The day got off to a great start with a fine bowl of porridge and a round of toast. I was still almost full from the previous night's pasta meal but seemed to polish the lot off nonetheless. Katy, Jack and I were staying in Redditch at the parents of one of my colleagues;Val and Harry Lewis (pictured). Their hospitality was second to none and has not been bettered on this tour. Apologies to Malcolm Macdonald, landlord of the Kings Arms in Melrose. You have been displaced at the top of the good hospitality league.
It was a good 75 minute drive back to the start point at Hales and by the time I started running it was 11:30. This is one of the disadvantages of being a day and a half behind the planned schedule. I'm not quite in the place that I should be and the accommodation is a little further away as a result.
I started off slowly in hot and humid weather. That slow pace didn't last long and by mile 6 I was running at an unusually fast 10 minute mile pace. Unusual, that is, for someone who'd just ran 560 miles in the last 25 days. My progress was also helped by some brilliant navigation and directions from Katy. This was one of the trickiest parts of the route to date, in a labyrinth of twisting minor roads. Katy made sure that the support car was at every turn before driving on to the next one. I couldn't go wrong.
I went past the usual 8/9 mile banana stop point as I didn't want to stop while in such good form. Instead, I waited until the 11 mile point and then stopped for bananas and a drink.
I was so relieved to be having a good day after the injury ravaged last 2 weeks and I think I had one too many bananas. The next 4 miles were really slow as a result. Once the bananas were out of my system, I started picking up the speed again. Mile 16 was just over 10 minutes. Mile 17 was just over 11 minutes. And after I'd wolfed down an energy gel on mile 17 the next 2 miles were just over 9 minutes each. In fact, at one point on mile 18, I looked down at my watch and it was telling me that I was running at an 07:30 minute mile pace. So this is what running after losing a couple of stone is like! I'd almost forgotten! And it was 23 degrees!
Once I got to mile 20, I decided to take my foot off the gas and save some energy for the coming days. This plan didn't last long though as I finished the run with 11, 9 and 10 minute miles.
I couldn't work out where all that apparent extra energy came from today? I'd burned 4000 calories according to my watch and hadn't really replaced that many. Obviously the food I'd had at Harry and Val's had helped a lot. I haven't eaten that much for days.
I promised you lot a tenuous link with football so here goes. I can only compare today's performance to the time Newcastle beat Arsenal at Highbury around Christmas 2001. That win was the first for nearly 30 games in London and today's good run was as equally overdue. That win put us top of the league over Christmas and while I knew we wouldn't win the league it was good to be in that position for as long as it lasted.
After today's run, I feel like I'm top of the league again. I also know that it may not last that long but I'm damned sure I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. In fact, enjoy it I did tonight. Katy and Jack can't complain that I don't know how to treat them to a slap up meal. Just around the corner from our £15 Travelodge room is a Little Chef. Why would you take a look at the size of the burger I had tonight. It's an "Olympic Burger" so it must be good for you. Ian "The Coach" Glasgow is going to have a fit when he sees that picture. He's been on my case all week about my lack of food intake. Well Ian, I'd like to dedicate this burger, chips and the 5 onion rings that it came with, to you mate. I didn't leave a crumb! On the plus side, it might make me run a bit slower tomorrow.
Now the serious bit! Don't worry it doesn't last long! The numerous mental and physical battles I've had to win during the last 14 days have been tough and for most folk this would have seen the end of a very difficult event. Even if I do say so myself. Running 20 odd miles a day, while in severe pain, has made me seriously question myself and my capabilities. Believe you me, the low points have been very low. Forget all about the mountains in Scotland, crossing the Pennines was the section that almost brought me to my knees. The only reason I'm on the fringe of the 600 mile point now, in my opinion, is because I've spent numerous weekends training in the very place that almost crippled me. Oh I do love the Pennines!
The mental battle has been overcome with the support of many individuals. I'm in constant contact with colleagues John Brettell, Jimmy Bell and Ian "The Coach" Glasgow. They all make sure that my feet are kept firmly on the ground. John and Jimmy and the motivators while Ian tries to make sure that I eat and do the right things (he failed tonight mind after that burger!). Then there are the many texts and emails I receive from my Aunty Joyce and her family. It's also been good to see friends and colleagues at surprise points on the route. Add into the mix the continued support from the lads at NUFC.COM and you can already start to see that I've got some first class backing.
The icing that goes on top of the mental cake comes in the shape of the people I've never actually met. There are hundreds of them! All of those people that have made a pledge or have bothered to send me an email can safely say that they have played an important part in ensuring that I'm still intact on day 25. I'm looking forward to all of this continued support during the final 11/12 days of the run.
That's the serious bit over. I owe a big thank you to today's sponsors for nudging the total ever nearer the £15,000 mark. Let's hope that in the next few days that I can exceed that total. I'm in regular contact with Anne Oliver at St Benedict's Hospice and I know that she is very grateful for all of your pledges.
While on the subject of landmarks, tomorrow should see me pass the 600 mile point on the run. I've also just realised that after 10 miles of the run today, I had only 300 miles left to do. There are the makings of a small glimmer of light in a very long dark tunnel.
Anyway, that's enough from me today on this most victorious of days. While writing this post Jack has nicked my space in bed so I'm on the settee (AGAIN!!!). This isn't how top athletes, such as myself, are supposed to sleep! I bet Linford, Paula or Brendan never slept on the settee, the night before a run!
This is Mark Allison signing off from yet another £15 Travelodge room. May tomorrow bring more high temperatures and no more sleeping on the settee!