Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Jimmy is back

In Sunday's blog I mentioned that I'd had a lot of positive discussions with various people recently. The following details the outcome of one of them.

Stage five of the run around the world through Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russian and Kazakhstan will, of course, be unsupported. That said, there is still need of a support team back in the UK to undertake a variety of roles. I'm slowly finding the right quality of people and the first person to welcome on the team, or rather back to the team, is James Childs.

James, or "Jimmy" as he is known on the team, is once again responsible for route planning. He did an absolutely outstanding job with the route across Europe last year (as well as driving the RV from Newcastle to the start line in Lisbon and being on support duty for the first seven days). 

It was no quick and easy feat making sure that my initial high level route from Lisbon to Istanbul was documented in great detail and checked again, again and again for safety. 

Jimmy has now been tasked with repeating the exercise for next year's 2,900 mile route from Belgrade to Kazakhstan.

Jimmy's previous experience, methodical approach and eye for detail makes him the perfect person for this task. A huge thank you must go to Jimmy for giving up so much of his time for this very important task.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lots going on

The start of segment five of the run around the world, the 2,900 mile run from Belgrade to Astana, is only 225 days away. There's so much going on behind the scenes to make this particular campaign a success. The following blog are just a few of my thoughts.

Firstly, the workings out for Team Run Geordie Run's fundraising for The Children's Foundation at The Great North Run is ongoing. I say ongoing as the money is still coming in. At the time of writing, £14,534.62 has been raised. There's still money to collect and although I would say £16,000 is more than realistic, the final figure could be as high as £17,000 for The Children's Foundation. Watch this space over the coming weeks as we near the final figure. Whatever the total, we have blown last year's total of £10,000 out of the water. 

I know that the charity will put that money to very good use to benefit children in the north east and everyone on the team should be very proud indeed.

I've already started putting together the team for the 2018 Great North Run and the response so far has been brilliant. Please get in touch at sponsorship@rungeordierun.com if you'd like a place. 

Further hard work and charitable scheming continues in other areas and I think it's nailed on that at least £50,000 will be raised on the next leg of the run around the world. That figure is my own personal target and has been the same for each of the previous four segments. With continued good luck, generosity and support from the general public the amount raised could be a lot more. I'm taking nothing for granted however. I work hard for each pound raised for local causes and I appreciate every penny or pound donated. 

Speaking of donations, the sale of "Run the Race" t-shirts has raised £1200 for Useful Vision so far. There are a handful of cotton t-shirts left and I'm so proud that the design created by the children at Useful Vision has proved to be so popular. 

Last week, I had a couple of really good discussions with various folk which means that I'm more excited for the next leg of the run around the world as ever before. I'll be sharing news of those meetings over the coming weeks. 

Next week is a very important one as I will finally take delivery of the Chapman Ventilation Around The World Buggy or "Chappie" for short. 

I'm looking forward to finally being able to share images of it and I'm sure that people are going to be as captivated by it as I am. 

Chappie was just a pipe dream 12 months ago and, incredibly, it's now a reality. I'm very big on  always performing actions to backup my words and delivering on my promises and Chappie is testament to that. That said, a huge thank you must go to Chapman Ventilation who have paid for its production. Without them it just wouldn't have happened and the run around the world would have come to an end. Thanks also to FFG who will be transporting it safely to Newcastle from the factory in Nottingham. 

Chappie will be my home for the remaining 11,000 miles around the world. I will eat, sleep and shelter in it and, of course, everything I need to survive will be inside it. It will be strapped to my waist while running and I'm under no illusion that pulling it across the remaining countries of the world route is going to be extremely difficult. I'm really looking forward to my first training run with it next Saturday and Sunday. If you see me between Bedlington and Tynemouth Priory please give me a wave.

In other news I have started to put together a plan for taking people on the journey in a more engaging way than ever before. I feel that it's something that I got most right using social media and a blog during the run across the USA. The blog had over half a million hits and backed up with a successful social media campaign I won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Communicator of the Year.

For a few reasons I feel that I never achieved that standard during the run across Australia and Europe. Running 30 - 40 miles per day while taking people virtually with you online is time consuming. Over the coming months, I'll be continuing to work on the plan that I believe will serve the fundraising, the running and the story of the journey best.

