Sunday, 12 May 2019

STAGE 6 NEWS

I've had a really nice rest since stage five of the run around the world finished last Summer. This period has seen probably the least amount of miles that I've ever done since first putting on my running shoes back in 1993.

It's been important for Donna and I to step away from it all for a short time in order to come back with greater focus and determination. Training for stage six will begin in August 2019. That will give me approximately 21 months before the 2100 mile run starts from Kiev, Ukraine to Nur Sultan (formerly Astana) in Kazakhstan.


I'm still working on an exact start date for stage six with numerous factors to take into account such as my employment situation, gaining enough commercial backing and the date of my 50th birthday!

I've thought a lot recently about my approach to the next stage. I'm absolutely certain that, for this campaign to be a success, I need to work as hard as I did during the build up to the run across the USA. Specifically, before I broke my ankle in May 2010. The period of training from January 2009 up to my accident 17 months later was very consistent, it was very tough and that schedule was absolutely relentless.

Since the USA campaign, I have never been able to reach those heights in training due to the focus needing to be on the amount of planning and logistics involved in subsequent campaigns across Australia, Europe and to Kiev.

I have the luxury this time of an already worked out detailed route from Kiev through Russia to Nur Sultan. That's going to save many man hours of planning. I also have the benefit of knowing what is involved in running unsupported with Chappie. The were some valuable lessons learned during stage five in 2018 which will be put to very good use in the future.


I'll be doing more work this time to ensure Chappie arrives safely and without any customs issues in Ukraine and then back again from Kazakhstan. Regular readers will remember how help from the British Embassy and a chance meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury was needed in Belgrade in order to get Chappie released from Serbian customs in 2018. I'll be doing all that I can to avoid that scenario again!


Time also needs to be spent finding the correct level of commercial sponsorship to make stage six worthwhile. Stage six will see the least amount of "tour costs" than any of the other non UK stages. There must be a significant amount of money though for St Benedict's Hospice. This is hugely important.

Given the experience gained in the past and work already undertaken, I'm convinced that there is enough time to devote to getting the required level of fitness to make stage six a success. It won't be easy and I feel that there will be little margin for error or complacency. It's going to take an unprecedented amount of effort and discipline to get to the start line looking like the athlete Run Geordie Run should be. I've failed at this more than I've succeeded in the past as the image below shows. 


My personal dream of raising at least half a million pounds for local good causes remains a very realistic one. The desire to repay the debt of gratitude to St Benedict's Hospice is as strong as it was in 1993.

The overall fund currently stands at £326,897.15. There are so many people to thank for making that possible. The generosity of so many has been incredible. Chances are that if you're reading this, then you are one of the many who have donated. Thank you!

As you can see from the image below, some donations have already been made this year. There is a very long way to go to reach the target of £50,000 that I've set for stage six. If you'd like to sponsor my efforts then please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here



Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Team Run Geordie Run

Team Run Geordie Run was setup in 2010. Its sole purpose was to use the Run Geordie Run brand to attract people to raise funds for St. Benedict’s Hospice who otherwise would not do so by taking part in the Great North Run. 

For the first five years, runners who had secured their own place in the Great North Run made up the team. £7000 was raised for St. Benedict’s Hospice and subsequently The Children’s Foundation during this time. The average size of the team was five people who did very well to raise the sum that they did. 

It wasn’t until SOS Group got involved in 2015 that Team Run Geordie Run’s fundraising was taken to a whole new level. This was achieved by using a combination of charity places secured by The Children’s Foundation and a small sum of money provided by SOS Group to reduce the cost of entry and also provide a quality finish line goodie bag and commemorative t-shirt or vest. 
The reduced entry cost appealed to more runners than had shown interest in previous years. As a result, from 2015 – 2018, the average size of the team grew to 25.  £12,048.50 was raised in 2015 for The Children’s Foundation and SOS backing proved to be a huge success straight away. It seemed to be a classic case of “speculate to accumulate”.  

In 2016, the retention of some of the 2015 team together with some new runners saw £10,000 raised for The Children’s Foundation. SOS Group paid the entry fee for those high performing fundraisers in 2015 and this helped to continue the higher than average total raised per person. A slightly higher spend by SOS Group in 2016 saw the goodie bag contain a golden bottle of Prosecco. This helped commemorate the Olympic games of that year. Medals were also given out to the top three Team Run Geordie Run finishers.

Once again, SOS Group paid entry fees for high earning fundraisers in 2017. This saw an increased retention of runners from previous years as well as the highest number of new runners. 2017 was the biggest team to date and £18,684.10 was raised for The Children’s Foundation. This particular year saw four exceptional fundraisers raise £8,000 of the final amount between them.


