The run across the USA has had it's obvious benefits not only for the 2 charities but to me personally. The charity fund currently sits at just over £87,200 which is a quite remarkable sign of so many people's generosity. As for me, I lost 77 pounds and 22 % body fat during the run. I also feel that I've got significantly greater mental strength than I had before I started the run. I'm already looking into the feasibility of the next big run. The mental strength that I referred to will be put to the test in what I believe would be a very difficult event if I can ever figure out the logistics.
You might think that the benefits end there. You'd be wrong. What has become apparent during my experience of running across the USA this Summer and also from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007 is how the run has inspired other people. I received the following email yesterday which I thought I'd share with the readers of this blog. It's very touching and, for me, makes what I do even more worthwhile.
"I am an American who was born in Suffolk at RAF Lakenheath. I attended university in Brighton in 1996/97, the year I became a Newcastle United supporter (Les Ferdinand, David Ginola, Alan Shearer... how could anyone not support that team??). I now have a family and live and work in Seattle, Washington.
On the same day you set out to complete your run across the United States, I left my home in Seattle for Bangkok, Thailand. My father was a retired serviceman who lived in Bangkok for about ten years. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in November 2009 and he stayed in Thailand to receive treatment. He was just about at the end when I left my home to be with him, just about the same time you were running out of New Jersey for Coney Island. He finally died last Saturday (August 20th). My sister was there with us for a while, but she had to return to the states just a few days before he died, so most of the time it was just him and me, and maybe a nurse in the room. I was his only son, the oldest, and was responsible for making some tough medical decisions once he lost the ability to continue fighting.
Obviously, I'd known this was coming. In some ways, I was better prepared for the end than my father was himself. I prepared myself by speaking with friends who'd lost parents or siblings and I was fortunate to become friends with an oncologist who lives in my neighborhood. One other thing supported me during the last and most difficult months of my father's life: I'd been following your run since you set out from Huntington Beach. Sometimes I checked your blog two or three times per day, often feeling like a hanger-on, but nevertheless I enjoyed keeping track of your progress. I finally donated today -- only a modest ten pounds but honestly, given the travel and time away over the last month, it was all I could afford. If I could give more, I would. Because I derived an immeasurable amount of pleasure from following your run and reading your updates. I really needed the positive feelings associated with your success and I thank you wholeheartedly for doing what you did.
Honestly, I know it wasn't the point of the run, but I can't thank you enough for doing it. It was inspirational on a lot of levels, and a demonstration of selflessness and determination that makes me think a lot about what I'm doing with my life and what I'm going to do from here on out, both for me and for my family.
Best of luck to you. I hope the Geordie Ball is as successful as your run across the country here.