Despite all of the fundraising and planning, the next segment of the run around the world won't get the go ahead until Donna and I are happy that we have a plan in place that makes the event as safe as it possibly can be. We are on schedule to make that decision some time during November 2017. In the meantime, the research, the discussions with the relevant people and the planning will continue. 

We are working as hard as we possibly can on this. We are only unqualified volunteers at the end of the day. However, using the experience and knowledge gained during the first 9,000 miles, I'm confident of being able to reach the correct decision in terms of continuing the run around the world.

Despite the go ahead of decision being in the balance, planning has started on the fourth Around The World Ball next October. I'm confident of another sold out event. Watch out for details in early 2018 about how to secure your tickets.

The latest fundraising position makes for good reading and I'm continuing to work hard to raise at least £10,000 for Useful Vision in 2017. I always enjoy reading what the children at the charity are up to and you can too on their Facebook page

I could go on but I'll leave it there for now. Watch out for further news on the blog, Twitter, Youtube and the Facebook page over the coming weeks.

Team Run Geordie Run 2017

Last year, Team Run Geordie Run raised an amazing £10,000 for The Children's Foundation at the Great North Run. I always felt that the sum raised in 2016 would be a very hard act to follow. How wrong I was!

At the start of the 2017 Great North Run weekend we had 24 runners in the main event and two in the mini event. We would have had an even bigger team but unfortunately, six runners had to defer their place through injury. I wish them all a speedy recovery and hopefully they will be able to take part in 2018.

Of course three of the team, Simon who is blind together with Jonathan and Michael as his guides, started out as fully fledged Team Run Geordie Run runners when they signed up in January. I saw a real opportunity back then and together we grew and nurtured the Running Blind brand. The three lads set off 15 minutes before the main field and the image below shows them just after they crossed the Tyne Bridge. Strangely for them, they were cheered on by thousands of people with no other runners around them for a good five miles. Sir Mo Farah then overtook them followed by the main field. The lads finished the Great North Run in 2 hours and 9 minutes. This certainly exceeded their expectations as did the amount raised which was £5,581.29 for The Children's Foundation. The fund raising isn't finished for Running Blind in 2017 and they have plans to raise funds for local blind children's charity, Useful Vision for the rest of this year. 

Back to the day before and young Archie and his brother Owen got round the Mini Great North Run with help from their Mam (Lauren) and Grandad (Ivan). Not that they needed much help with the run completed at a 9 minute mile pace! The main thing is that they had a lot of fun and the emphasis is on participation rather than fundraising. They were rewarded with a special Team Run Geordie Run goodie bag and their entry fee was refunded in the form of book tokens. Well done Archie and Owen and thank you to Lauren and Ivan for managing to keep up with them. :)  

I'm pleased to report that all runners managed to safely complete the 13.1 miles of the Great North Run safely. The majority of the team made it to the The Children's Foundation tent at the end of the run. 

Thank you to Andrew Skelton (pictured top left below) from my sponsor SOS Group Ltd for handing out the special Team Run Geordie Run goodie bags to the runners. Thanks also to SOS for paying for the runner's vests and t-shirts. 

This is the 3rd year that SOS have supported Team Run Geordie Run and it's really nice to be able to provide a goodie bag at the end as well as the smart running attire. 

At the time of writing £14,513.62 has been raised for The Children's Foundation by Team Run Geordie Run. There is still money to be collected and the final total could be as high as £17,000. That is a magnificent amount indeed and the total raised for local good causes by Team Run Geordie Run over recent years is now over £35,000.

Thank you to Gary Cowell, Steve Dobby, Carlton Fletcher, Richard Garman, David Gateshill, Richard Handley, Kelly Hannah, Matt Janson, Alexandra Jarvis, Alastair McLeod, Jonathan Hornby, Michael Dunn, Simon Kelly, Ivan Newton, Chris O'Callaghan, Connie Oldham, Lyn Rose, David Rowe, Chris Soulsby, Russ Stobbs, Alan Stoddart, Fiona Williams, John Wood, Andrew Ferguson and young Archie and Owen for all they have done for The Children's Foundation on Team Run Geordie Run in 2017.

