WHY I RUN: PETE COOPER
BY Ben HookeRunning changed Pete Cooper’s life. This is why he runs, in his words:
“Running, for me, is so much more than a PB, a distance or even just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s a way of life but at times, a way to escape life.”“I started running at school as part of the dreaded cross country. Growing up on Dartmoor, it meant there was no flat route and we would be met with a huge hill just 400 metres in. Because of this, 90% of the kids would mess about and walk the majority of it which I think gave me a negative outlook on running. It wasn’t until my Mum started to really get into it that I thought running was cool.
My Mum was and still is my inspiration in life. Originally a horse rider with a claim to fame that she once rode at Wembley, she one day decided to run a half marathon in the local village, which started her love for running.
For years I could not understand why but it wasn’t until we travelled to Boston to watch her run the marathon that I soon learnt how she could be so into it. With the tens of thousands of supporters watching, this was the first time in my life I thought ‘Wow, this must be what it’s like to be a footballer.’
Thousands of people cheering you on and screaming your name. I was hooked.
Immediately after I asked Mum how I could support her on her six-star journey and run them with her. With that, we entered and travelled to Berlin together. Still though, I wasn’t interested in running, I was interested in race day and having people cheer me on.
Six months after the Berlin Marathon, Mum passed away from a heart attack. And my life was about to change suddenly.
Running stopped. Drinking and partying became the new norm as I was fighting the fact I had lost my Mum just days after my 23rd birthday.
Two months later, I found myself running Rotterdam Marathon with one of my best mates, Will. Will had just recovered from cancer and wanted to do Rotterdam because it’s where Aston Villa won the European Cup. I instantly said yes and was addicted to race day again but sadly struggled to pull through with running after race day - a common trait of mine.
A few months after Rotterdam, Will sadly passed away. This was where my running journey really began.
I was lost in life. I had too much ‘everything’. A great job in the city, a beautiful partner, a flat with her and I was travelling with work every week but I wasn’t happy. I was drinking too much, partying as much as I could and genuinely lost.
After being diagnosed with clinical depression, anxiety and OCD I got home and my wife told me to go for a run. I laced up my shoes, pulled on a finisher's t-shirt and went for a run. I was out for about an hour but probably only ran two or three miles. But life felt different. I felt I was connected to Mum and Will, I could talk to them, update them on what’s been going on and, most importantly, I felt free. From now on, I was going to run for those who couldn’t.
Since that day, I’ve used running in a range of ways. To find new beautiful places such as off the beaten track beaches, lakes and villages and also using running to travel.
Running has taken me all over and allowed me to experience some amazing life experiences from completing the six majors in memory of Mum, to running through the villages of Sierra Leone. During that marathon, I ran for just under 13 miles with school children who were wearing jeans and had no shoes on. Running really is for everyone and it’s important to remember that.
Today, I am obsessed with getting more people into running to feel the incredible effects of running. And for me personally, I like to just run and remember my why because one day, I won’t be able to but until then, I’ll appreciate every single step I take running.”