Finding your ‘why’ as a marathon runner

Published on
December 11, 2023
It will inspire you even on the toughest training days

When you tell people you are running a marathon, the question you usually get asked is, what time are you aiming for? Or, what charity are you running for? When actually people should be asking, why are you running a marathon?

We asked Coopah co-founder Pete Cooper what keeps him going when training gets tough. Pete has taken on a number of events, from the Abbott World Marathon Majors to completing a marathon is his living room during lockdown. 

In 2020 he co-founded Coopah, which is the official training app of the London Marathon. Pete started the app - along with Dan Strang and Paul Henry - after he lost his mother to a heart attack, and running became his therapy.

If someone asked me, ‘What time are you aiming for?’ my anxiety would spike and I would not enjoy the event as much as I could have. It took me a number of years to rediscover my love for running, but that changed when I took some time to discover my why.

For me, running has always been a medicine. It helps me feel connected to my loved ones who are no longer around and it helps me to stay active. Most importantly, it is my medicine for my depression, anxiety and OCD.

Next time someone asks you, ‘What time are you aiming for?’ reply with your why, because everyone has one. And if you haven't thought about it yet, the stories I am going to share with you are something to consider on your next long run.

Your why could be running to raise awareness 

Coopah member Amy Ashdown told me she would never run a marathon, but that changed in 2023 when a freak accident left her Dad with a spinal-cord injury.

Amy said if her Dad can walk unsupported after being told he was paralysed and might never walk again, then she can do hard things too, and for her, running a marathon is that hard thing. She will run the 2024 TCS London Marathon for the Spinal Injury Association. When training gets tough, this is her why.

Your why could be running to keep alive the memory of someone you’ve lost

This one I can really relate to. I lost my Mum and best mate, Will, within six months of each other in 2016. I ran my second marathon with my Mum and my third with Will, so I feel connected to them. There are people who would love to run a marathon, so this why is very much on my mind, as well as being able to run for those who can’t - because one day I won’t be able to.

Running has kept me going. It’s my coping mechanism when times get tough and if I feel in the dark, which happens often. A good long run can really help me. I often cry on these runs because it makes me feel close to two people I can no longer chat to, but when I run it's like they are there for me.

Your why could be running to smash a new PB

Coopah has two sub four-minute mile runners in the team. Roger Bannister told The Associated Press in 2012 that more people had climbed Everest than those who have broken the four-minute mile.

So when it comes to running for a time, Coopah’s James Thie and Tom Lancashire know what this is about. For them, it’s the competition. It is about testing your body to be the best it can be. It is about getting their personal bests. Their why is to turn up to training to push their body to achieve their full potential.

Your why could be running to keep your mind and body fit

Running is an escape. You put your trainers on and get out the door. You can run a short or long distance as fast or slow as you want. You can listen to music or take in the sounds around you. Running releases endorphins, which can’t be topped. 

If running for your mental health is your why, tell people - perhaps it will make others feel that they can go for a run or walk. You never know, you might change someone’s life.

Your why could be running to find your community 

Running is a great way to meet new people and get involved with your local community, and whatever your why, there is a club for you.

Initially, I started Coopah as a mental health running club. I wanted to bring people together who didn’t feel confident enough to go to a club and wanted to run without judgement. Coopah now has the Refugee Run Club, where refugees join an eight-week coaching programme.

If you're looking to improve your running, your local club is a great place. If you're looking to combine exercise and volunteering, GoodGym is a fantastic option where you can help your local community and running is just running - with no pace discussed.

Your why could be that running is the ultimate pay-off 

Don’t be afraid to tell people you love running, and that is your why.

You might want to high-five as many people en route, you might want to enjoy every step of the closed roads, or maybe you want to show off the medal for days, weeks, or even months after your event.

You are running for you. Don’t worry about your time or what others have done. You are doing something incredible, which is something to be proud of.

We’ve teamed up with the experts at Coopah to create training plans that are fully personalised for you and only you, helping you reach your PB goals. If you're ready to get started, download the Coopah app now.


We're here to make sure no one facing a mental health problem has to go through it alone. People with mental health problems depend on us. We need you to help everyone get the support they deserve.

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