Saturday 8 December 2007

The final total for 2007.

I'm very pleased and proud to report that all funds have been collected and handed over to St Benedict's Hospice. The final total for the run from John O'Groats to Lands End is:

Add on top of this the amounts from Northern Rock staff for the Cairngorm Challenge (13/07/2007) and the Pennine Challenge (22/07/2007) and the total handed over to St Benedict's Hospice this year is £34,108.

There are so many people to thank, but I'd like to single out the following for special praise:

Katy and Jack Allison, Niall and Biffa at, The Northern Rock Foundation,

Anne Oliver, Steven "The mackem challenger" Moore,

"Burnley" Keith Riley aka "Jeeves", Owen "Rab C" McMahon,

John Brettell, Jimmy Bell, Ian "The Coach" Glasgow, Mike Lewis,

Aunty Joyce*, Aunty Ada*, Aunty Carol* and their family, Harry and Val Lewis

The Pennine Challenge Team, Newcastle United Football Club, The BBC Tyne website

....finally thanks to all of my sponsors, old and new. It's you lot that keep me motivated and it's your money that goes to such a worthwhile cause.

*not my real aunties, but the best there is!

I'm not one to rest on my laurels so next year promises to be a very busy year! I'm planning on finishing the book during the first half of next year and a very very exciting and unique event is in the planning stages for June 2007. Watch this space! All funds raised next year will go to The Children's Foundation. I've also started to assess the feasibility of running across the USA in 2011. My geography of that huge country is getting better every week as a result!

Finally, I'll draw the blog to a close for this most amazing year by wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And speaking of Christmas, I do hope that Father Christmas brings me a new pair of trainers!

Friday 9 November 2007

Pride at stake!

During the big run this Summer I raced 26.2 miles against a mackem challenger (Steven Moore) through the Cairngorms. I gave my all that day to ensure the right result and as I've mentioned many times before I ran out the winner leaving the poor mackem with his first derby day defeat of the season. Steven will be at the match, in the West stand. Steven - if you're reading this, I'll make sure to "wave" in your direction.

Let's hope that the lads follow this up tomorrow at the dark place and bring back 3 points to Tyneside! It should be the usual tense occasion. In particular, I'll be watching out for flying bricks coming in the direction of the buses. One put out a pane of glass in the bus I was in, the season that Nikos Dabizas scored the winner (Feb 2002). It's just good banter!

I was asked by the BBC to write a short piece on the derby day occasion. You can read my thoughts by clicking here. I'll be writing a follow up piece next week so watch out for that!

Friday 19 October 2007

In the spotlight!

Make sure you get a copy of Tuesday's Evening Chronicle. Why? Because Jack and I are in it. They are doing a story which wraps this year's event up quite nicely. Jack was very excited with the prospect of having his photo taken. It'll be nice to see his reaction, when I bring home the newspaper for him.

I've also received the quarterly newsletter from the Hospice and there is a smashing article about the Big run. I've had so many articles now, over the years, I'll have to start a scrapbook! I reckon there are still one or two articles to be written in the future!

Thursday 18 October 2007

The long journey starts again.

It's been really difficult, just lately, to find the motivation to train at the same level I managed leading up to this year's big run. That's the standard I need to reach and sustain if I'm to have any chance of a successful run across the USA in 2011.

I've decided to wipe the slate clean and forget all about the 1700 miles I've already ran this year.

After 3 good weeks of running, I really feel like my appetite has been renewed. Thanks go to Jonathan Jobe, Pete Maddison and Carl Hudson for providing the motivation, encouragement and good company in and around the streets of Gosforth and Jesmond.

Another factor that has helped keep things interesting is running against my previous times with the help of my GPS watch. On today's run, I finished 1/4 mile ahead of my virtual self from last week. Yesterday, the margin wasn't so great, with a 200 feet victory over 8.4 miles. I'm going to use this method of training for the foreseeable future. Watch this space for details of my progress.

I've managed 25 miles a week for the last 3 weeks (Not to mention the gym sessions and Spinning classes). My next aim is to add a weekend run into this schedule and try and get this up to 40 miles a week on a consistent basis. This will be easier said than done what with family and football commitments.

The most pleasing thing at the moment is the fact that my average pace is between 08:30 - 09:00 minute miles for the benchmark 6 mile Town Moor run. Surely, a sub 50 minute time will be within my reach in 2008!

Sunday 14 October 2007

Really nice gifts from the Hospice.

I'd like to say thanks to the staff at St Benedict's Hospice for 3 lovely gifts in recognition of the hard work Katy, Jack and I put in over the Summer.

Firstly, I received a fantastic glass award etched with the following inscription:

Presented to
Mark Allison
for the outstanding achievement of running 874 miles
from John O'Groats to Lands End
July 7th - August 12th 2007
in aid of
St Benedict's Hospice

Next up was a hamper stuffed full of beauty products for Katy. I've got to admit she's used some of the products on me.

