Saturday, 29 September 2007

The last day - Cheque presentation.

It was a superb night! I'm of course referring to the cheque presentation evening that was held at Dunston Excelsior last Thursday. Yours truly was the host for the evening and I must say that I was just a tad nervous at the outset. As the evening went on I really got into it. I even cracked a few one liners. Unfortunately, I decided to pick out a few audience members as the butt of my jokes! It was the nerves speaking! Honest! As you can see from the picture, I was joined by Jack on stage. My son has nerves of steel when it comes to things like that. I would have been safely tucked away in the crowd at that age!

Anyway, the evening kicked off with the presentation of £1710 to the Hospice from Steven Moore. Anne Oliver was on hand to receive the cheque and say a few word of thanks.

Then, after the buffet, the Pennine Challenge Team presented their £3912 cheque. John Brettell introduced the team and once again Anne Oliver was on hand to say a few words of thanks.

It was then time for the Happy Cats to entertain and they did a superb job.

The evening continued with a thank you to my roadside support crew. I asked Jeeves and Rab C a few questions on stage. I found out the following day that Ian "The Coach" was close to throwing up on stage with nerves as he thought he was next. I let him off though!

Unfortunately, the lads at NUFC.COM couldn't be present to receive their thanks. However, it was appropriate that NUFC.COM reader and fellow Toon supporter, Barry Wilkie, was on hand. Barry gave a very touching speech indeed and it was great to meet him and his good lady.

Then the big moment finally arrived. The overall cheque was handed over to Anne Oliver. We were £5 short of £34,000 overall so I had Jack write out a cheque for that amount. I announced several times with pride the final amount of £34,000.

Anne Oliver accompanied her thanks with a really nice engraved glass gift for myself and for the "best roadside supporter" - Jack. What a lovely way to end a super evening.

The most important thing for me, though, was not the handing over of my cheque. To be joined by so many friends and family in an evening of fundraising for St Benedict's Hospice was what made the night special for me.

By the end of the night I had become very comfortable with my new role of host. I'm looking forward to the next one in 2011!

Enjoy the pictures below from the evening.

The Cheque Presentation in Pictures.

Jack and I present the last £5 to make the total up to £34,000. Jack wrote the cheque himself!

The Cheque Presentation in Pictures.

NUFC.COM reader - Barry Wilkie (Once of Dunston)

The Cheque Presentation in Pictures.

The Roadside Support Crew.

The Cheque Presentation in Pictures.

The Pennine Challenge Team.

Friday, 28 September 2007

The last day - The cheque handed over!

Well I did it! With a little help from my friends! 3 cheques were handed over to Anne Oliver from St Benedict's Hospice last night. My cheque as well as those from Steven Moore and the Pennine Challenge team totalled £34,000.

A full report and photos will follow when I get back from the Man City match tomorrow!

Thanks to all involved!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Training Summary (Week Ending 23/09/2007)

Thursday 20th September. Gym.
Friday 21st September. Spinning class.
Saturday 22nd September. 5.6 miles. Shotley Bridge to Ebchester and back via some hills. (00:58.14). Debut!

Training Summary (Week Ending 16/09/2007)

Monday 10th September. 7 miles. Gosforth to the Back Page and back. (01:08:46).
Tuesday 11th September. 5 miles. Race Course. (00:46:43).
Wednesday 12th September. 6 miles. Town Moor. (00:53:52).
Friday 14th September. 6 miles. Jesmond Dene Hills. (00:57:32). PB!
Saturday 15th September. Gym.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Day 79 - Rock Steady!

Newcastle Falcons and now Newcastle United have come out to support Northern Rock this week. It was nice to see the first team warming up today with "ROCK STEADY" t-shirts on as well as all the positive advertising around the stadium.

You might be interested to know that there are thousands of pounds of this runner's sponsor money deposited with Northern Rock. This, of course, will be handed over to the Hospice this Thursday at the specially organised Cheque Presentation Evening along with a very generous donation from the Northern Rock Foundation.

