Monday, 15 August 2011

The Lap of honour

I was the special guest of Northern Rock at the Newcastle match on Saturday. Katy and Jack as well as Mark Fleming, Dave Fairlamb and support drivers Carlton Fletcher and Steve Harrison were also in attendance in a fantastic dining room inside the Milburn Stand. After 25 years of going to the match I have never been there in so much style. I was even allowed to park in the stadium! There was to be no mile long walk to Gateshead and back for me this day!

The day got underway when we all went pitchside for some photos. Graeme Tones, Estelle Vasey and Louise Rourke were present from Northern Rock and really went out of their way to make everyone feel very welcome. As did Dale Aitchison and Olly Stapleton from the club who ensured that everything went well on the day.

Before we sat down to eat in the Northern Rock suite, I dashed off quickly to the Bamburgh Suite to do a quick Q&A session with Ian Payne and John Beresford. Yet again, I really enjoyed talking about the run and there were a few hundred people in attendance.

I had a fantastic meal before the match and we took our seats in plenty of time for the kick off. As I was walking to my seat a lot of people stopped me to shake my hand and congratulate me.

At half time I was presented to the crowd by Justin Lockwood. The reception from the crowd was absolutely tremendous. A quick Q&A followed as well as a plug for further donations and the up and coming Charity Ball. It was nice to speak to Justin and, just like his other colleagues at Real Radio, he has been very supportive over the last few years. He later Tweeted "Honoured to speak to @rungeordierun on the pitch at St James' Park. A fantastic reception for a truly remarkable man.". 

I was presented with a signed Newcastle shirt with Allison 3100 on the back. That was a really nice touch. I set off running around the pitch with "Run For Home" by Lindisfarne playing over the PA system. 

I was really surprised to see how many people had remained in their seats at half time. I think I may have cost Mike Ashely a few quid in lost beer revenue! I tried to give as many people as I could a high five and I must apologise to any outstretched hands that I missed. There were thousands of them.

As I ran round the pitch I was handed further donations. A grand total of £50 was handed over in total which was fantastic. I was also handed a couple of boxes of chocolates and a nice congratulations card. There was just enough time to sign a few autographs and the lap of honour was complete. Another truly memorable experience. Phillippa Tomson from ITV tweeted the following about my lap of honour "It was the best bit of the afternoon".

Thanks again to Northern Rock and Newcastle United for their hospitality and the kindness shown to my family and support team.

After the match, Mark, Dave and I hit the town for a few "quiet" drinks. This is where it got really surreal as a lot of people came up to me to shake my hand and congratulate me. I remember Gary Phillipson from Real Radio saying that this would happen. I thought he was mad at the time. It happened in every pub we went into and it really made my night.

I hadn't seen him since New York last week but I bumped into Dave McGregor from Real Radio. Also in the pub was Kellyanne Scott and they both had a lot of kind things to say.

I think the evening's events came to a close at about 03:30. To say that I celebrated the run across the USA in style is an understatement.