That's true sportsmanship: runners help children in need

An Interview with Chris Cooper from Runners Heal

From Jennifer Valdés

Marathon runners are united by the unrestrained will to cross the finish line. This thought welds the athletes together into a close community. Often they run not only for themselves, but sweat for a good cause. Best example: Chris Cooper, fitness club manager by day, runner and founder of Runners Heal at any other time.

It’s 6:30 on a fresh autumn morning in Hamburg. In the north of Germany the weather is typically rough and wet. True runners are not deterred. Chris Cooper, who was born in England, also likes to do his rounds around the Alster.

Before he goes to the office, he clears his head. However, running is not only a means of combating stress – even though the fitness club manager has had enough of it. Chris is preparing for his next marathon. The ambitious Englishman has set himself a high goal: He wants to complete 7 marathons in one year. Some people would say he is crazy, especially those who have not yet experienced the elation after the long-awaited finish.

But the part-time Hamburg native is not only very active in sports, he also founded his own aid organisation at the beginning of 2017. Runners Heal* is a community of committed professional athletes, marathon runners and hobby runners who fight together against the malnutrition of children in East Africa and support their school education.

To achieve its goals, Runners Heal distributes T-shirts with the slogan We Run This, written in the handwriting of children who urgently need support. The proceeds go directly into a donation box, from which the school meals of the Kids finanziert become. Because this is so well received by the athletes, we now see sweaty marathon runners all over the world in Runner’s Heal Shirts and with happy, albeit exhausted faces, running across the finish line.

Jen from PURYA! Team asked Chris getroffen and him about his sporting ambitions and his exciting project Runners Heal. The following interview was conducted in English.

Have fun reading!

PURYA! Hi Chris! Thanks for taking your time to answer my questions! Lets start right away: Did you already run today?

Chris Actually not today, I’ve been a little sick recently so taking some time to rest and recover. When did you start running?

PURYA! Has it always been your passion or did you discover it recently?

Chris I have always been into sports, but I started to run longer distances when I lost my father back in 2012. Running became more than fitness for me, but actually a way to deal with whatever life throws at me !

PURYA! What does your training plan look like? Are you already preparing for the next marathon?

Chris All being well, I begin my marathon training project on October 16th. I have an online coach based in Kenya who has set me up with a base phase for the next weeks , as my first marathon of the 7 marathon challenge is not until April 2018 in Paris.

PURYA! What is your current best time?

Chris I haven’t taken things seriously until now, so my PB in a marathon is 3 hours 50 – but to achieve what I want to achieve in the major marathons i need to take 1 hour off this!

PURYA! What motivates you to keep running?

Chris Alongside doing it for myself and own peace of mind, I also run for others. But the feeling after a run, and the general wellbeing I feel when I am fit is a huge motivation to never lose that.

PURYA! Running 20, 40 k m a time causes huge physical stress. Are you prone to injury? If so, how do you handle that?

Chris Yes I am. My current program is working towards a total weekly mileage of 120km, so I need to take caution. I don’t do it enough, but stretching, foam rolling, strength training, careful nutrition and most of all plenty of sleep.

PURYA! Diet plays a big role for most runners. What does yours look like?

Chris Room for improvement, that’s for sure. With my new program starting now, diet is something I really want to focus more care on !

PURYA! You have a very busy schedule, manage the health club, a foundation and you have ambitious athletic goals that require loads of training. How do you cope with the stress?

Chris I have stress, that’s for sure. I also travel to the UK every weekend, which piles up. But for sure the training helps with the stress reduction and pressures. As does completely switching off when I am with my 6 year old son at weekends – he brings a reality check on the things that really matter each week.

PURYA! Back in April 2017, you founded Runners Heal. What is it that you do to help people in need?

Chris Initially I spent time in Kenya and came across some crisis issues that I felt compelled to assist in. Each one of those I Crowdfunded money for back here in Germany and UK, and then did my best to fix those crises. To date that includes saving two lives, and rebuilding 2 houses, alongside building a school farm.

PURYA! How do you provide school meals for kids in Kenia?

Chris Runners Heal is now officially a social enterprise which I created in order to supply school meals. Each shirt we sell, we donate one child with one months worth of food via our local farm contacts in Kenya.

PURYA! How did you come up with the idea to sell shirts for a good cause?

Chris I felt that consumers like to have something in their hand whilst doing good, and us runners are passionate about what we wear. I also believed that runners would be proud to wear our product and help spread the word.

PURYA! What did the work teach you?

Chris Perspective. And a lot about myself, too. I could name 100 examples, but to make eye contact with a child who is hungry and supply them with food – basic food we take for granted – this is life changing.

PURYA! How has the response been so far, both by the running community and the people in Kenia?

Chris Overwhelming to be honest. I never expected anything like this when I first set out a few months back, but now national media outlets wanting to run press articles and social media influencers contacting me asking to get involved it really has exploded . In Kenya, it has been fantastic. I am welcomed there like family, and look forward to going back in December for the 4th visit this year.

PURYA! When is your next trip to Kenia coming up and what will you be doing there?

Chris In December – delivering food from recent sales and also checking up on the projects I took over this year. I am also looking at adding another large farm to help some schools self sustain.

PURYA! What are your plans for the future regarding Runners Heal?

Chris To continue the way things are going but on a larger scale. Even though we have provided thousands of school meals, there are thousands more children In need and id like to help as many of them as possible.

We thank Chris Cooper for his time and wish him and Runners Heal all the best for the future. If you would like to know more about the organization or support the club with your purchase or your donation, findest you can find all the necessary information here!

* About Runners Heal: Runners Heal is a movement of runners united by the thought of a world where no child has to go hungry to school. Donations to Runners Heal enable children in need to provide the school meals they need for healthy growth. Runners Heal firmly believes that the key to improving the precarious situation in East Africa lies in feeding his children. The organisation is determined to give them the best chance.

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