Name: Mark Bissett
Occupation: Retired Police Officer
Home Town: Bewdley, Worcestershire
What is your running background?
I’ve always loved running and sport. As a young boy I would go running for fun. I didn’t have much natural talent, but as the saying goes – ‘Hard work will always overcome natural talent, when natural talent does not work hard enough’.
Some of my early running memories include running with Dad preparing for his Annual Army Fitness Test and cross country at boarding school.
My desire to cover long distances on foot was evident from an early age and at 16, I completed a self- supported 200 mile hike with a couple of friends, raising money for Cancer Relief.
I ran my first road marathon at the age of 17 and I remember buying my first pair of proper running shoes for the race – a pair of Hi-Tec Silver Shadow’s!
I joined the Police at the age of 19 and started playing senior club rugby at a decent level. This was my main sporting focus for the next 30 years, as a player and latterly as a coach. During this time, I also maintained a good level of participation in running, completing various road races and mountain marathons.
In 2015, after 31 years of service, I retired from the Police and also stood-down from my involvement in rugby.
Ultra running then became my new ‘hobby’.
When did you first start running Ultra marathons and why?
I played my last game of rugby at the age of 49, so I sought to fill the void by taking running more seriously.
Running long and slow seemed the perfect sport for an ageing sportsman.
I ran my first ultra marathon in March 2014 – 40 miles across Staffordshire.
When or where (at which events) are we most likely to see you?
Anything from a Canal Race, to London Marathon to UTMB.
I prefer the trails and mountains and I do most of my training with Patrick, my Fox Terrier ��
This year I’ve completed the Summer Spine Race and I’ll be running UTMB in August.
I also love running overseas. My youngest son David now lives in Los Angeles, so my name could soon be in the ballots for Western States and Badwater 135, two races on my ‘bucket list’ and fairly close to him.
What are your personal key running achievements to date?
- Spartathlon 2019 – 35:35:03
- Lakeland 100 2016 – 26:52:08
- 7 Canal Race finishes, including the Canalslam 2018
- Summer Spine Race 2022 – 114 hrs
What was your hardest experience?
King Offas Dyke Race 2016, 185 miles Chepstow to Prestatyn in 85 hrs – a blistered death march to the finish.
I also suffered at the Gloucester and Battersea (Tooting Bec) 24 hour track races in 2020/2021.
What is your typical race strategy for an ultra?
Trust in my training. I keep training diaries and I’ll often look through my preparation, just for some reassurance that I’ve done enough.
What does a typical training week look like?
20-25 hours of training per week, which consists of 50-80 miles of running, indoor cycling (Zwift), strength and conditioning and some yoga.
I’ll be 57 this October, so I’ve introduced more cross training into my regime, rather than thrashing myself running 100+ mile weeks.
What one tip would you pass onto people running an Ultra marathon for the first time?
Don’t faff at checkpoints!
Tell us one interesting fact about you?
I’m a Birder. I’ve enjoyed bird watching since I was a boy. We lived in Gibraltar for 4 years, which is on one of the world’s great migration routes. I’m told Run-Birding is a new thing, I might give it a go!
Have you taken part in the Spartathlon before?
Yes. I completed the race in 2019.
How did you get on?
35 hours 35:03 mins – only 24 minutes to spare!!
Where did you get your qualifier for Spartathlon:
What tip would you pass on to those taking part for the first time?
Mike Tyson once said – “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”.
So, keep moving forward and remain inside the cut-off’s, because things probably won’t go to plan
What are you looking forward to at the Spartathlon race?
The last few miles to the finish. The finish line in Sparta is like no other. It is epic, historic and magical – there are no words for how good you will feel.
I’m also looking forward to making new friends, seeing familiar faces again and being part of one of the most brilliant race weekends ever.
What are you not looking forward to during the Spartathlon race?
The prospect of chasing the cut-offs. When I completed the race in 2019, I came within 10 minutes at the 100 mile Mountain Base checkpoint. The last 53 miles skimming the cut-off times was stressful, but I managed to build a 30 minute cushion and it was a huge relief to finish inside 36 hours.
How will you prepare specifically for the Spartathlon race?
It’s been a great summer for heat adaptation, so I’ve made the most of the hot weather, both training and racing. When I ran Spartathlon in 2019, it was extremely hot, so I’m preparing for much of the same.
I completed the Summer Spine Race in June in very hot weather. In July, I threw in a 100 mile week whilst on holiday in Gibraltar and as I write this profile, I’m preparing to run UTMB in August.
Will you be bringing any support crew to the race? (If so, please introduce them briefly)
My wife Sue and our friend Adrian Duyn, from Kenmare, Ireland.