RUNssel: How did you end up living in Japan? Which job pays for new running shoes and gear?
Mark: I came to Japan to explore a new culture knowing very little about the country. I started out teaching English in a high school which was great fun and began my current job when the World Cup soccer was here back in 2002! I work with a photo/news agency called AFLO and manage our nipponnews.net business. It's a good challenge and we shoot pictures and video for news and commercial clients and also rep some great photographers and agencies in the Japanese market. We had a trail running photo shoot recently in the mountains shooting with a drone, which was great.
Mark: "This is just our local supermarket but I like this picture because it reminds me that I can get out and run anywhere and anytime."
q: Your local running scene is quite vibrant. How would you describe the local trail and road scene to foreigners? What do you treasure the most?
a: It definitely is. There are so many races and events and most people here are pretty fast. There are good website with race info and specialist shops to help out too.
I love the local races where the whole town comes out to support them and there's a festival atmosphere often with free udon for runners at the end.
Trail running is really popular too and you have to be quick to enter the more popular races.
Mark: "I want to get a better version of this with blue skies next year. Cherry blossoms and the torii gate."
q: Most of your Instagram snaps are taken during training sessions. Do you follow a strict routine or plan? What are your running goals?
a: I wouldn't describe too many runs as training sessions at the moment. I used to stick to a training plan and was trying to get under 3:20 for a full marathon and 1:30 for a half but I ended up hurting my Achilles. I took the recovery slowly building up to 200km per month and then figured that I'd try to stay healthy and injury free and keep up the monthly miles. I've managed 15 months of 200km per month since then and am now starting to look for new goals for 2016.
Most of my runs are tailored around family activities and the places these take me. My son plays football all over the place and running is a great way to explore new places and keep up with his progress too.
Living in a different country, even though I've been here so long, I still find new things on most runs and I try to capture them in pictures when I can. For some reason I have a much better memory of places that I've run around than places I've visited normally.
Mark: "This is from a Christmas trip back to my hometown of Chesterfield in England. We were so lucky with the weather."
q: Most of the time you are posting pictures of yourself. What techniques or apps do you use to take the shot and what apps are you using?
a: I'm sorry about that! At work I see so many great pictures and I love the ones where people are active in wide-open natural expanses or as part of bigger scenes. I try to capture the location and atmosphere as well as the joy of running. I also like to show something new if I can so I'll sometimes plan a run to visit a new temple or site.
Mostly I just use the iPhone camera with its self-timer a mini stand for it. I have a few apps for processing the results but use the Instagram filters (if needed) more than anything else. I sometimes use VSCO, Instaflash Pro and Mextures.
I also have a Sony a6000, which I'll take on longer adventures. Recently I like messing around with the flash and a slow shutter in low light.
Mark: "I like this one because it was a really hot summer day and I ended up coming down the wrong trail but there was a spring water fountain at the roadside to cool off."
q: What are your favorite Instagram accounts and why?
a: My favorite accounts are usually those by likeminded people getting up early or going out and sealing beautiful places to run. They provide encouragement, motivation and inspiration.
@halunski - Japanese outdoor enthusiast
@territoryrunco - Portland runner's collective with great pictures and stories
@kim0lsen - Norwegian runner with amazing run photos
@kellerche - German runner who runs and runs
@halfpint22 - American runner and traveller with great photo sense and philosophy on life
@toobs555 - California based runner who set up #furtherfasterforever which was one of the first running groups I followed
It's hard to name just a few as everyone has something different. I also like a lot of accounts running in UK's national parks because they remind me of home, and I follow lots of supporters of our local J.League soccer team Ōmiya Ardija!
Mark: "This is on the coast in Chiba. I don't get to the sea so often and the cliffs and collapsing sea wall made for a good shot. It was super early too and a first run in a place I'd never visited before and fun to explore even with the rain."
q: What records are you listening to lately?
a: When I started running I did wear headphones and listen to music but I prefer not to at the moment. People are pretty friendly here and I'll usually speak to a couple of people on a run anyway so it's better without the headphones. I like the freedom of the run and having a clear head helps that too!
As for recommending music I had a chance to see Japanese band Sekai No Owari through work and they're trying to get followers outside of Japan and have English versions of many of there songs. Sakanaction is another Japanese band I like.
Go and follow Mark on Instagram & Twitter!