The formula for success was repeated again in 2018. In line with the main Run Geordie Run campaign, it was St. Benedict’s Hospice who provided the Great North Run charity places this year. SOS Group helped to reduce the cost of entry fees to those people who signed up early. They also paid for the ever popular finish line goodie bag as well as the dashing Team Run Geordie Run commemorative t-shirts and vests. 2018 saw the highest average amount raised per person. With a slightly smaller team, £10,561.62 was raised.


It took Team Run Geordie Run five years to raise £7,000. Since SOS Group got involved, a further £51,294.22 has been raised over the last four years. This means that, to date, an amazing £58,294.22 has been raised for St Benedict’s Hospice and The Children’s Foundation by Team Run Geordie Run runners.

There is always a healthy pressure for Team Run Geordie Run to raise a five figure sum for local good causes these days. With the likes of SOS Group backing the project hopefully this will continue for years to come.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 8

For the first time on this challenge I woke up in a nice warm bed in Tow Law. While Chappie is always likely to be my home on these sorts of challenges, I think it's wise, where possible, to accept the kind offers of accommodation that come my way. Thanks again to Mike for putting me up for the night. It was also nice to have my first shower in 3 days! 

The day started with Mike and I loading Chappie onto the trailer ready to make the short trip to the previous day's end point. There was a slight detour to Greggs in Tow Law to stock up on bacon sandwiches. To be precise, it was 2 bacon sandwiches and a bacon and sausage sandwich. "Just sauces on the bacon sandwiches please" I told the lady behind the counter. The reason why is to fool them into thinking that the order is for more than one person and to disguise my shame at ordering such a huge amount of food.


We got to Sunniside near Tow Law for 0800 and I said goodbye to Mike. It was a sunny yet chilly start to the day and, once again, I felt relieved at not having to spend a 3rd consecutive night in cold temperatures.  


I found it quite easy to devour my sandwiches while running. The previous day's calorie burn meant that I was ready for a good feed. They weren't the highest quality calories that I was putting in but the fat and salt that I craved suited me just fine.

I made my way past many farms in County Durham. Visibility was good and the views were spectacular. I didn't hang about to take photos and the downhill miles ticked by quite nicely.

I reached Langley Moor after 9 miles and noticed a familiar looking silhouette in a shop to my left. It was familiar because it was a sight that I'd been used to seeing when I ran across Australia and Europe. It was none other than sports therapist Jason Stobbs or Stobbsy as he's affectionately known. We had a brief chat and I continued on my way towards Durham. Of course, I'll be seeing Stobbsy at the Around The World Ball in a few weeks time.  


I got stuck in a traffic queue on the climb up to Neville's Cross in Durham. I waited patiently and the lights were kind enough to stay on long enough for me to reach the other side safely. 

A kind lady stopped me and handed me £4 for St Benedict's Hospice. In time honoured tradition, I paid it straight into http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun

I made it into Durham City Centre with a bit of patience and cooperation from passing traffic. I stopped very briefly to take a picture of Chappie on Framwelgate Bridge. I didn't hang about and it wasn't long before I was on the busy A690 heading out of Durham.



I crossed over the A1 and decided to have a quick break at the 14 mile point. While I was eating a snack I decided to tot up how much had been raised on the 25th Anniversary Challenge. I realised that I was only £3.15 away from £400. I quickly put that out on social media and there was a flurry of donations.

My rest was over and I was delighted to be on a bit of a bike track at the side of the A690 for a while.  I turned off the A690 south of Houghton-le-Spring at the 17 mile point. There was then a nice uphill stretch up to the 19 mile point. I had a really positive run from here on. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride as I ran the final miles to St Benedict's Hospice. I reflected on a successful 25 years of fundraising in my mind and thought just how proud my Mam and Dad would have been.

I kept getting notified of donations on my phone as I ran those final miles. I turned into the Hospice road to be told by a workman leaving the adjacent building site that the road came to a "dead end". I continued on my way and he didn't look too pleased that I ignored him.

I reached the Hospice entrance after 24 miles of running and Catrina, the fund raising manager, was there waiting for me. It was just like the old days when I used to finish a run at the Hospice and Anne Oliver (the fundraising manager at the time) would be there waiting. Incidentally, I believe that it was Anne's 80th birthday when I finished. Happy Birthday Anne and thanks for the part you've played over the years in my fundraising. 


Andrew, from my sponsor SOS Group, was at the finish line. He'd being doing some business in the area and it was fitting that he was there to see me complete this run.


It was nice to talk to some of the Hospice staff while I stuffed my face with some delicious cheese scones from the Hospice bistro. The cheese sandwich and can of pop went down very well too!