While I'm on the subject - plans and preparations for the evening are almost complete. There will be 120 people in attendance representing all aspects of the run. I'm delighted to announce that Biffa from will be there along with some of the readers of his site. Friends, family and colleagues will be there on what should be one of the proudest evenings of my life. Pats on the back, high fives and hugs from the ladies will be the order of the evening!

The buffet should be good. I've already had a sample of the sausage rolls from caterer Lesley Hanson. Lesley, who runs a catering business in her spare time, is providing her services and food at cost price!

I'll be posting the last lot of tickets tomorrow so don't panic if you haven't got yours yet. I'll be finishing off the speeches on the bus on the way to Arsenal on Tuesday. I should get back from this trip in the early hours on Wednesday morning. I have a game of 5-a-side on Wednesday night so goodness knows how tired I'll be come Thursday. I haven't played 5-a-side for 2 years due to the need to avoid injury. Expect a full match report and possibly some photos and a few diagrams of the wonder goals I score!

Day 79 - Random acts of kindness (Part 4).

I've said it many times before that one of the most important types of kindness during the big run was the appearance of special (and often unexpected) guests en route. I talked about such appearances during the first 15 days back in August. I'd like to continue my tribute to those individuals who helped me along the way.

Day 16 of the big run was probably the most special day of the entire tour. This was the day that 16 of my colleagues from Northern Rock joined me for a gruelling 22 miles in the North Pennines. The day was called the "Pennine Challenge" and what a challenge it turned out to be.

I'd had horrendous shin pain for 4 days up until this point and to see so many familiar faces was just the boost I needed. More importantly though, these staff raised over £3300 for the Hospice. Amazing!

In the first picture are supporter Jimmy Bell and runners Mike Lewis, Paul Jackson, Colin Moore, Patrick Aynsley-Smythe, Chris Cowan, John Brettell, Me, Ian Glasgow, Micheal Dunn, Peter Maddison and Jonathan Jobe. The second picture is 14 miles into the run with cyclist Jim Patterson joined by runners Paul Jackson, Chris Cowan, John Mallon, me and supporter Jimmy Bell. The third picture sees cyclists Mike Paul, Michelle Paul and Rob Caffrey at the top of a very steep hill! Not pictured are cyclists Hayley Hunt and Julie Rowles (They were there! Honest!).

Three of the team (Chris Cowan, Paul Jackson and John Mallon) stuck with me throughout the run in Peleton formation. I could tell from their words and actions that their primary objective was to see me safely to the finish line in Middleton-in-Teesdale. This came as a great surprise as I had expected to be at the back of the pack, running in self preservation mode. Jimmy Bell and his wife were also to be seen at every water stop offering valuable support.

Of course, I made it safely to the finish line that day, passing the 400 mile mark in the process. The next 474 miles would get lonelier in comparison to this day but there were still a few more appearances. To be continued....

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Day 78 - In the Mag!

Do yourself a big favour and make sure that you get issue 219 of Newcastle United fanzine "The Mag". It's available in most newsagents priced £2.50.

There is a 2 page interview of yours truly in there and, as with the rest of the issue, makes for superb reading.

On a similar theme, I got spotted at the Derby match (pictured) last Monday. While I was waiting in the queue to get the beers, one Toon supporter came up to me and said "Are you Mark? My wife and I were following you on your blog all the way. Absolutely tremendous!". He shook me by the hand and went on his way. He was one of a few well wishers on the day. As per usual the crack was good and Toon stalwarts Les Usher and Don were in good form. Pity the match didn't live up to the expectations.

Well I did it! I attended my first spinning class at the gym this week. The 45 minute class was as intense a workout as I've ever had. I made it to the end but not without an injury! My backside is absolutely killing! I'm hoping to do another class next week if I've recovered in time.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Day 72 - The book title.

It's 72 days since I set off from John O'Groats and 35 days since I reached Lands End. The big run and it's aftermath continues to dominate my thoughts and daily activities.

