What ever you do, don't ever tell Robert Cowlin that he can't do something. Because he will do it. 135 times. Back in 2007, someone said to Robert that he could not finish a marathon and now, 13 years later, Robert has run 135 races, including ultra marathons! And in October 2020 he took on the Centurion Autumn 100 mile race in memory of his dear friend, Mark Thornberry.
When Robert completed his first marathon, he weighed 28 stone and hadn't completed any preparation training.
“I hated running,” he says. “But I did it to raise money for deaf people, and to prove people wrong.”
The race ignited a spark in Robert, and running soon became his passion. He continued to complete races, raising more and more money for charities, and losing a staggering 8 stone.
"I'm not exactly a figure of health now, but I'm the fittest I've ever been and have found joy and the most amazing friends in running."
Robert was first introduced to Mark Thornberry in 2017 at the Thames Path race. The Thames Path 100 (also known as the TP100) is a 100 mile continuous trail race along the Thames Path from London to Oxford. Robert remembers Mark shaking his hand and wishing him good luck.
Mark had that same spark as Robert- a passion for running as well as fundraising, which Mark once described as, "great for the soul." The friends instantly clicked.
Unbeknownst to Robert at the time, Mark had just been diagnosed with cancer of the liver and told he had only a few months to live. He sadly passed away in June, 2020.
On the day they shook hands back in 2017, Robert didn't finish the Thames Path 100, but he went back after Mark passed 3 years later, determined to "get it done" in Mark's memory and to raise money for King's College Hospital Charity.
He finished the TP100 in 26 hours, 39 minutes and 40 seconds. This was way ahead of his plan and his fastest 100 mile race by 2 whole hours.
Robert says. "I understand liver cancer is underfunded and want to do whatever I can to carry on the legacy of my late and great friend."
“I'm raising funds for King's College Hospital Charity in the name of my friend and to make sure - as he wished - that others would not suffer the same fate as he did.”
On Saturday 10th October, Robert takes on the Centurion Autumn 100. This is the 3rd of 4 Centurion 100 milers he needs to finish to earn the 'Grand Slam'.
Robert fondly remembers watching Mark run 145 miles on the Grand Union Canal, and uses this memory of Mark to spur himself on during races, and as inspiration to keep going.
"Inspired by my late friend, I will take on a series of challenges that are beyond what I thought I could do."
“The least I can do is give it my best shot and like Mark said to me 'keep sipping, eating and smiling.'"