Cooped-up in Hong Kong: Runner Completes Indoor Marathon to Honor his Mum
When stay-at-home orders halted everything from school to sports to travel, Garmin athletes around the world have found inventive ways to keep moving. Peter Cooper caught our attention for knocking out an indoor marathon in a tight spot. Just goes to prove big dreams don’t need big spaces to come true.
Peter, we applaud your perseverance — 5,250 laps inside a tiny Hong Kong flat to complete a marathon is hard to imagine. What inspired you to pull off this feat?
In 2017 and 2018, I really struggled with my mental wellness after losing my Mum. What I knew helped me, was talking about things. When COVID-19 struck, I knew people would struggle with the isolation, and I wanted to inspire people to show that anything is possible while also promoting the importance of talking. I was already marathon fit as I was planning to run the Hong Kong and Tokyo Marathons in February and March, but both were cancelled due to COVID-19, so this was a good opportunity to use my fitness while trying to help inspire people who may be struggling.
Can you share why the two charities you fundraised for, Mind and Cardiomyopathy UK, are important to you personally?
Cardiomyopathy UK: I do all my challenges now in memory of my mother, Marilyn, who sadly died of a heart attack in 2016, shortly after running a half marathon. It was likely she had arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, or ARVC, which is a type of cardiomyopathy that affects how blood is pumped around the heart and causes abnormal heart rhythms. I’ve undergone tests for ARVC myself. And when I was declared fit to run, I was determined to raise awareness of this heart condition. Since November 2018, I have undertaken other endurance events including the New York, London and Chicago marathons – as well as an Ironman – and now the indoor marathon in my 8 meter-long flat. I also hope to complete the Tokyo Marathon next year, which will be the last of the majors in memory of my Mum.
I have struggled over the last two years, since the passing of my mother Marilyn. She was a keen runner and triathlete, who was hoping to complete all six major marathons, before sadly passing away unexpectedly. I wanted to do something positive in her memory by helping Cardiomyopathy UK to keep supporting those living with the disease and raising awareness of symptoms. I want to help other people and their families going through a similar situation.
Mind: I have struggled with my mental health over the last two years, since the passing of my mother Marilyn. These running challenges have helped me deal with a tough time in my life and I wanted to raise awareness of how exercise can help your mental health, particularly when globally we’re all inside and could be finding it hard to keep darker thoughts at bay. I wanted to do something positive to help amazing charities, like Mind, keep going and be able to help others.
We think anyone who runs for a good cause has a big heart, and for you, that’s also true in a physical sense. Do you have to follow any special precautions due to your enlarged right ventricle?
Yes, for 18 months in total, I was not allowed to run or do any exercise. This honestly made me feel so down and it all ties in with the depression I experienced. Now when I run, I constantly have to wear a heart rate monitor and watch my HR. Garmin is so great for this because I can look down constantly at my watch to see my heart rate or set alerts for this. In January, while training for the Tokyo Marathon, I aimed to do 20 miles at race pace. After just 12 miles, I had to stop as my heart rate was far too high. Although I have been signed off now from the condition, I still need to be sensible and stop when I feel things get too much for me. This hurts, especially because I am trying to do a sub 3-hour marathon so I can qualify for Boston!
Do you have to keep your heart rate in a certain range for your runs?
Yes, I try to remain in zone 2 for most of my runs and will go into zone 3 occasionally. For speed work, I sometimes have to hold back due to this. It can be a challenge when you are competitive 😉.
Which Forerunner watch did you use for your marathon in quarantine?
I used the Forerunner 735XT. It is my go-to watch as the battery life is great, and it also works for swimming and triathlons, which I do often. It’s also nice and light, which is important when running in the Hong Kong heat!
Outside a blister or two, what was the biggest challenge?
Running for 4 hours 39 minutes and 1 second staring at the same wall and turning every 8 seconds or so….it’s safe to say I was very dizzy, something I never thought I would struggle from while running.
Did your wife set up an aid station and finish line for you? What about a medal?
As it was a bit of a last-minute decision to run the marathon, we didn’t have an aid station set up, just a water bottle with two Kinetica energy gels, luckily I could grab these easily as the room is only an arm’s length away! After 13 miles or so, my wife Amy was running around filling up water bottles, passing me flapjacks to keep me going. She was a star.
A week later, we had a knock of the door, no one was there, as we couldn’t see anyone while in quarantine, but there was a medal on the floor – specially made. Amy had friend of ours get one specially made, along with my Mum’s Boston Marathon medal and Berlin Marathon medal which I ran with my her. This is now one of the most special medals I have. Big shout-out to Amy for being AMAZING!
Any advice for other runners who can’t get outside but need to release some energy?
If you are feeling down, demotivated or lost for inspiration, stand up and jog on the spot, do a 10 minute home workout. It is amazing what exercise does for your mind. I am sure it will help you.
If you just need to release some energy because like me, you are hyperactive, you could always try and run a 5k in your house. You never know, it may turn into a marathon or even an ultra! Alternatively, run up and down your stairs if you have them, maybe climb Everest without the altitude.
What’s the next race for you?
When my quarantine was over, I attempted to run an ultra-marathon across the entire Hong Kong trail. I have never run an ultra before or on trails so this was a double challenge. I had to stop after 40 km which is fine. It was only a week after my indoor marathon. My next official race is a 3-island, 31 km race. You get a ferry ride to each island, then run to the highest point on each island. It should be great fun! I am training hard now for Tokyo Marathon next March, where I aim to get a Boston qualifier. This is my target race.
Finally, how much did you raise for the charities? Can people still donate?
I am currently at 6,022 GBP in total. That’s 4,801 GBP with Cardiomyopathy UK across all my challenges and 1,221 for MIND. And yes, people can still donate! Please do, as it will help support two excellent charities who really need help at the moment.
The links are: Cardiomyopathy – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peter-cooper24
Mind – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/peter-cooper32