Firstly, I've had a brilliant suggestion for the book title today. All will be revealed if it ever hits the shelves/bargain buckets. In the meantime, I'm giving it a working title of "Mark Allison's excellent adventure". Don't worry, the proper title is far better! I've started to put pen to paper and a local celebrity has agreed to do the foreword.

On the fitness front, today was my first rest day in 7 days. I'll be having another rest tomorrow as I'm going to the Derby match. Get your money on 3-1 to the Toon by the way. I'm really eager to build on my fitness and take things to the next level. On top of the running and gym sessions I hope to do a few classes soon. I like the sound of "spinning" classes. I remember seeing some people in a right state at the Marriott gym after one of those sessions. Watch this space as I hope to do my first class this week.

Out of £28,120, there is now less than £1,000 sponsor money to collect before the cheque is handed over in 2 weeks time. Thank you to everyone who has paid so promptly. Once the money is all collected in from the individual sponsors a cheque from the Northern Rock Foundation will follow. As I've stated before, the Foundation are double matching every permanent member of Northern Rock staff's contributions. Those contributions currently stand at £3,100, meaning a whopping £6,200 goes to make up the £28,120. The Northern Rock Foundation along with the staff of Northern Rock and not forgetting NUFC.COM and it's readers are owed a massive thank you from both myself and St Benedict's Hospice.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Day 70 - Keeping my legs and mind active.

I've had 6 consecutive days of quality running and gym sessions since Sunday. Thankfully, there have only been a couple of PBs this week and I have ran at a far more sensible pace. I'm having a rest day tomorrow and it'll be interesting to see if I experience that horrible restless feeling in the evening as a result.

Planning and speech writing for the cheque presentation evening continues to keep me busy. There will be 120 good folk in attendance and as we now have some good raffle prizes there won't be too many people going home empty handed.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 66 - Another ambition achieved.

Not taking into account the lack of hair, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this picture was taken in 1988. That's my prized issue 1 of The Mag I'm holding along with the Newcastle shirt of the time (It actually fits me again! I think it might get an airing at Derby next Monday!).

I remember watching my Mam sew the "Greenalls Beers" sponsor carefully onto the shirt and I got a number "8" applied to the back. Gazza was my favourite player back then you see. The sponsor patch was bought from the little club shop outside the old West Stand and there weren't many of them about.

I wore this particular shirt with pride during my days at Monkwearmouth College in Sunderland. I got kicked, slapped and was spat on for 3 years by the mackems there but it never stopped me from putting the shirt on time and time again.

The Mag fanzine started that year and I've got every issue they've ever produced. Where is this going you might ask! Well, almost 20 years on I was interviewed by that very publication. Just this afternoon in fact. I spoke with editor Mark Jensen about the big run, the amazing support from the Toon Army, my first Newcastle matches and a whole host of other Toon related things that will appear in the next issue.

It's going to be a great honour to see the article. I've been reading the fanzine for a very long time and if someone would have told me, back in 1988, that I would be appearing in The Mag one day then I'd have laughed at them. For me, this is up there with the Lap of Honour and appearing on NUFC.COM! In fact, I'm looking on these events as an amazing hat trick of black and white appearances.

Day 66 - Fund, blog, presentation and book news.

Another day goes by and the fund is still growing in size. This afternoon, Paul Robinson made the pledge that got the fund up to £28,000. What a landmark! Thanks Paul. Also, colleague Chris Checkley increased his original pledge today. Not only was this reward for running 874 miles but Chris also commented how much he enjoyed reading the blog during the run.

I've had some really good feedback over the last 6 months about the blog. At the peak of the run I was getting over 3500 hits per day. It's almost a month since the run ended and I'm still getting 150 hits a day on average. Who are these 150 people? Haven't they got some paint to watch drying?

I'll continue to update the blog for a good while yet. It will eventually turn into a "Geordie running across America" blog or something similar. Knowing that people are taking an interest in my running and fundraising antics provides tremendous motivation.

