THE premise is simple but intriguing. “If you are 14+ and want to know how fast you can run a mile, then we want to hear from you”.

The subsequent quote from Nelson Mandela about running having “taught him valuable lessons” about “diligence and dedication” adds additional subtext.

As an athlete and coach, Stephen Koepplinger is keen to push the limits of human capabilities. As a former teacher and an award-winning grassroots community activist, the Glasgow-based American is also eager to explore the wider benefits that arise from such endeavours. Healthy body, health mind.

To that extent, Koepplinger has established a Run 300 scholarship that “will teach you how to use a running track to improve your life”.

The 10 successful applicants will be presented with £500 worth of running shoes, kit and coaching, thanks to a commercial partnership with Glasgow athletics store Achilles Heel.

To qualify they need to fill in an online application that asks quite specific questions about English and Maths Higher qualifications, how the candidate feels about community projects, and their current education/employment status.

Potential recruits are also asked to explain in writing or via audio recording how they have overcome adversity in their lives and to list how they may benefit from participating in Run 300, the name coming from the target of running a mile in under 300 seconds.

A request to provide a postcode isn’t just for the purposes of data collection either. “If you’re from a more socially-deprived area that will be scored higher in the selection process,” reveals Koepplinger.

“There are a lot of really hard-working, excellent individuals living in high SIMD [Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation] areas and I want them to stand up and say, “hey, I can run on any track”, as Joan Armatrading sang.”

Koepplinger, who moved to Scotland from Ohio in 1995, previously took it upon himself to restore neglected running tracks in Maryhill and Knightswood and they will provide the venues for the coaching he personally will lead.

Training will take place throughout May and June, three times a week at 7am, with races scheduled for Saturday evenings throughout the summer, pandemic permitting.

That will require a certain dedication but Koepplinger makes no apologies for that.

“That Mandela quote really resonates with me about the diligence and discipline that you learn on a running track,” adds the 51 year-old. “Nobody can force you to do it but you do it because you’ve got heart and you’ve got soul.

“For the successful candidates, it’s about making a commitment to themselves, more than to me. We have four or five elements we’re looking for in a candidate and each element has a different rate.
“We’re looking for people who are committed to community development and seeing this as a real opportunity to take some pride in their local areas. But the most important thing is dedication.

“I’m going to be utilising this old training technique that I used back in Ohio. It’s a book called Computerized Running Training Programs and was published in 1970. If you want to buy a second-half copy now it will cost you £740! But luckily I got mine back in the day for 25 cents.
“But it’s an absolute classic running bible in the States for getting people onto the track.”          

There is a slight paradox in this being a physically demanding programme that’s not aimed at proven athletes but at those with the potential to excel.

“We’re not really looking for the elite at all,” confirms Koepplinger. “The idea behind Run 300 is that most young male adults can run a mile in 300 seconds if they really train.
“It’s a huge aspiration but it’s definitely possible. So I’m looking for people willing to take that on and benefit from the experience. But it will be a serious undertaking. I don’t want to minimise the amount of effort it will take to break a five-minute mile.

“The aspiration is the participants start running themselves in April and then we start on the track in May once they’ve done a few dozen runs on their own to get in shape. And then in June and July we will increase the intensity.”

And what happens after July? The scholarship will come to an end but Koepplinger is hoping that his students’ journeys will continue.

“If you’d asked Nelson Mandela when he finished running if that was the end of it, then I think he would have said he would use the skills he learned on the running track to make the world a better place.

“So July won’t be the end of it. Will it be the end of running for some of the participants? Possibly. But that’s just one part of it. It’s the diligence that’s the important thing. And hopefully that stays with them.”

Candidates have until March 15 to apply at