The Person Standing Here: Mark McDonald

When people look back at the person I use to be, they don’t recognize the person standing before them.  Often their expression will be …

“I don’t remember you ever being that big”, but I was…

Even looking back at times where I had lost weight and felt at my best, it doesn’t reflect the new person that stands before you all today.

It was the spring of 2005, I was an overweight smoker, and on the fast track to an early grave.  I was 23 years old and weighed 260 lbs and smoked a pack a day.  My eating habits were poor with little to no exercise.  My nephew had just been born 6 months prior, and I decided that I wanted to be around to see him grow up, and made the decision that changes had to be made.

distance runner, marathoner, running community

Mark McDonald pre-transformation.

The first step was to quit smoking, which I found success by going cold turkey.  I had tried other methods for quitting in the past, but nothing proved as effective.  When I had a craving for a cigarette, I would think of the wheezing that I would experience before I quit, and that was enough of an incentive not to go back.  I also utilized carrot and celery sticks to help fight the habit of always having something in your hand at key times during the day.

With the first of my troubles gone, it was now time to combat the weight loss.  I started going to the gym quite regularly, and took on a “fad” diet.  I dedicated myself to a very low carb diet, and managed to drop 60 pounds in a very quick amount of time.  Like most fad diets, it was not sustainable, and I quickly gained a lot of the weight back.  By this time, I was enjoying going to the gym, and was able to stick with the exercise.  I was also able to reduce my calorie intake by eating less during this period, and was able to get a lot of the weight back off.  My exercise routine consisted of stationary bike, elliptical and treadmill running of no more than a few minutes.

I was determined to run further on the treadmill.  I started at 3 minutes and worked my way up to 30 minutes.  From there, I started running outside and worked my way up to 10km.  In the spring of 2007 I was introduced to Canada Running Series and signed up for my first 10km race.  Throughout the summer, I excelled quickly with a 16 km race and a half-marathon in the fall.  I had accomplished a lot, and the running really helped keep any weight gain in-check.

In 2008, I made the decision to step outside my comfort zone and joined a running group.  It has been the greatest experience of life, and I feel I owe my life to the running community.  It was through this network of people that I learned about nutrition and paces during a run.  I purchased a Garmin so I could determine if I was getting faster.  I went from pupil to teacher, instructing both a half-marathon and marathon clinics to be able to share and motivate others with my experiences.

These series of events would eventually lead me into Triathlons, once again pushing myself out of my comfort zone to try something different, which has led to completing 3 Full Ironmans.  In 2015 I joined Lifetime Fitness, and once again became passionate about trying new things.  I’m lifting more weights, doing more classes, and ‘soaking up’ all the club has to offer.

There is still plenty of goals that I still wish to accomplish, from qualifying for Boston, to running an Ultra Marathon.  I’m confident that today…

“I can do anything I put my mind to…”

…because I have proven to myself and to others that I can achieve what I set out to achieve.

I joined Pace & Mind in July 2015 looking for the personalized coaching the group had to offer.  The thing I learned to appreciate the most from the coaching was if ever I had an off week or was feeling injury coming on, my running program would be changed to reflect some rest and recovery immediately, which I may otherwise not have done if on my own program, allowing me to continue to run stronger than before.  Since joining the group, I have expanded my running family and obtained a Personal Best on my 5k.  I have also seen first-hand just how supportive everyone in the Pace & Mind Family are of each other, as well as coming together to support local community runs and events.

I have learned many lessons in life, most importantly to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.  You will never know what positive changes in your life this can lead to unless you take the first step.



About Pace & Mind

Pace & Mind is an advanced ‘tough love’ coaching service for distance runners. We offer advanced and highly customized 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon coaching for runners to improve their performance both on and off the road. Our coaching is based on the principles founded by Head Coach and Co-founder Rejean Chiasson, a Canadian marathon champion, 4x half-marathon medalist and NIKE+ NRC Coach. He is supported by our Online Run Coach, Kate Van Buskirk, an internationally accomplished track and field athlete, bronze medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Brooks Elite Ambassador. Unlike traditional ‘cookie-cutter’ or ‘clinic’ approaches to coaching, our Coaches first assesses, then customizes each runner’s training program based on:


Coaching programs are powered by TrainingPeaks software to ensure data accuracy. No runner’s program is the same and it constantly changes season by season, cycle by cycle. Our Coaches review your plan in detail each week, then adjust based on your progression and listens to you in terms of changes in nutrition, mental state and cross training efforts. Each runner also receives a cross-training plan and a racing singlet as part of the program.

You have one life to live. Run for your life


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