When I got home I got a notification to say that two children had made a donation. The message left on my Virgin Money Giving page read "Mark the boys wanted to donate their pocket money this week . Well done keep up good work . James and Noah x".

How very kind of the boys to donate their pocket money.


Once I'd made a donation for the scones etc that I'd had at St Benedict's Hospice the final total for the 25th Anniversary Challenge was a very pleasing £500. Thanks so much to everyone who made a donation and left a message on http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun. That is far and beyond what I thought would be raised when I left home just over a week ago.


I later found that a few fundraising milestones had been hit during the day. The first was that the  £120,000 barrier had been breached for St Benedict's Hospice. The current total for the Hospice is £120,039.27. 

The second milestone was breaching the £20,000 barrier for the year for St Benedict's Hospice. The current total for the Hospice in 2018 is £20,007.37.

The total for the current campaign nudged closer to the 47k barrier and stands at £46,953.60. With the Around The World Ball in just 2 weeks time, it looks odds on that my personal target for the Stage 5 campaign will hit its £50,000 target. What's pleasing about that is that this campaign is just a 2 year one. It's taken longer in the past to raise a similar amount. The stage 4 campaign was 3 years long and raised £55,147.25. Stage 3 across Australia was only 2 years but had the backing of a local radio station and newspaper. Stage 2 across the USA was a four year campaign with £75,000 coming during the final 8 months. Again, it had the backing of local radio and newspapers as well as some unplanned national coverage. 

  
nufc.com have been at the heart of my coverage since 2001. They remain the most important cog in the awareness machine and have been responsible for helping to bring in tens of thousands of pounds. The amount of contacts that I've made all over the world through nufc.com have been invaluable. Game changing.   

Pound for pound, I think Stage 5 of the run around the world could be the most successful yet. The support on social media and the interest in the blog is very healthy. The support from my network of friends and colleagues for this stage has been outstanding. People seem to have bought into my vision of unsupported running with a 100+ kg buggy and with a lot of support from home too it all adds up to a tremendous team effort. Then their is the support that I've received from local people wherever I've ran. People all across my route in Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and this week in Northumberland, Cumbria and County Durham have been so friendly, supportive and generous.

Convincing people to donate to a cause that is not close to their heart is always very tricky. Getting people to back my very personal mission hasn't always been easy. The loss of my parents was a long time ago. I'm no longer riddled with the terrible grief. I sometimes think that my message isn't as strong these days. This is partly to do with the fact that, thanks to fundraising, I'm in a really good place. I think they refer to it as "mental health" these days.

What I absolutely must do going forward is make a better job of telling my sponsors what difference their money makes to terminally ill people. Those people are in the same situation as my Mam and Dad once were. They have no future. What they do have, though, is a supportive and professional institution who will try their best to make a person's final days as positive, comfortable and fulfilled as possible. 

As Catrina from the hospice said earlier this year "This isn't a place to die, it's a place to live.". I've pondered over that statement all year and, relating it to my Mam's experience at the Hospice, I completely agree. My Mam's exact words in 1994 were "I'm not dying from cancer, I'm living with cancer.". It's the same message using different words.


There are so many people to thank over the previous 25 years. I hope that I've always managed to get that message of gratitude across. I have spent 25 years of asking a lot of things from a lot of people and I'm eternally grateful to them all. As are the charities who have benefitted I'm sure.

So what about the next 25 years? I'll talk more about that at the Around The World Ball on October 13th. Rest assured, I'm determined as ever to raise funds.

I'll finish this blog with Catrina's take on St Benedict's Hospice. If you'd like to make a donation then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 7

I was woken at 11pm last night (Sunday) by a drunk driver who pulled up next to Chappie and asked what it was. I just said it’s a mobile B&B and after a few F words he seemed happy with my answer and drove off. 

It took me a good hour to get back to sleep and I managed to put my fleece on as I was getting very cold. It was only 1 or 2 degrees Celsius on the hill overlooking Cowshill. 

I kept waking up and putting my head inside the sleeping bag to try and keep warm. Then the lack of air woke me up and I’d get cold again. This continued throughout the night. 

I woke up at 0600 with a really bad head and didn’t start running until 1000. I hadn’t gone 1/2 mile when I was stopped by a long term supporter called Dee. We had a good chat and I was very grateful for her donation. Thanks to the very good phone signal I paid it straight into http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun


The following miles were very slow. Every time I tried to run my head pounded. At least the sun was shining and I managed to warm up. In fact, the conditions and the clothes that I was wearing were perfectly matched. 