Friday, 18 August 2017

"Run The Race" t-shirts

Run Geordie Run t-shirts have raised almost £30,000 over the years for local charities such as St Benedict's Hospice, The Children's Foundation and The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. We are currently working on a new design to be produced in August. When I say "we" I'm very excited and proud to say that I mean the children that attend the skills workshops ran by Useful Vision.

The Useful Vision skills workshops are held monthly for vision impaired children aged 10 and over. During the sessions children are able to make new friends, learn new skills, increase their confidence and gain more independence. They have the opportunity to take part in various introductory taster sessions and team building exercises. Children can take ownership of projects and be involved in planning activities.

At a recent skills workshop I set the children the task of coming up with a running related t-shirt design that was limited to two colours. The outcome of the was this very snazzy "run the race" design.

The front of the t-shirt has both the Useful Vision and Run Geordie Run logos. On the back is a very nice image of children holding a "run the race" banner along with the Useful Vision mission statement.

I'm sure you'll agree that it's a brilliant design and I'd like to say a huge thank you to the children and staff at Useful Vision for all of their efforts with this. Thanks must also go to Dave Shenton at Shenton Creative who converted the children's design into a format ready for the printer to use.

An absolutely massive thank you goes to my sponsor Fresh Freight Group who will be paying all production costs. In time honoured tradition this means that every penny that the t-shirts raise will go directly to Useful Vision. The t-shirts will go on sale for £12 meaning that the full £12 goes to Useful Vision. This is the approach that has always been taken with Run Geordie Run t-shirts.

I think the fact that the children have produced something that is going to benefit themselves and other children that use the charity's services is nothing short of wonderful. 

If you would like to order a t-shirt then please follow the instructions in the order form below. T-Shirts will be posted after 14th August.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Back to the Stelvio

More by accident than design my training for each segment for the run around the world has seen me revisit old ground. 

For the run across the USA in 2011 I did a lot of training on the North Pennines which was part of my 2007 John O'Groats to Lands End route. For the run across Australia in 2013 I went back to the USA to train. The heat of Death Valley in September 2012 was ideal preparation for those scorching hot temperatures in the Outback. In preparation for the run across Europe in 2016 I went back to Australia at the height of their summer.

With a little over 280 days left before the next leg of the run around the world gets underway (Belgrade to Astana) I've found myself back in Europe. On Thursday 20th July, I'll be returning to the Stelvio Pass in Italy for a training run. 

I ran up and over the Stelvio Pass on day 61 last year. It was one of the toughest climbs of the entire tour. This time, I'll be running in the opposite direction from Agumes to Bormio. It's about 28 miles.

I'll be running up this side and it's many switchbacks. I remember being glad that I was running down it last year. I never thought that I'd get the chance to run up it.

Once at the summit of the Stelvio pass there's a huge open valley before I reach the section below. This part is quite tricky with a few tunnels. Hopefully, the traffic will be quieter when I reach there later in the day. 

The images below were generated from my GPS watch last year. So I'll be starting from the right hand side this time.

If your company would like to sponsor this XXXXXX Stelvio Challenge (where XXXXXX is your company name) then please get in touch at sponsorship@rungeordierun.com. All proceeds will go to charity Useful Vision. The current highest bid is £300. Bidding closes at 9pm on the 19/07/17. In return, there'll be plenty of mentions and credit given on my social media feeds.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge

My training is really starting to ramp up as I continue my preparations for the 2,900 mile run from Belgrade, Serbia to Astana, Kazakhstan starting in just over 300 days time. It's now the right time to really push myself and revisit an old training ground; The Borders. 

I first had the idea of running from Edinburgh to Newcastle back in 2010 while training for the 3,100 mile run across the USA. The route back then involved running just over 100 miles with overnight stops in B and Bs in Melrose and Otterburn. The undulating route covering up to 37 miles per day over 3 days on busy main roads has been instrumental in my training for the run across the USA and subsequently Australia and Europe too.

I've always managed to get a very generous sponsor for this particular training exercise with all funds going to charity. They've usually been unusual and unexpected sponsors too with round the world cyclist Mark Beaumont and Northumberland Tea among the previous sponsors.

I'm very pleased to announce that another organisation has kindly responded to my request for sponsorship. This weekend's 100 mile run from Edinburgh to Morpeth will now be known as the Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge.  All proceeds from the event will go to Useful Vision who do some brilliant work with vision impaired children in the region.

