs we hear from our inspiring 2023 Man of of Steel, Mark Brown, with an honest account of his running journey over time.

Mark Brown, is known to many of us for his impressive running (across all distances), his regular jokes, for the support he gives to the club and its members (by leading runs, helping with Couch to 5km & general encouragement) and lastly for that infamous “do something surprising” Taskmaster challenge run… (if you know, you know..)

We want to thank Mark for the time, honesty and thought he has put into answering these questions. As with Virginie’s blog, we are sure this will inspire in many ways that go beyond running.

Tell us about your journey into running….

I haven’t always been into running, to be honest when I was at school PE was definitely at the bottom of my favourite lessons list. Most of my PE reports usually consisted of “PE is not Mark’s forté“, “PE and Mark do not mix” and my favourite “I shall be very surprised to see Mark’s name and sport in the same sentence“.

It wasn’t until I joined the Royal Air Force that I took an interest in running and even then it wasn’t straight away. At basic training I was told that I had to run 1.5 miles in under 10 and a half minutes, they might as well have told me to run a marathon because that’s what it felt like when I finished it! It wasn’t until I got to my first RAF base in Cornwall that I really started to enjoy running, mainly because I actually chose to do it rather than being told that I had to. One thing led to another and I was chosen to run for my base.

Fast forward to after I left the RAF, I moved back to Portland and joined Royal Manor of Portland Athletics Club, who I ran with for over 20 years! Mainly competing in road races, my first marathon being London, but not until 2009. Things were progressing nicely with early 2015 PBs in both marathon and half marathon distance, then it all went downhill. In July 2015 I went to work as usual as a prison officer, there was an incident, nothing out of the ordinary, but it caused me to have a complete mental breakdown. Twenty two years of the job had finally caught up with me and to cut a long story short I decided to leave the service and try to rescue my now frazzled head. 

Unfortunately the breakdown meant that I didn’t want to do anything, running included, so I didn’t run for around a year and a half! Eventually I decided it was time to get the trainers back on and entered the Portland Coastal Marathon (my first trail marathon). Friends of mine had other ideas and I ended up entering the Endurancelife Lulworth Coastal Marathon which was three months before Portland Coastal, a lot hillier and a lot muddier… that was where my love of trail running began!

In June 2019 I moved to Dorchester after my marriage broke up, my mental health being the main reason for this. I now feel comfortable talking about this although at the time I was in complete denial. Not long after moving to Dorchester I joined RIOT, I had seen a couple of runners sporting the RIOT colours at a previous race and had heard great things about them so thought I’d see what it was all about! I started out on a Thursday night, the first couple of weeks running with Stamina then was “advised” that maybe I would like to try Speed, well what can I say, that was it. and I suppose the rest is history. Although I still road run I have to say that my heart is all for the trail and thankfully I have found like minded people to share my passion (more about them later)!

What does running mean to you?

Running has been a life saver for me (literally)! Since having my breakdown and the PTSD that it “kindly” left me with, I have used my running as an escape, an escape from the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough and an escape from the sleepless nights and flashbacks (thankfully not as many now). The trail and hills are my happy place, be it whether it’s wet or dry, I absolutely love them! 

What are your biggest running highlights to date?

This is a tough one!  There have been so many, especially since joining RIOT! I suppose moving from running marathon distance to ultra distance and completing a 53 mile race and placing second. It’s also always a highlight seeing runners starting their journey on the C25k course, graduating then running with RIOT.

What are your running aspirations for the year ahead?

The big one I suppose is the Jurassic Extinction Ultra in June. This will be my longest run to date at 120 miles along the Jurassic coast (I might have mentioned it a couple of times over the last year).  I said “to date” as I have a funny feeling that this won’t be my last of my ultra adventures, especially if those “like minded people” that I spoke about have anything to do with it… you know who you are (one in particular)!

What do you enjoy most about running RIOT?

EVERYTHING!! It’s like an extended family!!

Quick-fire Questions!

Favourite running shoe: The one I’m wearing at the time.

Road or trail? Trail, all day!

Favourite running distance: Ultra distance

Favourite post run snack: One of Virginie’s lovely pastries (when available)!

Favourite place to run: Portland Coastal Path

Weirdest item you’ve run in: Just my heart rate monitor on its own (not that weird)!

Favourite event: Dorset Hillfort Ultra Marathon

Favourite RIOT challenge: Festive 24, I moan about this for weeks after saying it’s “done my legs in” but it’s still a great challenge.

Thank you again to Mark for being so open with us, we hope you all enjoyed learning more about our new Man of Steel. Though, I don’t know about you… running with just a heart-rate monitor is definitely bordering on “interesting” running attire….

We hope to have more members blogs and welcome ideas and suggestions. If you want to write up a blog on an event or your running journey please get in touch with us! From your journey to 5k to half marathon, marathon and more – all your achievements will inspire others!