I made it to the 7 mile point near East Gate and got talking to a man called David tending to his garden. He invited me in for a hot drink. Both him and his wife (Judith) were teachers in Washington and we got talking about my former teachers and inevitably about my running. They also made a very kind donation via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun

I had a couple of cups of coffee and some toast with peanut butter on. It was almost 1500 when I left and I knew I was way behind schedule. It was worth it though as they were nice people to talk to. 


I started running towards Stanhope and my headache had gone. It’s amazing what toast can do for a headache! Or any ailment for that matter. Some ladies threw some change into Chappie’s basket and a man in a Volvo handed me a pound coin near Stanhope. 

I knew I was up against it time wise so decided to increase the pace to 12/13 minute miles. I was able to maintain that pace for 10 miles. 


I took a left at the 17 mile point and started running up Wolsingham Bank. It was shorter but steeper than yesterday’s climb out of Nenthead. I had to stop half way up for five minutes. I didn’t feel well at all. I managed to get to the top and I was soaked in sweat. 

Waiting for me at the top was another long term supporter called Mark. I recognised him from the previous Around The World balls. He made a kind donation which I paid straight away into http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun. I must buy him a pint at the next ball in 3 weeks time. 


There was a bit of a down hill and then another climb into Tow Law. I felt very hungry and out on Facebook “Please tell me there’s a chippy in Tow Law”. A follower of the Run Geordie Run Page (Tony Palmer) replied with an address and I made my way to The Golden Fry. 

I ordered Sausage And Chips with curry sauce. Delicious! 

I ate them inside the chippy and a man called Mike (pictured below) entered the shop having recognised Chappie outside. He was the first in the shop to make a donation. He found out about my running on Real Radio during the run across the USA. 

I also received a donation from a young girl called Jessica and the rest of her family had a photo with Chappie. 


The Golden Fry wouldn’t take my money for the food and they also handed me a bag of change. I paid the equivalent for my food and the change amount as well as money collected earlier in Stanhope to St. Benedict’s Hospice via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun and continued on my way. 


The generosity in Town Law didn’t end there when Mike contacted me via Facebook to offer a shower and bed for the night. He was on a call out job but would be with me at 2030 to bring me back to Tow Law. 

I climbed inside Chappie after 22 miles and waited for Mike. He arrived at 2030 and we loaded Chappie onto the back of his trailer and drove a mile back to Tow Law. 

A hot shower, a cup of tea and a warm bed is not how I thought this day would end. I’m very pleased and very grateful to not have to spend the final night in almost sub zero temperatures again. 


Tomorrow is the final day of the 25th Anniversary Challenge. So far £387.85 has been raised since I left home last Sunday. I’m really pleased with the amazing generosity that has been shown. I’m looking forward to reaching St. Benedict’s Hospice tomorrow afternoon and ending my first 25 years of fundraising at the place where it all began. 


If you’d like to donate then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun. Thanks in advance.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 6

Without much cloud cover it was absolutely freezing up on Hartside Summit overnight. I got out of Chappie at 0915, packed up and made my way to the temporary Cafe. The picture below is the view back to the Lake District.


I ordered two bacon sandwiches and a cup of tea. Katherine, the owner, was kind enough to make a donation to St. Benedict’s Hospice.


As I was eating my breakfast, I got talking to two bikers called Tommy and John. They couldn’t work out what Chappie was so I told them all about our travels. They were kind enough to make a donation. I knew that I would lose my mobile phone signal 100 metres down the road so I promptly paid all of the donations in to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.


It was a nice to start the day running purely down hill. Despite the sunshine, it was a very chilly morning. I made my way towards Alston and reached the front street after 6 miles of easy downhill running.

I didn’t have a data signal so was unable to navigate my way to my old colleague’s Mam’s house. I’d been promised a bacon sandwich and a cuppa. To my surprise, as I headed out of Alston, I passed the street where I knew she lived. Five minutes later and I was drinking coffee and tucking into a bacon and mushroom sandwich. It was great to see Elaine again after so many years and her Mam was lovely too. They are both keen followers of my Around The World Run. It was nice to chat to them about it.

 I left with a snack and a sports drink for the onward journey. Thank you to Elaine for her donation to St. Benedict’s Hospice too. I think I’ve cost her a lot of money over the years as she has sponsored me since the very early days of my fundraising. She was also very kind to me after my Mam died and I remember having some nice meals and a chat at her house.


The road from Alston to Nenthead was quite undulating and while I warmed up on the climbs, I struggled to keep warm on the descent. It made for a very uncomfortable and, at times, cold afternoon of running.

I stopped at The Miners Arms at Nenthead for a chicken burger. It was very good. My meal was well timed as there was a downpour while I was eating.

