The Man with the Iron will.
Mark Dry is a British track and field athlete who won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for hammer throwing.
After moving to Burghead in Primary two from Milton Keynes, Mark now considers Moray as his home. With family and friends still in the area, he visits regularly even though he’s moved away to pursue his career goals.
Mark took the time to chat with us talking about his career, his inspiration and why he is supporting Moray Sports Centre.
Why hammer throwing?
I wasn’t sporty at all at school. I played football purely because everyone else did and then rugby in 6th year. I was just the little fat kid that didn’t want to run or jump.
When I was a kid I had my heart set on being a Fast Jet Pilot. Both of my parents were pilots so I joined the air cadets to get me started.
But that’s how I discovered that not all sports are about running and jumping. They had mandatory competitions so I represented them at the highlands competitions in shot put and javelin, then for all of Scotland, winning each time.
By the time I’d won an under 17’s Scottish Championship competition I was hooked. Unfortunately with the lack of coaching opportunities available in the north of Scotland, I had to move away from home and train in Glasgow to begin with, then even further to the Midlands.
How often do you train?
Your life revolves around training. There are elements of training everyday of the week with four main training days where you push yourself. Active recovery is very important though which is something I struggled to understand when I first started training.
What’s your most dreaded exercise?
I used to hate running, but I am getting better at it. Now flexibility is the worst. My body is so tight to defend itself from injuries that every time I flex and stretch, it’s like I’ve never done it before.
Favourite training venue?
Team GB had an exclusive training venue at the Rio 2016 Olympics. It had fantastic training equipment and had been personalised with ‘Team GB’ written on the walls. It seems strange because it was so far away but it felt really homely.
What’s your secret to success?
Avoid injuries! I was really fortunate and made it to 28 before I had my first injury which is quite an achievement. But I think I’m just really good at throwing things.
What do you think about when you’re in the throwing circle?
When I was starting out I would always be quite aggressive during a competition. I had quite an immature approach. I would tell myself that I would have to win and I would be very aggressive to make this happen.
Now I am much more disciplined. During training, you create technical cues. Not so many that it becomes confusing when you’re under the intense pressure of a competition, but just enough to keep you focused. It’s really important for me not to overanalyse at the time and keep a clear mind so that I can execute the training cues.
Do you watch videos of yourself after a competition?
I always make videos when training – it helps to show where you need to work on things like angles for example.
It used to be illegal to watch videos in between throws in competitions, but this has changed now and I find it really useful.
What has been your biggest challenge in life?
When I found out that the 2012 Olympics were being held in London it instantly became my dream. That was the goal. I already knew I wanted to become an Olympian and what better place to have your debut than in your home country?
Winning a medal didn’t even come into it – I didn’t expect to win. I just wanted to be able to represent my country on home turf. It would have been amazing.
I qualified but I wasn’t selected. Making the team was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. At the Commonwealth Games, I threw 71.64m to qualify. For the Olympics, I threw 76.93m – which is still the record in Scotland.
It broke me. But I suppose you could argue it made me at the same time. It motivated me in a strange way – I told myself that I wouldn’t let this, or anything, stop me from reaching my goals.
What’s next for you?
The World Championships in London is next on my radar, and then the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in Australia’s Gold Coast.
What do your family and friends think?
They didn’t understand at first. I was the youngest fast jet pilot at 16 so I could have had a very successful career in the military. And they didn’t understand why I was throwing this away (no pun intended..). But of course, now they are extremely proud and very supportive.
What has sport given you?
I’ve been given the opportunity to work with people all over the world thanks to my career. I’ve had invites to stay with many of my new friends and their families if I’m ever passing which is incredible.
I made a lot of sacrifices for sport, though. I had to move away from my family and friends to put myself in a better position to access training facilities. Granted this was my choice, but if there were more facilities closer to home I think things would have been a lot easier for me and many other athletes that are faced with the same tough decisions.
When you’re not in training, what is go to cheat meal?
In the house share, I am in at the minute, we have a pizza Friday which I make from scratch.
When I was in America for training the family I stayed with had a bespoke pizza oven in their home. They taught me how to make a dough and a quality pizza – it was so good! So now every Wednesday I make the dough ready for Pizza Friday – I always look forward to it.
If your life were to be made into a movie, which actor would play you?
Gerard Butler. It’s embarrassing how many times I have seen 300. There is clearly something about the fact he is a big Scottish, stocky guy with a hammer…
If you had a time machine, what advice would you travel back to give yourself?
I used to train way too much. Although I still believe this to a certain extent, I was convinced that if I outwork everyone else then I would beat them. This is still very true, hard work pays off, but only if don’t exceed your limits.
I was throwing, lifting and sprinting five days a week – it’s too much. Luckily I was given advice to factor in rest days before I injured myself.
Why does Moray need a Sports Centre?
There are so many talented sports people that slip through the net. Before my training I was nobody. I wasn’t any more talented than the next guy but I’ve made it to Olympic standard.
I see it all the time, people who are taller and stronger than myself coming into the gym for the first time that would have had the potential to make a career in the sports industry if they’d had someone to guide them and somewhere to put training into practice.
I was determined enough to do this on my own – but I had to move to Glasgow to make it happen.
Athletes shouldn’t have to make those sacrifices and difficult decisions. There are so many people with the talent, focus and discipline needed in the sporting industry. They just need somewhere, locally, to channel that focus and guidance to make the most of an opportunity.