EIS Head of Communications Brian Cooper explains why he’s suddenly, and quite inexplicably, decided to start training for a Marathon.

Running long distances has never been my thing. At school, I liked sprinting and was fairly good at it. Never good enough to actually win anything, but still reasonably fast and it was something that I enjoyed. It was over quickly, and I never had to run more than 200 metres, so that suited me just fine.

In my teens, I started playing American Football and I continued that throughout my university career and beyond. That involved running fast but only in short bursts with pauses in play to catch your breath in-between. Again, that suited me just fine.

When I became a parent, I decided to retire from the Gridiron for good. I was getting on a bit, and it’s a physical sport which places more of a strain on the body as you get older. I had suffered a few injuries, most scarily a couple of concussions, and I began to worry about how a serious injury would impact on my ability to fulfil my role as Dad. So, that was the end of my competitive sporting career.

Once my children were a little older, I started running to try to get back to some degree of fitness. I found it challenging, as running for extended periods without a break was completely alien to me. But I persevered and worked my way up to regular parkruns (5k), with the occasional 10k mixed in for good measure.

Last year, I did my first half-marathon which I found very physically and mentally challenging. I’ve since done a couple more, and I’ve found it a little easier each time to complete the distance.

Since social media knows more about my interests and habits than I do, I started to receive a lot of targeted ads trying to convince me to run Marathons. Finally, one of these – for the Loch Ness Marathon – tempted me to sign up. It’s at a time of the year when it, hopefully, won’t be too hot – and the scenery that you run through is quite spectacular.

I decided to make it a fund-raising exercise to support the Falkirk Schools Pipe Band – a newly established pipe-band comprised of pupils from Falkirk area schools. Two of my children are in the band, having had the opportunity to learn to play the pipes at both primary and secondary school thanks to the wonderful support of Instrumental Music Teachers and the Falkirk Instrumental Music Service.

Falkirk is an authority with numerous areas of deprivation, and piping and drumming are expensive pastimes, so the band is constantly fundraising to pay for instruments, uniforms, travel and competition costs. But it’s wonderful to see how tight-knit the band have become, even though the young people are wide-ranging in their ages, levels of experience and personal backgrounds.

I’ve seen how much my children, and their friends and colleagues in the band, have benefitted from their music education.

The Music Service in Falkirk works with the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust, a charity established to support young people in Scotland in taking up the chanter, pipes and drums and support the development of school pipe bands. The SSPDT provides loan instruments, free of charge, to young people through their schools to support their music education, as well as offering grants to support school piping and drumming projects.

I’ve seen how much my children, and their friends and colleagues in the band, have benefitted from their music education. In addition to learning a wonderful skill, they have gained so much confidence and made so many new friends through piping. They have travelled all over Scotland to play at piping events and Highland gatherings, and they are frequently asked to support local events at schools and further afield in the community. A couple of years ago, the Band had the opportunity to play on-stage with the world-famous Red Hot Chilli Pipers – an experience that all involved will never forget.

So, that’s what prompted me to accept the challenge of running my first Marathon – in the hope of raising some funding through sponsorship to support the Falkirk Schools Pipe Band and the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust.

With local authorities being under so much financial pressure, music education continues to be under threat in many parts of the country. For something that’s so valuable to young people and to Scottish culture and heritage, it’s worth going the extra mile – or even 26 of them – to try to give something back and help more young people to benefit from the opportunity to learn music.

You can follow Brian’s training and fundraising efforts at:


Falkirk Schools Pipe Band: www.facebook.com/Falkrikschoolspipes

Scottish Schools Pipes & Drums Trust: https://sspdt.org.uk