Followers of my Facebook and Twitter feeds will be aware that, since I finished the run across Europe, I've been a regular at Brough Park. That is, of course, home of the Newcastle Sapphire Engineering Diamonds speedway team. I originally went thanks to winning some tickets in a charity raffle. I was immediately hooked (as I was with Newcastle United in the 1980s) and have spent most Sunday evenings since cheering on the team. 

So it's a huge thank you to the team and management of Newcastle Sapphire Engineering Diamonds for their brilliant backing of this weekend's very tough training run and of their very kind donation to Useful Vision. The fact that there is charity money at stake gives the Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge a real edge. 

After my 0620 train from Morpeth gets in to Edinburgh Waverley on Friday morning I'll start running back to Morpeth. As you do. I'm very proud of the fact that this whole trip is costing £5.80 (plus train booking fee).

The Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge is an unsupported distance of 100 miles and will take 2.5 days to complete. It was originally scheduled to take a full three days but the Diamonds are at home and it's tapes up at half past seven on Sunday! That will keep me on my toes. 

I'll be carrying everything that I need to eat, drink and sleep in as I run. The route is more easterly than usual and there will be more shops and garages  than usual as I'll be consuming more water in 3 days than I can carry. 

There is also the small and unprecedented matter of sleeping rough on Friday and Saturday night. That should be very interesting as I don't like the dark. The image below is kind of how I see those night's sleep going.   

As an added bonus there is also my sponsor D-Line's cash for miles scheme that is in operation in June. Every mile that I run this month will see them donate £2 to Useful Vision. So far, £116 has been raised. The 100 miles run on the Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge will get that figure over £300. All in all it promises to be a good fundraising month.

So finally, thanks again to Newcastle Sapphire Engineering Diamonds for their brilliant support. Please keep a look out on my Twitter and Facebook pages for my progress on the Newcastle Diamonds Border Challenge.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Every mile counts in June for Useful Vision

They are all at it now! My sponsors that is with some superb incentive based sponsorship schemes designed to help me train and eat better as I prepare for the next segment of the Run Around The World starting in Belgrade in May 2018 and finishing 2900 miles and 100 days later in Astana, Kazakhstan. There's already £1000 in the bag for Useful Vision from SOS Group and another £1000 up for grabs should I shed another 10 pounds of fat weight by 13th June.

This time it's a huge thank you to the sponsor of this blog, D-Line Cable Management, for setting me a huge challenge to be undertaken in June.

D-Line Cable Management's challenge is simple in concept but is going to be very difficult to achieve  in terms of getting the most money possible for Useful Vision, my chosen charity for 2017. The challenge is to run as many miles as possible in June and in return D-Line Cable Management will donate £2 for each mile ran. So the question is, just how much money can I possibly raise as part of this scheme? 

My personal record for the further distance ran in a calendar month is 1,069 miles. That was set exactly a year ago during the run across Europe. It was the section from Lisbon to Andorra which included some huge climbs in the Pyrenees. I've never managed more than 158 miles in a calendar month in training. That personal record was set back in September 2009.

Given those previous distances ran I wonder that with a full time job and family commitments if it is beyond me to run 300 miles in June. That would see a £600 donation from D-Line Cable Management to Useful Vision which would be brilliant.

Whatever distance I manage to run in June, a huge thank you must go to D-Line Cable Management for their continued brilliant support. Follow the progress on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page to see how I get on in June.

Brilliant backing from my sponsors

Wherever there is charity cash up for grabs I have always worked incredibly hard to deserve it. I'm grateful beyond words for the donations that have come in for St Benedict's Hospice, The Children's Foundation, The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and now Useful Vision. I'm also very grateful that so many kind people have followed the different journeys that I have made so far around the world. It all adds up to amazing support and because of it I stand a really good chance of succesfully running 20,000 miles around the world and raising 1/2 million pounds for local good causes.

The problem I've been faced with in the past is that in between the major events across the likes of the USA, Australia and Europe I don't perform as well as I could and should in training. This can also be extended to not eating the right types of food also. Regular followers may remember that I started the run across the USA at 18.5 stone (117.5 kg). That's the picture below on the left. The picture on the right was taken 100 days and 3100 miles later! 