There are only 17 days to go before the cheque is presented to St Benedict's Hospice at Dunston Excelsior. Over 100 people will be there and there are only a handful of tickets left. If you are interested in attending then please drop me a line at Tickets are only £5. This includes entry into a raffle, buffet and top North East band The Happy Cats.

Finally, I've been offered some expert advice from a local celebrity concerning writing a book about this year's run. After receiving so many requests to write such a book over the last few months, I've decided to start it within the next few weeks and hopefully publish it next year. All proceeds will, of course, go to St Benedict's Hospice. Does anyone have any ideas on what the title of the book should be? Please get in touch at

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Day 65 - A superb couple of weeks of training!

I've managed 6 runs in the last 2 weeks and each one of them has been a PB. In other words, I've put my new found weight loss and improved fitness to very good use.

Over the last 2 weeks, I've consistently broken long standing best times for 3 of my favourite courses. Tonight's 7 mile run from Shotley Bridge to Rowlands Gill was the most pleasing though. The quickest I've ever ran this course was in 2002 with a time of 01:01:07. I was absolutely flying tonight and beat that time with ease, putting in 00:58:12.

I really can't remember when I last ran 7 miles in less than 60 minutes. I also can't remember ever enjoying running this much. I've had times, in the past, where my confidence has been high. These last 2 weeks have seen my confidence reach levels they've never been at before. Well not since the mid 90's when I used to run 3 miles in 00:17:30. Admittedly, I'm not the best runner in the world. Six months ago weighing nearly 18 stone, I didn't even look like I could run 20 yards. However, as a result of running over 1500 miles this year I'm starting to look and feel like the runner I used to be 12 years ago.

I've now got a lot solid foundation to build on as I look to improve my fitness over the next few years. In lots of aspects, I'm about half way between where I was in January and where I need to be in 2011 if I'm to take on running across the USA. There is still a lot of hard work to do. As long as I keep on enjoying it, I've got every chance of achieving the next goal.

Training Summary (Week Ending 09/09/2007)

Tuesday 4th September. 5 miles. Race Course. (00:43:01). PB!
Thursday 6th September. 6 miles. Town Moor. (00:51:27). PB!
Friday 7th September. 6 miles. Jesmond Dene Hills. (00:58:02). PB!
Sunday 9th September. 7 miles. Shotley Bridge to Rowlands Gill. (00:58:12). PB!

Training Summary (Week Ending 02/09/2007)

Wednesday 29th August. 5 miles. Race Course. (00:43:10). PB!
Thursday 30th August. 6 miles. Town Moor. (00:51:36). PB!
Friday 31st August. Gym.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Day 64 - A nice day for a long run.

I've been very restless over the last 3 days. It's hard to describe other than it's the same kind of feeling that I had the week after I finished the big run. It appears that my mind is once again expecting to plan, organise and think about doing long runs. Also, my body seems full of energy and is expecting to do a long run. I was hoping to have a day off after 3 good runs this week but I may end up going for a run in the North Pennines later this afternoon.

I suppose being restless is something I can't complain too much about. It's better than not being bothered to run at all.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Day 62 - Lots going on.

The sponsor money is still coming in nicely. There is now less than £2000 left to collect and 3 weeks in which to collect it. Of course, the website has taken the pain out of collecting such a vast amount. God bless the internet!

Roberto Marchegiani was, today, the latest sponsor to increase his initial pledge and the fund creeps ever nearer the £28,000 mark. It's amazing to think that, when I finished the run in Lands End nearly 4 weeks ago, the fund stood at £23,080. The fund currently stands at £27,743 and I've got every confidence that it will reach £28,000 (I've got a few tricks up my sleeve involving a certain cheque presentation evening and taking advantage of the drunken guests!).

Over 100 tickets have now been sold for the cheque presentation evening. As I reported earlier in the week it promises to be a cracking do. I'm really looking forward to seeing The Happy Cats as well as all of my "colleagues, friends and family". In fact, as a result of the friendships I've made during this run, those 3 words are very much interchangeable these days.