I was just about to get back on the road when Dave the owner of the bike shop asked me about Chappie. I told him about my journey. He’d also been having problems with body temperature while cycling.


Another man (John) asked about my journey. He gave me the last of his change and I paid his and Dave’s donation in to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.


I was stopped by some ladies a little way up the hill out of Nenthead. I was surprised to learn that the lady on the left (Adele) was in fact the Sausage Sandwich Lady from day 4. She’d first seen me in Hexham on day 2 and was one of the drivers who were cheering me up the hill. She caught a glimpse of the wording on Chappie that day and after a bit of Googling found my Facebook page.

Back to today and Adele handed me some home made cookies wrapped in tin foil. I had them later on the 16th mile. They were delicious.


The climb out of Nenthead was long and steep (see the elevation profile below). I just had to keep on putting one foot in front of the other and get on with it. Various cars, cyclists and motocross bikes waved as I climbed the hill and this really helped.

That climb out of Nenthead was the steepest that I’ve tackled since Ukraine. Just like all of the other climbs on this tour, I was really pleased with my fitness and also my attitude to getting stuck in.


I reached the summit after almost 2 miles of steep uphill. I was very warm with my 5 layers on!


One motocross rider passed and then turned back. He saw the “Run Geordie Run” on the side of Chappie and said he’d check it out later. There was also a mention of a donation so I’ll look out for that on http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.


As I ran past Killhope Lead Mining Museum I could feel myself getting cold again. There were also some dark clouds approaching from the north.


I ran through Lanehead and Cornriggs and decided to stop for the day at a roadside inlet near Cowshill. I was quite happy with 18 miles for the day. The priority was to get warm and change into fresh kit.


Just as I was boiling the kettle for a cup of Northumberland Tea a couple called John and Lillian Shepherd pulled over in a classic car for a chat. I apologised that I couldn’t make them a cuppa as I only had one mug!

They made a donation to St. Benedict’s Hospice before they left. It was really nice talking to them. It was also nice to end the day with in the same way it started. i.e. with donations to St. Benedict’s Hospice.


I had a full strength 4G signal so I paid John and Lillian’s donation to the Hospice via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun while I drank two cups of Northumberland Tea. Incidentally, I later found that John is the cousin of my Sister in law’s husband. What a small world.


I setup camp and climbed inside Chappie. The view out of Chappie’s starboard window was a really great one.


Today’s low point of elevation was Alston. The climb after that looks very impressive.


There are now only 42 miles left to St. Benedict’s Hospice. I’ve decided to end this challenge there which was always my original intention. It will be a fitting end to the first 25 years of fundraising. I’m going to try and get someone with a van to give Chappie and myself a ride home to Bedlington. 

Despite me not really doing this 25th Anniversary Challenge as a fundraiser almost £300 has been raised this week for St. Benedict’s Hospice. The current total is a very pleasing £273.80. Thanks so much, once again, if you’ve made a donation via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.

As I’ve been typing these closing lines a police van has just pulled alongside. Ah, they’ve left now. Hopefully they’ll have made a note of my Virgin Money Giving page.

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 5

I set off from The Quiet Site near Ullswater just after 1000. I’d just had a full Cumbrian Breakfast which the owner wouldn’t accept any money for. Once again I paid the equivalent amount to St. Benedict’s Hospice via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun


I reached Ullswater after 2 miles. There was quite a bit of traffic about but I was always given plenty of room by the overtaking cars. 


I made it to the M6 junction after 7.5 miles and ran as fast as I could onto the A66 to avoid holding any traffic up. I wasn’t on that road for long before joining the A686 road to Alston. 

At Langwathby after 12 miles of running I was faced with another set of traffic lights. I don’t think I made it to the other side in time and there was a stream of traffic behind me. Everyone seemed to be patient so there was no issue. 


The climb to Hartside Summit started just after Langwathby. I had to remove two layers at the top of the initial incline as I was boiling hot. 


I stopped at 1500 to cook some food and have a few cups of Northumberland Tea. I got going again at 1600 and felt full of energy. A lady called Lucy who I spoke to on Wednesday in the rain passed by in her car and wished me good luck. 

The view to my left was stunning as I continued up the climb to Hartside Summit. 


It was fairly cold as I neared the top despite the late afternoon sun. 



I made it to the summit after 24 miles of running. It was a lot different to the last time I was up here right in the middle of Storm Ali. 


I set up camp and settled in for the night. 


There was a very nice sunset as I climbed inside Chappie. 


Thanks to those kind people who have made a donation to St. Benedict’s Hospice today. If you’d like to do so then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.