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Racing to show others what’s possible

Marcus Cook once weighed almost 500lbs (227kg). Then a conversation with a dying friend changed not just his health, but his whole life. Now Marcus has his sights set on the Ironman World Championships. This is his inspiring story.


Marcus Cook is no stranger to hard work. His determination had seen him grow his small company into a multi-million dollar operation. But Marcus had not applied this same dedication to his health. After receiving a wake-up call 2.5 years ago, Marcus knew it was time to lose weight and gain back his life.


Now, 264 pounds (120 kg) lighter, Marcus has completed three marathons, two Ironman triathlons, and was recently the UTC-5 time zone’s lead runner in the world’s longest relay run. We followed up with Marcus about how he transformed his life with consistency, courage, and a lot of running.


Tell us about the specific moment that made you act to improve your fitness?

I had been successful in the pipeline industry for years. In fact, if you knew me, you knew that I had pretty much lived the American Dream… high school kid who started a company with 5000 dollars and grew it into a multi-million dollar company. During that journey, a company had acquired my old company and we were doing great.

At the time I was overweight, not in great shape. My boss, Chuck Dalio, called me into his office and said, “Marcus I’m dying of cancer, and you’re dying from your choice. You’ve got to promise me that, whatever happens to me, you will fight for your health.” So, I looked at a picture that was taken the same week at a company function and I decided enough was enough. I started that day.


What were the key elements of your regime that helped you make such rapid progress with your training?

People often ask, “How in the world did you go from 489 pounds to 225 so fast, and get into shape to do the endurance you can do?” I say, I started walking 20 minutes a day for two weeks, then just stepped up the mileage and time from there. It’s kind of like a one-degree of separation. Lots of times people say, “I want to make this huge change,” then they try changing so much at one time that they get discouraged after a week and quit everything. I started by walking, then walking miles, then changing my diet, then found myself capable of running from a telephone pole to the next pole. Then, I looked up 1.5 years later and I was at the finish line of an Ironman.


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You’ve said that you grew up in an environment where unhealthy food was hard to avoid. How do you deal with the temptation when you’re around those foods today?

I’m a different person. I determined that the moment I had weight loss surgery, that the person coming out of the hospital was going to change his mind from who he thought he was, to becoming an athlete and runner like I had dreamed of as kid.


Your motto is “Do something new every day.” What does this look like in practice and what are the main benefits?

It started off as a reminder not to think like I was this big guy anymore. I can give you every way to be big: from circling the parking lot to wait for the front row parking at the grocery store, to sleeping all day on your days off while binging on Netflix. I was that kind of fat. I knew every lazy way to do anything that would make me physically exhausted.

So, “do something new” was a way to remind me to think differently. Now that my mind is trained to think healthy, I use it to deal with new habits that try to form that sometimes aren’t good excuses to get into. Plus, “fat Marcus” tries to pop up every once in a while, and this mantra is good to keep him in check!


Even after you completed a marathon you kept pushing your limits, right up to Ironman events. Where does that continued drive come from?

I use every finish line to start my new goal. When I came across my first marathon, I was thinking of the next weekend, because I was trying to do two back-to-back, weeks apart. When I finished my second Ironman, I was thinking about doing back-to-back 1/2 Ironmans just two weeks after my full. Now my goal is the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. But I’m already thinking of finishing with my oldest son in his first full Ironman in Texas in 2019.


What would it mean for you to reach the start line of the Ironman World Championships?

Oh man, that’s a loaded question. It means the promise I made to my dying friend is a promise kept. His talk with me changed my life and the life of my family forever. That day I will be racing for the Ironman Foundation. I truly believe in what they do for our race communities. I will be racing in my friend’s memory, because without him I would not be there. I will also be racing for Coreluv, an orphanage in Haiti that I support.

But I will also be racing for the person that thinks they are in a hopeless situation. The person that thinks that obesity will be with them for the rest of their lives. The person that may have another type of “weight” that’s holding them back: depression, abusive relationships, anger, addictions. I’m racing Kona to show you that IMPOSSIBLE IS A DARE.

Every stroke I take on the swim, you are with me. Every hill I climb and pedal stroke I take on the bike, know it can be done. Every step I take in my Cloudaces, of course, you will be with me as well. As I come down that finish line chute and I hear Mike Reilly call my name, I will be crying, I’m sure… because I kept a promise to a dying friend, because I did what used to be a dream, but also because I have shown that person that I’m talking about that there is hope and anything is possible.


You recently tested On’s new support shoe, the Cloudace, as part of the world’s longest relay run. What has been your experience with the shoe? 

This shoe is amazing. It’s so comfy on the land, and so supportive on the push-off. I have been waiting for this stability shoe for some time now. The wait is over, and it was worth it.


What would your advice be to someone who is considering making a big change to their physical fitness?

Small steps lead to big rewards. You didn’t get big overnight, and you aren’t going to get fit in a week. Remember it’s all about that one degree of change. Change a little over time.


Marcus Cook was part of the world’s longest relay run for the launch of the Cloudace – a support shoe without compromises. With the most advanced application of Cloudtec® technology to date, it offers maximum support without sacrificing speed. The Cloudace. Seriously Ace.