So what can be done differently as I prepare to run unsupported from Belgrade to Astana? The answer is easy - train harder and wiser and eat properly. Easier said than done. Incentivise that with some charity cash and I'm sure I'd do it.

For starters, in April, my main sponsor SOS Group Ltd, set me a challenge of losing 10 pounds of body fat in 4 weeks. Personal trainer David Fairlamb oversaw the start and end weigh ins and I'm pleased to report that I lost 10.5 pounds of fat in 3 weeks and 3 days. As a result of hitting this target, SOS Group were generous enough to donate £1000 to Useful Vision, my chosen charity for 2017. A huge thank you to SOS Group for their amazing generosity and continued support. 

As a result of SOS's support in April/May another one of my sponsors, Fresh Freight Group, have got in on the act and have set me a challenge of yet again losing 10 pounds of fat weight in 4 weeks. I'm now half way through this one and the final weigh in will be on the 13th June. If successful, Fresh Freight Group will also donate £1000 to Useful Vision. 

I'm sure you'll agree that the support from my sponsors so far during this campaign has been brilliant. Thanks so much to SOS Group and Fresh Freight Group. Now it's down to me to burn some fat!

If you'd also like to make a donation to local vision impaired children's charity Useful Vision then this can be done at www.virginmoney.com/rungeordierun.

To find out more about the brilliant work that Useful Vision undertakes with children then please visit their Facebook page or website.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Useful Vision Skills Workshops

Run Geordie Run t-shirts have raised almost £30,000 over the years for local charities such as St Benedict's Hospice, The Children's Foundation and The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

We are currently working on a new design to be produced in the next few months. When I say "we" I'm very excited to say that I mean the children that attend the skills workshops ran by Useful Vision.

The Useful Vision skills workshops are held monthly for vision impaired children aged 10 and over. During the sessions children are able to make new friends, learn new skills, increase their confidence and gain more independence. They have the opportunity to take part in various introductory taster sessions and team building exercises. Children can take ownership of projects and be involved in planning activities. 

The children's design will be running related and will be printed on technical fabric t-shirt which is perfect for wearing in the gym or on a run. The production costs of the t-shirts will be paid for by my main sponsor SOS Group and ALL PROCEEDS from the sale of the t-shirts will go directly back to Useful Vision. That approach has been taken on every t-shirt made in the past which is the main reason why almost £30,000 has been raised from t-shirt sales. 

I absolutely love the idea of using the children's design together with the generosity of SOS Group to produce something that directly benefits Useful Vision. I'll be buying a couple of t-shirts myself and will be very proud to wear one whenever I'm training for the next leg go the run around the world.

I'll update the blog, Facebook and Twitter with details of when the t-shirts are available for pre order. In the meantime, thanks in advance go to Useful Vision and the children that attend their skills workshops for the effort they'll be putting into this project.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Around the World: Segment 5: The Road to Astana (Part 3)

There are 380 days left before the run Around The World resumes with the fifth of eight segments due to start in May 2018. Work has continued this week on getting the route established for the 2,900 mile segment from Belgrade, Serbia through Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. I've nicknamed this segment "The Road to Astana". 

This blog post talks about the third and final section from Samara to Astana which is a distance of approximately 1100 miles.

Samara is a former closed city that became a centre of the rocket building industry after WWII apparently. My initial calculations suggest that it will take 61 days to reach Samara from Belgrade. This means that I'll have 39 days left to run the final 1100 miles to the finish line in Astana. I remember taking 37 days to run 874 miles from John O'Groats to Lands End. This just acts as a reminder how ridiculous the required daily mileage has become since then. 

The city of Sterlitamak (pictured below) lies on mile 2000 of my route from Belgrade to Astana. My initial plan has me taking 71 days to get to this city.  This is exactly in line with where I was during the run across the USA in 2011. Albeit I was 166 miles behind schedule then. Unlike the trans USA run however, this time I will be pulling a buggy with all of my kit and supplies inside. Once it is constructed and I have time to train and find my range with it then I'll have a much better idea of what my daily schedule needs to be and how many rest days I'll have in order to reach Astana within 100 days.

Magnitogorsk is the last major centre of population in Russia before the border with Kazakhstan. That's mile 2168 on the Road to Astana. The largest iron and steel works in Russia are situated in the city. Like Samara, Magnitogorsk is a former closed city.

