A New Meaning to Being Team Reeve Coach

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on September 02, 2021 # Reeve Run & Roll, Team Reeve, Coach Mark

Coach Mark and teamAnnie Ogden suddenly felt as if she could not take one more step–and that was a problem. A big one. She was six miles from finishing the 2019 New York City Marathon and her family – and Coach Mark – were waiting for her.

She’d signed up for the marathon to honor her father, who had sustained a C4-C5 injury when he was 23-years old. Though doctors warned Bill Ogden he’d never walk again, he eventually did. Annie grew up watching her dad commute to work with his cane as he taught his daughters to never give up; Team Reeve offered her a chance to celebrate his determination and support others with spinal cord injuries.

But throughout her training, Ogden second guessed herself. Coach Mark talked her through each new challenge, telling her how excited he was to meet her dad and see her cross the finish line. When searing pain in her hip made it seem impossible to continue the race, she thought about Coach Mark’s faith in her—and kept going.

“It was never a question in Coach Mark’s mind that I could do this,” Ogden said. “Dropping out was just not going to work. I remembered that he said every step gets you closer to the finish line—so I just kept taking steps.”

Ogden is one of nearly a thousand athletes trained by Coach Mark Zenobia since he joined Team Reeve at its inception 16 years ago. With his help, they’ve competed in events across the country, including the famed New York and Chicago marathons. But Coach Mark’s legacy within the community extends far beyond the millions of dollars his athletCoach Mark, Pat, Will Reevees have raised for the Foundation’s efforts to accelerate research for spinal cord injury treatments and cures.

“It’s so personal for me and so many other runners,” Ogden says. “Coach Mark is great about reminding us why we run.”

Part cheerleader, part cajoler— “I was born with the right kind of chutzpah”– Coach Mark works hard to connect with his athletes and find the fuel that will drive each one not to finish the race, but to start it.

“Running a marathon isn’t hard—training for a marathon is,” he says. “My goal is to get them to the start line. If I get them to the start line, they will run a marathon and it will be worth it.”

Now, with his trademark determination, Coach Mark is recruiting a team for the upcoming Reeve Run & Roll, even as he navigates his own life changing diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

He speaks openly and with his typical low-key humor about the disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually limiting an individual’s ability to move, speak, eat and breathe.

“I’m an open book,” he says. “The more people I can tell about ALS is the more people I can educate and let them know that ALS is a physical ailment, not a mental ailment. I’m as sharp as ever— whatever that means.”

Though no longer able to run, Coach Mark continues to focus on his athletes; he recently spent most of a day talking to half a dozen Team Reeve members training for fall marathons.

“I give them as much time as they need,” he says.

When first recruited by former Reeve CEO Peter Wilderotter, Coach Mark knew little about spinal cord injuries. But over time, as he met athletes who lived with injuries or family members running in their honor, it became clear how critical Reeve’s work was.

“I knew what the Foundation did was life changing,” he says. “Not just important, but life changing.”

Coach Mark, has trained athletes from all 50 states and around the world, including Hannah Gavios, who, after sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2016, crutched the 2018 New York City marathon. A huge crowd cheered her on as she crossed the finish line more than 11 hours after she began.

“It was raucous,” he says. “It was wonderful. Nothing compares to that.”

Over the years, watching all his athletes achieve their dreams has kept the 74-year-old coach working long after retirement age.

“Coaching Team Reeve athletes is my passion,” he says. “Their sense of accomplishment is unreal. I revel in that.”

To donate to the Reeve Run & Roll in honor of Coach Mark, please visit his team page at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.