On learning that Mark Tweddle will run the London Marathon this year for the Teenage Cancer Trust, Produce Business UK sits down with the effervescent CEO of Jupiter Marketing; the Midland-based global fruit import and export business to find out how much of a masochist he really is. And, more importantly, to learn how other fresh produce businesses could help change the world one step – roughly all 33,000 of them – at a time
Running a marathon – one assumes, having never run further than a couple of miles in one burst – is hard. All 26 miles and 385 yards must tax the mind and body like no other physical exertion. And yet, surely, crossing the finishing line must bring a wonderful sense of achievement. All those cold and wet Sunday mornings slogging around the local park must suddenly seem worth it. In short, running, would become a virtue.
Ask Mark Tweddle what he gets from running, however, and you get a very different interpretation of the benefits. “Nothing,” he responds laconically. “I don’t enjoy it.”
It’s a good job he isn’t running a marathon any time soon then. Although, of course, he is. The 38-year-old father of two is running this year’s London Marathon. His motivation? The Teenage Cancer Trust.
Thankfully, the effort will certainly not be without huge benefits. Already, the Lichfield businessman has overtaken former Olympic champion runner Dame Kelly Holmes to become the top charity fundraiser in the country.
Tweddle's initial goal had been to raise £1,000 per mile from donations – or £26,200 – and he vowed to personally match every penny donated to hand over £52,000 to the charity. But he has since has surpassed that figure with a running total of £55,000; making Tweddle the top charity fundraiser for this weekend's 26-mile challenge.
Why are you running the marathon?
Mark Tweddle (MT): It was a bet! Basically a ‘mate’ thought I needed to lose some weight and bet me that I couldn’t do it. I love a challenge so, of course, I couldn’t resist.
Why are you running for Teenage Cancer Trust?
MT: We have always supported the charity through Micky O’Leary at [produce procurement, consulting and logistics group] Hars & Hagebauer and the more you learn the more worthwhile you understand its cause to be.
Since signing up to to do the marathon my wife’s godson has unfortunately been diagnosed with a life-threatening tumour at the age of 19. Teenage Cancer Trust is supporting him and his family so we now feel that fate has had a helping hand in choosing the cause I am running for.
Who’s supporting you?
MT: My wife, Yvonne, and our two children Sophie (10) and Nathan (7); plus Levi, a lovely young man of whom we are the guardians; my parents and other family members, as well as all the team at Jupiter.
My family have been really supportive as preparing for a marathon is time consuming. Our children have found it hard when I am out training for four hours on a Saturday morning when they have seen little of me all week. I have worked with two trainers – Jonny Evans and more recently Steve the Power. Both have been a huge support.
How can people support you?
MT: By visiting my fundraising page, here.
How else can people support the Teenage Cancer Trust?
MT: Visit its webpage, give them a call… The team are fantastic and the young people and their families need as much support as you can offer.
How else does Jupiter support the Teenage Cancer Trust?
MT: This year our team raised a fantastic £16,000 towards our charity fund by walking the three highest peaks of England, Scotland and Wales in just 24 hours. You can read more about that feat here.
What other charities does Jupiter support?
MT: We like to support good causes both at home and abroad. Some are as simple as providing T-shirts for a local choir and some are more involved, such as putting a computer room into a girls’ school in India.
One of my favourites is Rock’a’Fellas Football Club in the flats of Cape Town, South Africa. We were lucky enough to meet all the kids who benefited from the playing shirts we provided for all the teams. Since then their membership has increased, the commitment of the players has grown and the ambition of the management team has no boundaries. They are providing a pastime for children and young adults in an area where drugs, violence and corruption is the norm, which is showing them a different way of life.
How important is corporate social responsibility to Jupiter?
MT: Very. We are nice people at Jupiter with strong core values which are on our website for all to see. We here for a short time and I truly believe it’s important to make a difference to others in a positive way.
What else do you get involved in that has a clear ethical stance?
MT: Playing sport, particularly rugby. The core values of rugby are ones that could apply to everyone. We have also supported Mark Wood and his expedition team in their attempt to trek to the North Pole. Because of our actions as a world the changes they are seeing have already changed the plan for their expedition. We all have a responsibility to look at our actions on the world.
Is it important for fresh produce businesses to get involved and play their part in trying to shape a better world?
MT: Yes, definitely. We transport produce all over the place, sometimes unnecessarily. By moving produce less we would already be making a difference.
How many marathons have you run before?
MT: None. And I am never running another.
What do you get from running?
MT: Nothing. I don’t enjoy it. I have lost weight though and I now think it’s normal to run a half marathon on a Saturday morning, so I guess I have got something out of it. Oh, and new clothes as my old ones drown me.
Any special training that you’ve undertaken?
MT: Yes, lots. Strengthening, conditioning, training runs, stretching, diet – basically I have changed everything. I also stopped drinking beer for the last year and for the last month I have stopped drinking full stop in preparation. I thought this would be hard but it really hasn’t been. My wife has also stopped ‘to support me’. However, I think it’s more like she is taking advantage of the rest. At 5.00pm on 25 April you will find me in The Royal Oak, Barton Under Needwood enjoying a well-earned pint.
What fresh fruit and vegetables have sustained you in your training?
MT: As many vegetables as possible. I don’t eat loads of as fruit I prefer vegetables. However, I do start the day with a spinach and fruit smoothie, so my diet is much healthier.
Are you using this run as an opportunity to promote the healthy qualities of fresh fruit and veg at all?
MT: Not as such but what a great idea. I haven’t weighed myself yet to know my total weight loss but it’s pretty major. It has to be a combination of attitude, exercise and diet though.
Jupiter is involved in The North Pole 2016 expedition – how has that gone?
MT: We are very pleased to confirm that after weeks of delays, caused by the effects of climate change, the team is now finally on the ice. Mark Wood has been in touch to confirm that the ocean is frozen, and that the team is in good spirits and is determined to make the most of their now reduced time on the ice with which to document the impact of global warming.
The team has already reported encountering difficult terrain for what people are used to seeing in Antarctica, including lots of massive blocks of ice pushed up by pressure. With just 20 days on the ice to achieve the goal of documenting climate change the team remains hopeful. However, this vast change in conditions makes everything all the more dangerous.
Will Jupiter be getting involved in more expeditions/activities like this?
MT: Hopefully. We want to make a difference and by supporting this expedition we have helped to record for the scientists major life-changing facts.
Is anyone else from the supply chain running the marathon?
MT: I’m not sure, but if they are I wish them the very best of luck.
To support Mark's London Marathon charity run, donate here.
To keep updated on the North Pole 16 expedition, head here or here.
L-R: Mark Wood of the North Pole expedition team with Mark Tweddle