Saturday, 29 September 2018

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.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 4

Despite strong overnight winds on top of Hartside Summit I had a reasonable sleep. Chappie was in a good sheltered position and it was fairly quiet. The temperature of recent days is definitely when sleeping inside is most comfortable. It’s probably the most sleep I’ve had in Chappie over consecutive nights. 

Day four of the 25th Anniversary Challenge began with a knock on Chappie’s door. I opened up to be greeted by a man called Steven holding a box. To my amazement he told me that his wife, Adele, had been following the journey online and had cooked sausage sandwiches for me. What another brilliantly kind start to the day! 


As I ate the sandwiches, I noticed a hand written note on the enclosed napkin. What a nice touch. 


I started running down from Hartside Summit just before 0830. The wind was the strongest I’d encountered with Chappie but it was very stable and I felt quite safe. 


I arrived at the expected road closure and made my way down into the maze of country lanes to my right. 


I could see PC Tony up ahead just after the two mile point. He’d brought me some coffee and I thanked him for his online donation made the day before. 

We chatted about the fire at Hartside Cafe and the oncoming Storm Ali. We laughed that it was very aptly named! 


The rain started at mile 4 as I tried to navigate what I thought was the most efficient route to Penrith. The route was very undulating with some challenging climbs. 

I got chatting to some cyclists who had left Penrith earlier on. I warned them that the wind was strong near the summit behind. Some of their party had abandoned the ride and had been taken to Nenthead which was their final destination. 

I described the route ahead for them and wished them luck. I later found out via the Run Geordie Run Facebook page that they had reached their destination safely albeit with a few cuts and scrapes. Three out of their party of five were blown off their bikes. 


A little further down the road a runner called Lucy stopped and asked where I was heading. I have her a brief overview of my journey around the world and with a few kind words of encouragement from her I was on my way again. 


I reached the bridge at Langwathby after 13 miles. The wind dropped and all of a sudden I found myself running in glorious sunshine. The bridge was one of three during the day where I had to sprint to the other side. 


The sunshine lasted all of 20 minutes and the wind picked up considerably. Debris started to fly everywhere and the passing traffic added to this by driving straight over it. 


It seemed a long old slog to Penrith and I was very relieved to reach the junction with the A66 at the 17.5 mile point. I crossed the busy roundabout and descended into Eamont Bridge. 

I made it over the river Eamont just before the traffic lights changed. It was a steep incline but these bursts of pace helped to keep my body temperature up. 

As I turned towards Pooley Bridge there was further evidence of Storm Ali’s destructive powers. 



The wind speed increased and I had to really fight to maintain the pace. 


Just before I reached Pooley Bridge a kind lady threw some money into Chappie’s basket. I counted it later on and paid it in to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun

There was another bridge to sprint over at the 22.5 mile point and I was now running alongside Ullswater. 


There were branches strewn everywhere and the water was lapping up onto the road in places. 

I eventually turned towards the campsite which was a 2 mile climb in a direction away from Ullswater. It dawned on me at this point just how good I felt considering I’d ran 24 miles into a headwind. 

I felt very hungry as I dragged Chappie up the hill. I decided to munch on some chocolate eclairs that I’d been given the day before. 


I reached the camp site after 26 miles just before 5.30 pm. It was without doubt one of the most difficult days I’d ever had running with Chappie. 

I checked in to the campsite and headed to the bar for a pint. There was a power cut on the site and the place was lit by candlelight. 

I ordered myself a pint (imagine the Hobbits in the Prancing Pony) and got talking to a couple called Jacquie and Jason. 

We talked about both my adventures and theirs. I was interested to hear about the places that they’d cycled and their own fundraising work. It was a proper adventurer’s conversation and I think everyone was in their element. 


I retired for the night happy with a good job done over the last 4 days. 90 miles of very tough running had proven to be a challenge fitting enough to celebrate 25 years of fundraising. An unexpected £112.50 had been raised for St. Benedict’s Hospice too which is fantastic. 


There is now the small matter of a few days of walking around Ullswater before heading back home via St. Benedict’s Hospice starting at the weekend. 

There’s approximately 120 miles left to run. There is a lot of climbing left to do. I’m looking forward to bringing this particular challenge to a successful end and getting as close as possible to my fundraising target of £50,000 for the current campaign. 

If you like to sponsor me then please visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.