Mike Ocko

Featured Runner – September

Mike Ocko
Age: 44
Hobbies: Watching movies/you tube videos about running
Job: Business Intelligence Specialist
Mantra: My Race, My Pace


Meet Mike!

When you ask Mike what brought him into running his answer is swift and simple; his wife Heather. She had a goal of running a half marathon for a milestone birthday and wanted him to be a part of it. He reluctantly agreed and decided to tackle it head on. Mike played soccer at the time and so he felt he knew what lay ahead…he might have been wrong.

Arriving late to soccer practice to “accidentally” miss running laps *might* have been his first clue that running, at the time was not his passion. As a matter of fact he hated it. Once he started training for the Manitoba ½ marathon though he started to realize that if he wanted to truly make it more enjoyable, he was going to have to quit smoking. So he did. Mike jokes that he traded one addiction for another, that running is now his ‘drug’ of choice.
Mike defines himself as a runner; no other label is required. He’ll run on the road, trails or treadmill, it really doesn’t matter as long as the miles get done. The place Mike feels most at home on though is the trails. Like many he finds peace out there in nature and aside from a few bear encounters he usually comes home feeling like the slate has been wiped clean and the days stress is gone.

Mike has run everything from 5km races to 24 hour endurance events. Yes Mike is one of *those* people, he now loves to run long. When asked what his dream race would be the answer was immediate; anything in the mountains. Growing up in the Czech Republic, running in the mountains remind him of his childhood. When you read his race resume there is one thing that practically leaps off the page; Mike has been to the Canadian Death Race…twice.

If you’re not familiar with the race the name alone should tip you off that this is not your average race. The course is grueling and tends to chew up runners and spit them out mangled, both physically and mentally. Yet to listen to him talk about potentially going back for a third time his eyes light up and his enthusiasm is unmistakable. Every time he’s there he learns something new about himself, about the metal resiliency it takes to toe the line in that type of event.

Ultra-running has changed how he looks at running. In the past Mike got caught up in defining his success in running by the numbers, the end result. Now he’s come to realize that the success doesn’t always come from the end result, it comes from what is learnt along the way. To coin a phrase, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Not an uncommon thing in trail and Ultra running as simply surviving is a feat that is celebrated, often with pizza and beer, sometimes before the race is even over. Wait. What? Pizza on course? Yes you read that right, ultra-running is often all about the food and one has to train themselves to eat as much as they can out there in order to make it to the end and turning a corner to find a runner chowing down on a slice isn’t uncommon. Don’t believe us? Come on down to the Lemming Loop this year if you don’t believe us. Mike will be there again this year; his goal, keep moving for 24 hours.

When asked what races he has on his bucket list his answers were a little bit crazy…awesome. Lost Soul, Sinister 7 and the big one, Tahoe 200. As in 200 miles. Mike loves to see what he’s capable of, we doubt that he will ever stop pushing the limits that he himself and others may put upon him

One of the things that trail running has allowed him to do is truly explore the playground that is Manitoba. Before running he had no idea what lay beyond the city limits and the sights and places he’s visited have opened up his eyes to the beauty that our province has to offer. From Pembina Valley to Spruce woods to Hunt Lake, every corner of our province has offered up spectacular sights.

When asked what tip he would give to someone new to our sport his answer was yet again succinct and to the point. Find the joy; A tip that applies to veterans in our sport as well. Goals are great, but when your goals in this sport start to weigh you down and make you feel like you’ve lost that love you had for the run you need to adjust and remember why you started.

Which brings us back around to why he started; his wife. Watching him talk about the woman who started him on this journey his face lights up like a kid at Christmas. Having a spouse that runs always makes life easier for those who spend a lot of time training. However when you secretly sign your other half up for a Marathon since “she’s already trained up for it”, well let’s just say Mike is a lucky man in more ways than one.