by Latoya Burnham
Mark St. Hill is a man driven — by many things.
But for an hour and a half, mostly in the wee hours of the morning when we’re all still in bed, the only thing that drives him are his feet. On any given day, his “wheels” pound the blacktop of any of the many highways to a destination that circles him back to his St. Silas Heights home to get ready to start his day.
Mark’s job is what one would call high-powered. He’s the Managing Director of Retail and Business Banking for the Caribbean at CIBC/FirstCaribbean International Bank. But as he chips up St. Silas Hill on a late evening, just ahead of the dropping of the sun behind him on the picturesque west coast, his mind is churning over ideas — some work related, some not.
As we sit on his back patio, with two energetic and cute small dogs with shiny black and brown coats peaking through the rails at us, he admits that often from his walks he would burst through the door rushing for a pen to jot down the ideas that have grabbed him while walking.
Walking for Mark has become such a way of life that it’s no longer about struggling to get up, because he has to get in the “30 minutes” of exercise most doctors will say we should get per day. In fact, 30 minutes would be a joke to this man who has already run about three 5Ks a year alone.
For this father of three, it all began with the death of his father and the birth of his last son, Matthew, now five years old. During some tests, his doctor told him while examining his blood test results that he needed, not just exercise, but a lifestyle change. It was an eye-opener for Mark, because he had gone from being a man who played hockey for his country and competitively, to a man who was largely behind a desk, packing on the pounds. This meant more exercise, a change in diet and for Mark, reexamining what was important in his life.
“I just found it so rewarding and relaxing because it allowed me to conquer three ambitions in one go in doing this walking. What I mean by that: Ambition 1 — I am career oriented, so it allowed me the down-time required to pull myself away from work. The best time I have for creating a set of tasks, is when I’m walking. When I’m walking I come in rushing for a pen because everything is now clear.
“Ambition 2 — taking care of my health; and Ambition 3 — I am finding a personal activity and everybody in life should have a personal activity, whether it is playing bridge, cricket, going to the movies, cavalcades; you need to find your joy.”
Throughout the interview, he would keep repeating his bank’s motto — For what matters. To Mark, it’s family, both immediate and extended and it does not have to be blood relatives, because what his exercise regime has done is act as a catalyst for others to examine their own habits.
Now when he exercises, three times a week is “me” time. Sometimes, his elder son, Stuart, 15, accompanies him. For his 5Ks, the whole family – including his wife, Simone; his 13-year-old daughter, Melissa, and even the youngest son — comes along either competing or cheering him on. In his family as well, he has found his wife and children exercising more at home too.
“My boss can call me out at any time, but he would find it difficult to call me between 4:30 and 6 [a.m.] because I won’t have a phone. I won’t have access. If there is an emergency, my wife knows she will have to get in the car and find me on the trail. I don’t do a trail she doesn’t know… It is actually a discipline to find time for yourself.”
The three days during the week that he walks, he gets out by 4:30, is back home by 5:45, using the next 15 minutes while the house is still quiet to get himself breakfast and read the news. He then packs lunch for the older children while his wife prepares lunch for Matthew; then it’s ensuring everyone is in the shower by 6:40 to leave the house by 7:10 a.m. to take his children to school and himself to work.
At work, Mark is among an informal crew who have made a pact to run some of the island’s 5Ks and 10Ks together; and even in his community, there is a group of neighbours and friends that have become his walking buddies on weekends, in addition to what he does on his own during the week.
What the whole lifestyle change has taught him is the importance of discipline. Regardless of how crazy a day gets, in his mind he returns to his morning jaunt to find his quiet place and then attacks the problem before him with a calm attitude.
The discipline is something he learnt and thanks Colonel Deighton Maynard for instilling in him at the young age, the need to get things done “on time”.
“One of the key things in management is discipline. You have to be very disciplined. In your job you can get consumed by any one of several pillars that are needed to be a successful manager – whether you are overly consumed on administration, or the customer… but in my job I have to take a balanced approach.”
And that balance is something he has taken to his exercise life, because as he says, it was something he had found was getting away from him, that exercising and finding time for himself allowed him to rediscover and reconnect.
It has helped a lot because Mark says he now gets less agitated and what he loves about it is the fact that he can now slow down in stressful times and consider the implications and impacts of his actions on others, something else he finds most rewarding. firstname.lastname@example.org