Meanwhile, on top of the planning and collecting, I'm continuing to put in some very good miles on the road. Since returning to work last week, I've managed a couple of very intensive sessions in the gym. I've also put in 4 runs of the highest quality (by my standards anyhow!). Each one of them has been a PB. I've twice smashed my records for the 5 mile Newcastle Race course route as well as the 6 mile Town Moor route (aka the Mark Allison Memorial 6 miles). I've had some excellent company on the runs in the form of the "speed merchants", i.e Mark Fleming, Pete Maddison and Carlton Fletcher. More about that on Sunday, though, when I summarise the last few week's training.

In the space of 8 months my comfortable running pace has gone from 10:30 to 08:30 minutes per mile. This improvement is in line with the weight I've lost. I expect to get quicker as I continue to lose weight. That's the plan anyway! It won't be as easy as it was during the first 8 months of the year as I've now re-discovered the fact that I quite like the taste of beer!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Day 61 - The generousity continues.

I got a nice surprise today when a "fat" cheque was passed to me by the director of local IT company Savantis.

Earlier in the day colleagues Rob Lincoln and Andy McClean, just like many others of late, increased their original pledges.

These superb pledges have certainly given the fund a great chance of getting up to £28,000 and are very much appreciated.

Meanwhile, I've received a number of raffle prizes to be used for the cheque presentation evening and tickets are selling very well indeed.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Day 60 - Grog on the Tyne!

"Houston we have a venue!". Dunston Excelsior Working Mens Club to be precise. This is the venue that I hoped we'd get! I've attended a few charity do's here over the years and know first hand that the facilities are top notch (as well as the beer I might add!).

The last charity do I was at here was in 2005 for Cancer Bridge in Hexham. That particular do was organised by Dunston locals Helen and Billy Hope. There just happened to be an auction that evening. I had my eye on 2 items - Paul Gascoigne's final competitive match worn shirt (for Boston United) and a signed Newcastle shirt (The UEFA Cup semi final squad). I made sure I only had a couple of pints to keep the bidding sensible. I might as well have had a skin full as I managed to win both items at a cost of £900! All for a good cause! At least that's what I told Katy when I explained how I'd put the housekeeping to good use.

We are well on the way to making sure that the event is a sell out for what promises to be a great evening.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Day 59 - The happiest of Happy Cats!

I'm delighted to confirm that music for the cheque presentation evening will be provided by North East band The Happy Cats. The group were formed in 2001 by none other than ex Lindisfarne member Marty Craggs. Accompanying Marty are Brian Duffy and Les Dodds! Get excited! Get very excited!

To have a local band of this standing provide the "soundtrack" to the evening when substantial sums of money are to be handed over to the Hospice is just the icing on the cake. Superb! Just superb!

They sum themselves up as "Take a drop of the Irish, a shot of Cajun, a little country, some folk, a hot spoonful of salsa, a twist of tamla, shake it all up with 30 years of rock ‘n’ roll experience, throw in a dash of three part harmony, garnish with lashings of good humour and you have The Happy Cats!".

Thanks to Keith at Toon Travel and Biffa at NUFC.COM for the "introduction".

Day 59 - ......and the fund keeps growing.

It's been 3 weeks since I made it to Lands End and still the fund continues to rise. There have been some new pledges over the last couple of days from people who have just heard about the event. There was also one pledge today that is worth letting you know about.

One of my colleagues at Northern Rock, Joanne Heightly, was the lucky winner of a work's competition called the "bonus ball". To my utter surprise, she was generous enough to add her winnings to the fund. Of course, with Joanne being a Northern Rock employee the Northern Rock foundation will double match her contribution. The last 59 days have been full of random acts of kindness such as this. When will they and this fund total ever end? Thanks to Joanne and indeed the new sponsors.

In the meantime, Katy and I have been busy organising the cheque presentation evening. The venue is almost confirmed. The caterer is booked. We are waiting to hear from the band. We are also on the scrounge for raffle prizes. The itinerary and speeches are coming together. I'm still on the look out for a compere who can do a better job than yours truly. Does anyone know how to get in touch with And and Dec?