NOT so long ago, Mark Houston was struggling to run for a bus.
Now he is training flat out for a marathon challenge which is sure to push his fitness to the limit.
Mark, who lives in Barrhead, has helped to inaugurate the 5x50 challenge, which will see participants from far and wide complete five kilometres – any way they want – for 50 consecutive days.
The challenge starts on Sunday, September 9, and runs until Sunday, October 28, and Mark is confident of going the distance.
He told the Paisley Daily Express: “I was really struggling for fitness at the tail end of last year and knew I had to do something about it.
“I literally tried to run for a bus one day and almost conked out. That was the moment that changed my life.
“I started working out in the gym, running on the treadmill, etc, but it wasn’t until someone suggested running on the streets that things really took off.
“I found that so much more enjoyable. You get the opportunity to take in all of your surroundings in the fresh air. It certainly beats working out in a smelly gym.”
Mark, who originally hails from Johnstone, completed his first 10k race in a speedy time of 41 minutes.
“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “Someone had told me it was a really good time but, up until then, I didn’t have a clue about good or bad times.”
Mark, who works in business support at Glasgow City Council, then started running with his office colleagues and one of them came up with the idea of hitting the streets every day for a month.
“That soon morphed into 50 consecutive days because 5k for 50 days had a real ring to it,” said Mark.
The 5x50 event was born and now the challenge is for people to sign up and run, jog, walk or cycle 5km a day for 50 continuous days.
Mark, 45, said: “Although the challenge is part of the Commonwealth Games legacy in Scotland, its focus is far-reaching.
“Challengers across the globe are supported by an online community that will help bring everyone – from couch potatoes to marathon runners – together to achieve a healthier and happier lifestyle way beyond the 50 days.”
Throughout the challenge, the 5x50 core team will motivate participants by sharing their stories, training tips and bringing them together for their daily 5k.
Record-breaking long-distance cyclist Mark Beaumont is already on board, as is Dr Andrew Murray, who is the Scottish Government’s Physical Activity Champion.
The latest celebrity to sign up for the challenge is Pop Idol singer Michelle McManus, who sees the 5x50 event as the ideal motivation to lose weight and get fitter.
Co-founder Kelly Mason said: “This challenge started with a vision to make sport part of everyone’s daily life.
“Not everyone will run a marathon or complete the Tour de France but anyone can complete the 5x50 challenge and experience the physical and psychological benefits that come from taking part.”
Mark admits to being amazed by the manner in which his life has been transformed since he was bitten by the exercise bug.
He said: “I never thought for a moment that I would one day enjoy pounding the streets and doing it for 50 consecutive days would have been unthinkable in November last year – especially when I struggled to catch that bus!”
Organisers of the 5x50 challenge have also linked up with Sport Relief bosses to raise cash for charity.
A registration fee of £5 is required to take part and this cash will go towards supporting the 5x50 challenge’s charity partner.
After registering for the event, participants will also have the option to raise funds for a charity of their choice.
For further details on how to sign up for the challenge and more information on the event, log on to www.5x50.co.uk