DES MOINES, Iowa - Seven must be an Iowa man's lucky number. Mark Cooper just completed his seventh marathon on seven continents in just seven days.
Amid the bustle at the Des Moines Airport last Thursday was a group waiting to welcome home its hero. Cooper is fresh off a weeklong trip, completing the prestigious World Marathon Challenge, and hugging his wife for the first time in a week.
Any other person would be exhausted, but not Cooper. "I'm quite fine. I can easily go for another run today. It wouldn't be that difficult," said Cooper.
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KCCI first met Cooper five years ago, as the Johnston man braved the bitter cold to train for a marathon. But this latest challenge is by far the most impressive. He traveled from Antarctica to South Africa. Then he went on to Australia, Dubai, Spain, Chile and ran his last marathon in Miami. He spent 63 hours in the air traveling, all to run a total of 183 miles in seven days.
"I tell anybody who wants to try this, the crazy thing is to be able to get off a plane, not knowing what time is it, what time zone you're in and within two hours just get ready to go to your start line and head off and then try to get back on a plane then get ready for the next one," said Cooper.
The entire time Cooper raised money to help solve a dilemma he says affects people of all countries, homelessness. "In some of countries I've been in, it's quite a devastating situation," said Cooper.
People across the country and world pledged donations in honor of Cooper and he raised more than $2,000, all going to Central Iowa Shelter and Services. "Every mile he ran he was running for somebody who was staying with us. It made us think back to that humility he brought to the table, it was just wonderful," said CEO Melissa O'Neil.
"For me, it's not a done and done deal. Homelessness does not go away, so I like to ensure that we actually raise awareness," said Cooper.
Cooper has now finished a total of 82 marathons, including the seven he just completed.