It is a further 155 miles to the Russian border with Kazakhstan near Varvarinka (pictured below). If all goes to plan then it will have taken me 83 days to get to this border from the start line having spent 2 days in Serbia, 8 days in Romania, 24 days in Ukraine and 48 days in Russia. That will just leave 18 days and 541 miles left to run to the finish line in Astana, Kazakhstan.

I wonder what tales I'll have to share from this border crossing. I suspect the last thing the border patrol officers will expect to see will be a very tired British man pulling a big red buggy.

From looking at satellite images it looks like I'll be running through a lot of agricultural land in Kazakhstan. The city of Rudny, however, has the biggest iron ore extracting and processing plant in Kazakhstan and last year in was reported that it employed 19,000 people.

The satellite image below shows what looks like some huge mines to the north and north east of Rudney. They appear to be much bigger than the city itself. 

It will take a further 470 miles to reach Astana. The actual finish line will be at the foot of the Bayterek Tower (pictured below) which is situated very close to the Presidential Palace. What a stunning finish line that will be.  

So there we have it. My initial plan is to run the 2835 miles from the Victor Statue in Belgrade, Serbia to the Bayterek Tower in Astana, Kazakhstan in 100 days during the Summer of 2018. I may be able to take nine rest days during that time if my anticipated daily range of 31 miles in the Around The World Buggy is accurate. I'll have a better idea of that over the coming months.

It's going to be incredibly tough expedition. If I'm successful then I will have ran 11,826 miles around the world over 5 segments.

I'll talk more about my fears and worries, the main challenges that I think lie ahead and also what I'm looking forward to the most in a future blog post. In the meantime, I'll continue to work as hard as I possibly can to make segment five of the run around the world, The Road to Astana, another huge success.

Friday, 14 April 2017

A really useful charity

As I mentioned on the blog last week, it wouldn't currently be appropriate for me to seek charitable donations from the general public in respect of the next segment of the Run Around The World. Until a charity knows what running from Serbia to Kazakhstan entails and all of the risks associated with it then I'm not in a position to fundraise for it. My Virgin Money Giving page has been closed and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has sponsored me around the world so far. At the time of writing the amount raised for local good charities stands at £270,103.55. Thank you! To see a full breakdown have scroll down on this blog and all of the details are on the right hand side. 

Donna and I are still on course to complete all of our research, planning, visa applications, kit acquisition, buggy testing and the process of contacting all of the relevant UK overseas authorities by Spring 2018. I'm very happy with what I'm seeing and learning so far and hopefully that will continue for the next 10 months until we know as much as possible about the route, its risks and finalise our contingency plan.

So with the Around The World fundraising "paused" that doesn't stop me from getting on with raising funds via the Running Blind and Team Run Geordie Run projects that I'm heavily involved with.

The Running Blind team is Simon Kelly (middle below) who is registered blind and his two guides Jonathan Hornby (left) and Michael Dunn (right). Their fundraising has got off to a flying start for The Children's Foundation (currently £1276) and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't smash their initial target of £2,500.

I've been filming the team and will be producing a series of short films covering everything from their training right up to the Great North Run in September. The first "episode" will be ready on the 21st April. You can follow the Running Blind project on Facebook and Twitter. A donation can be made on their Virgin Money Giving page.

Doing equally well are Team Run Geordie Run, some of whom are shown below. So far there are 26 confirmed runners on the team and they will be raising funds for The Children's Foundation by completing the Great North Run this year. We have 2 children doing the mini Great North Run and there are another 11 people who are in the process of completing their application forms. It promises to be another record breaking year in terms of team size and amount raised.

Some of the team have started fundraising already and they are odds on to beat the £10,000 raised for The Children's Foundation last year.

A huge thank must go to my main sponsor SOS Group for paying for the team's running vests/t-shirts and also the rewards scheme which has started. March's reward, for example, was a donation to the runner's Virgin Money Giving page for simply sending in a photo of themselves in training.

You can follow the team's journey on the Team Run Geordie Run Facebook page and donate at Virgin Money Giving.

On top of the Running Blind, Team Run Geordie Run and the previously mentioned planning and research to be done, I have plenty of capacity for individual fundraising in various events this year. There'll be more news on this soon and some of it will involve the Around The World Buggy that is currently under construction.

