Mark Neeson embarks on seven marathons in seven days to ensure impoverished children have breakfast
Mark Neeson is training hard for the challenge of his life - running seven marathons in just seven days - all in honour of Magic Breakfast.
Magic Breakfast is a charity which ensures children from impoverished areas in the UK get the necessary fuel to set them up for the day in school.
Mark, who now calls Lisburn his home after moving here for work 12 years ago, like so many others had been placed on furlough due to the effects of the pandemic in April last year.
This was when he noticed weight beginning to creep on, having been used to working a physically demanding job.
‘‘I was previously in management with a food distribution company, but unfortunately due to the pandemic I was put out on furlough on 5 April last year.
‘‘Like a lot of people, at first I was rejoicing in the unusually glorious weather we were having and consumption was a lot less healthy than it should’ve been.
‘‘I managed to compound my ever increasing weight with binge-snacking and increased alcohol. It came to a head when I was preparing for a virtual GI Jive which my wife and I were doing for VE day celebrations.
‘‘My GI uniform would only just about fit, but definitely wasn’t the most comfortable to dance in.
"My wife and I are part of the amazing amateur formation dance team, known as Ballroom Blitz NI run by Deborah Woresley and Michelle Miles Cardwell, and would appear regularly for events such as Dalriada Festival, Armed Forces Day or other such events.
‘‘Dancing had become the only energetic thing I was doing, as you can imagine - having worked my way up the chain in warehousing, I went from being very physical to almost sedentary in energy expenditure, so weight gain was inevitable.
‘‘After a month on furlough, I decided to put myself on a restrictive calorie diet and began exercising.
‘‘I was satisfied with the progress but when I saw an ad from the The Sports Dietician, Alex Neilan, I signed up to his 12 week Sustainable Change Program.
‘‘Working with Alex and his team, I managed to lose three stone and two pounds in those 12 weeks. But I also gained so much more in terms of mindset coaching, behavioural change, reading and most importantly, nutrition.’’
When Mark heard that Alex wanted to put a team together for the South London Tough Mudder, a 5k or 10 mile cross country obstacle course, he got on board, alongside daughter Renee got on board ‘‘without hesitation.’’
Mark explains: ‘‘We were signed up for Tough Mudder when Alex challenged the team to come up with ideas to raise funds.
‘‘On my walk into work one morning I came up with the idea of the seven marathons in seven days and contacted Alex straight away.
‘‘Blown away, he immediately got to work on my training and nutrition programme.’’
Mark, who has been training with Alex virtually throughout lockdown, relished the opportunity to meet his trainer in person during the Tough Mudder challenge, in addition to ‘‘all the wonderful people in the Facebook group who are all incredibly supportive of each other.’’
From 16 - 22 August, Mark is completing the equivalent of one marathon per day for seven days - recording all of his daily epic runs on the Strava app to ensure he has reached the required distance. This is in spite of the fact Mark dislikes running and has never run a marathon in his life.
‘‘Magic Breakfast resonates with me as I have come to learn the importance of a healthy balanced diet and it all starts with breakfast.
‘‘Nutrition in the form of a balanced diet has massively helped me, to the point where I no longer need to take medication due to my high cholesterol.
‘‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day - this is not just lip service, Breakfast encourages healthier eating, balances blood sugar levels, it kickstarts your metabolism, boosts energy levels, promotes heart health and promotes cognitive ability.
‘‘This is what Magic Breakfast does, it ensures that our young people in disadvantaged areas of the UK get the best possible start to their day, which enables them the opportunity to be at their best from the start of the day.
‘‘This is why I am doing what I’m doing to help them raise funds to continue their service.
''I can confirm that I still do not like cardio and prefer resistance training,'' laughs Mark.
''I started running only eight weeks ago because of the challenge and am now up to 20miles.
''I have never run a marathon or anything like it in my life. This is in part why I chose this endurance test as my belief in a healthy balanced diet will help me get through the challenge, from ensuring I have enough fuel to not only complete the task but recover from the ensuing pain that is sure to come with each passing marathon.
''Again it’s not all down to simply eating my way to success, as Alex and his team have prepared a macro balanced nutrition plan, running programme, mobility workouts, dynamic warmups, cooldown, strength and conditioning workouts.
''Daily communication with my coach ensures all areas are kept up to date and adaptations made if and when required. On top of this I have been working with the incredible Tim Leggit from Advance Physio on the Longstone Road here in Lisburn.
''Tim has been providing face to face advice and treatment on my muscles and has just recently advised me that he will provide me with hands on treatment the week of the challenge, which is just amazing.
''As you can imagine with all the training, prepping food (3000 calories is a lot of prep), workouts, and physiotherapy - there is not a lot of spare time in my week, which is kind of tough as sometimes I just want to relax, sit down and watch a film.
"I am very blessed to be surrounding by incredibly supportive wife, daughter, friends and family. As I am virtually training on my own, this support is simply amazing and helps immensely in keeping me motivated to keep moving forward, so a huge thank you to everyone.
''Again the support form Alex and his team has been immense, so a huge debt of gratitude to Alex and his team at The Sports Dietitian.''
Mark adds: ''So if you can spare a little cash for this wonderful cause please do. It really can make a huge difference as just one pound can help ensure three children get the best possible start to their day.’’
Mark adds: ‘‘If you see me running along the Hilhall, Malone, or Lisburn Road - please give me a blast of your horn! I will take it as a sign of encouragement which could make all the difference in keeping me motivated and determined to keep moving forward.’’
To donate to Mark’s great cause, visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/mark-neeson2.