Over the last few weeks I have introduced the members of my support team to the readers of this website. I’ve already talked about Graham, Jason, Carlton, Dave and Ian. The final member of the team is my partner Donna (pictured below with me at this year's Great North Run).
Donna joins the team in Adelaide on the 28th November which, incidentally is Carlton’s last day. To allow enough time for a smooth switchover of team members I’m scheduled to run only 35 miles that day. This will see me reach the 1675 mile point at the fountain in Victoria Square at around 6pm. Given the huge mileage deficit that was ever present in the USA, it seems crazy to state here that I’ll be at such a precise location at such a precise time. Given the required changeover of support team members, I simply must be in Adelaide on time. That’s the beauty of the way that this route is setup. It’s full of incentives. It’s full of deadlines and places that I simply must be to make it logistically possible to support.
The support team after Adelaide will consist of Donna, Dave and Ian. Just like the previous configuration of team, this will allow some of the team to run with me and I know that Ian and Donna are being sponsored by colleagues and friends to run some unprecedented personal distances. Ian is planning to run 10 half marathon distances with me and Donna wants to run her first ever marathon distance. I don’t intend to make things easy for them and will be running as fast as is physically possible. If I’m in the amount of pain that I think I will be at that point, then I want to share that around the team! In a nice way of course.
Dave and Ian will leave the team on the 6th December at the 1962 mile point. That will put the huge burden of support responsibility on Donna for the final 638 miles. Donna saw me safely through Death Valley last year and, like the rest of the team, I have every faith that she will help me get to the finish line on time. Each team member has their own role to play and the final stretch of the run across Australia is as important as any other.
Donna and I have worked tirelessly recently to make the run a success and the non nonsense way that we “just get on with it” will stand us in very good stead in Australia. I expect those final weeks to be incredibly difficult both physically and mentally.
Donna recently had the following to say about her up and coming time on the support team. “I will be joining Mark on the support team as a driver, cook, cleaner and carer. Just my usual day job then!
Having spent weeks and months researching so much of the route with Mark for the run across Australia I can’t wait for it to get started. The amount of hours that have been spent staring at maps, emailing people in Australia and generally helping to plan the ‘behind the scenes’ of the route will finally pay off *crosses fingers*.
I’m only too aware of how important the role of a support team member is having crossed Death Valley with Mark in September last year. When Mark started that particular run, the thermometer was reading 120 degrees Fahrenheit – in the shade! This was an incredibly tough challenge that Mark embraced every step of the way (while I peeled my skin off the leather seats in the support car!).
The mental strength and determination shown by Mark is like nothing I have seen before and for that reason I have absolutely no doubt that this run will be an incredible success. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time chatting to people from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and I have to say that I’m in absolute awe of what they do. It’s no wonder that Mark has chosen them as one of his two charities.
For the last 2 years Mark and I have donned the lion and Dorothy costumes for The Great North Run as part of the promo for ‘Oz’. This has been great fun, although I’m sure that there were times when Mark wished that he had been wearing the Dorothy outfit!
I’m more than happy to do my part to support this incredible journey, so much that I have set my own challenge for Australia. On Monday 2nd December I will be attempting my very first marathon. The reality of this is that 1) I have never run this far before 2) this will be Australia’s summer. While both of these points fall off the scale of sensible, I can only take a look at Mark’s challenge and think that we must all have the strength and determination deep down (really really really deep down) to put every effort into this.”
So you should now know all about the full support team of Graham, Jason, Carlton, Dave, Ian and Donna. With absolutely no disrespect to previous teams in the UK and USA, these guys collectively are the strongest team that I’ve ever had from start to finish. There isn’t a weak link in the team and I’m looking forward to working with them all when “Run Geordie Run Down Under with Benfield” gets underway on October 16th.