I have decided to find a different charity for my personal fundraising during the rest of 2017. The particular charity became known to me when they recently submitted an application for funds to The Children's Foundation's regional small grants panel that I'm part of.

They are a small charity but it is easy to tell by looking at their website, social media feeds and recent annual reports that they carry out some amazing work with lots of children in the region.

The charity is called Useful Vision and they provide "positive opportunities and fun-packed events for vision impaired children and their families across the North East.".

Rebecca Wilson, trustee and founder, states on their website "Our late son, Ben Wilson, was the inspiration behind Useful Vision when he went blind at the age of 5. Like many parents we had a lot of questions, very little support and found it difficult to locate activities that would stimulate and entertain Ben. 

By establishing Useful Vision we want to make access to these things easier for other families of blind and partially sighted children and their siblings across the North East. Today we’re helping hundreds of families across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Teesside. 

We’re here for support, to help answer your questions advice and, most important of all, to give vision impaired children the very best days out, ever!"

Coincidentally, I found out this week that the family of a colleague of mine, benefit from the services that the charity offer. He said "My three year old daughter Mabel was born with a serious eye condition and as a result of this is blind. Soon after Mabel’s diagnosis, we were put in touch with a small local independent charity called Useful Vision. 

Useful Vision exist to support blind and partially sighted children and their families in the North East and they have been a vital resource for us during some uncertain times. They not only deal with the emotional and practical issues associated with visual impairment, they also organise some amazing events that engage and educate the children on the world around them.".

As with all of the other charities I've raised funds for, to say that I'm inspired by the amazing work that Useful Vision carry out, is an absolute understatement.

Being able to raise funds for such a worthwhile cause is a total honour and privilege. I'm looking forward to raising as much money as possible for Useful Vision during the rest of 2017.

The charity's website is www.usefulvision.org.uk and their Facebook page is here should you wish to learn more about the work that Useful Vision does in the region. 

So to my fundraising plans for 2017. Firstly, at the time of writing, there are 8 full months left in 2017. I am currently training to run segment 5 of the Run Around The World in 2018. I'll be doing this unsupported and pulling a buggy 2900 miles from Belgrade, Serbia to Astana, Kazakhstan. For once, I hope to be at the correct weight and condition going into a major event. I've never managed it before. For example, 18.5 stone and 28% body fat going in to the run across the USA. I got away with it and ended up at 13 stone and 5% body fat by the time I reached New York.

It's more than fair to say that I always do well in the major events around the world. That's mainly because there is so much money for charity at stake. Raising money for good causes is huge, huge personal motivation for me. In fact it's everything. So it's time to recreate those financial stakes while I'm training.

Personal trainer, David Fairlamb, is setting 8 monthly targets for me to hit in training. For each target that is hit a £1000 donation will be made to Useful Vison from one of my sponsors SOS Group Ltd, Fresh Freight Group or D-Line.

I'm sure you'll agree that there is a lot riding on my success in training. The targets that David will be setting will see no room for error or lack of discipline. The targets are as follows:

1) Lose 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of fat weight by 12/05/2017.
2) tbc
3) tbc
4) tbc
5) tbc
6) tbc
7) tbc
8) tbc

It's going to be incredibly difficult to hit each target. Rest assured, just like the first 9000 miles around the world, I'll be giving maximum effort to ensure that I don't let the charity down.

Alongside David Fairlamb's monthly targets, my first major running event in 2017 will be 110 miles from the Virgin Money Lounge in Edinburgh to Virgin Money in Gosforth. I will be doing this over 3 days in June while pulling the Around The World buggy. I will also be sleeping and cooking in it for the first time! 

So there we go. It's going to continue to be a very busy year. There is a huge amount of work to do and I also need to up my training in preparation for 2018's journey from Belgrade to Astana. My Around The World fundraising may have taken a break but that certainly hasn't stopped me from doing what I've been doing for the last 24 years: Raising funds for local good causes and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

So plenty of challenges to tackle in 2017 for an amazing local charity carrying out important work and ultimately improving the lives of vision impaired children and their families. I'm so up for this challenge and I'd appreciate any donation to Useful Vision no matter how large or small on my brand new Virgin Money Giving page here - www.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun. Thanks in advance and watch this space as well as my Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.