Finally, Jack received a unique glass award with the following inscription:

Presented to Jack Allison
for the Best Roadside Supporter
John O'Groats to Lands End
July 7th - August 12th 2007

Jack's glass award is very well made and has the Tyne Bridges on show. This will be something for him to treasure over the coming years. It will also act as a reminder to him about the time he followed his Dad on a charity run.

All of these prizes were unexpected and, of course, greatly appreciated. As I've wrote many times before on this blog, I never achieved anything at school with sports. The main reason I took up refereeing after I left school was to win trophies for cup finals and such like. I got 7 trophies in all for a short career in refereeing spanning 7 years. Admittedly, they weren't as good as, say, my mate Mark Huck's football trophies. You had to actually win something to get one of those.

The award from the Hospice, however, is probably the first "trophy" that I can actually put on the mantle piece and look at with utter pride. It makes up for all of those years of under achieving at school sports.

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?

Friday 31 August 2007

Day 56 - Where will this fund total end?

Thanks to a couple of Northern Rock colleagues upping their original pledges, the fund has now breached the £27,000 mark. Namely these colleagues are Jonathan Jobe and Mark Alderson (Gino). Remember that pledges from Northern Rock staff are double matched by the Northern Rock Foundation.

Gino's extra pledge came from a winning bet that he placed at the Barnsley game on Wednesday. As far as I remember, his prediction was Obafemi Martins for the last goal and a 2-0 win. His bet came up trumps and he decided to put the winnings into the fund. What a guy!

I travelled to the UEFA Cup Semi Final in Marseille with Gino a few years back. I hope it is not too long in the future before we get the chance to watch the Toon in Europe again.

Thursday 30 August 2007

Day 55 - A couple of invitations, the fund grows and an injury.

I was asked this week if I'd like to contribute to a charity cook book to be put together by Greggs. All funds are in aid of one of my favourite other charities - North of England's Children's Cancer Research (NECCR). If you'd like to know what my recipe was you'll have to buy the book when it hits the shops.

I've also been invited to the Hospitality area at this year's Great North Run. I've completed the run 8 times over the years. It'll be interesting to see the race from a different perspective.

There have been some new sponsors today. Word is still spreading about this year's run and people are still pledging. It's brilliant really and the fund is heading nicely towards £27,000. Let me just say that again - TWENTY SEVEN THOUSAND POUNDS!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!

And finally! One person who joined me on the Pennine Challenge (Day 16) continues to be in pain on a daily basis (or should that read "continues to be a pain"). Michael Dunn (pictured) hobbled across the finish line in brave fashion as his knee packed in and was in a right state after running 21 miles of the required 22 miles! Despite that serious injury, he made it across the finish line against all odds.

After ruling out having a private operation that costs over £3,500 and that would leave him with arthritis in years to come, Michael has settled for intensive physio treatment.

Against all advice, "Dunny" has recently tried to return to fitness in the gym and this has left him in even more pain. He also having difficulty playing golf. That's down to his new girlfriend putting her foot down though and nowt to do with his dodgy knee.

My pain after running 874 miles stopped 2 weeks ago. Dunny's knee pain will continue for some time yet and I wish him a speedy recovery. Colleague and good friend, Mark Fleming, is said to be providing Dunny with emotional support during these difficult times!

But seriously, he is certainly one person who gave his all for the cause on the 22nd July and has raised nearly £1000 as a member of the Pennine Challenge Team. That amount is not included in my total by the way. Money is still being collected in, however, it looks like the Pennine Challenge Team have raised over £3000 for the Hospice.

The cheque for the Pennine Challenge will be presented to the Hospice along with the mackem challenger's cheque for £1500 and my own cheque on September 27th.

Wednesday 29 August 2007

Day 54 - A different league!

I went out for another lunchtime run today. The route was my favourite 6 mile course from Gosforth around the Town Moor and back. This is also known as the "Mark Allison memorial 6 miles". As all my running companions know, this route takes in my birthplace - Princess Mary's Hospital. It's visible from the Great North Road and I always make a point of mentioning it to whoever is running with me.

I had speed merchants Mark Fleming and Pete Maddison for company today. We set off at a steady 10 minute mile pace and knocked off 30 seconds per mile for each mile until the end.

I picked up the pace and tried a break away at 5 miles. Yes! Me trying a break away! Can you imagine it. The fact that I was still with them at the 5 mile point is unheard of. I didn't manage to keep the lead for very long and they ran past me effortlessly. I did have them in my sights at the end though! I was really pleased with the final time of 51:19 which I'm pleased to report is a PB!

I've got to say that the last 2 lunchtime runs have been at a standard I've not ran at for 10 years. Mind you, I've not been at this weight for 10 years either! A few experienced runners are saying that I should be slowing things down and taking it easy after the big run. There's no chance of me doing that. Not a chance! My natural instinct now is not that different to the closing miles of each day during the final week in the John O'Groats to Lands End run. I just want to run as fast as I can to get to the finish. My instinct is also to look out for the support car and I've seen quite a few black Vauxhall Astras over the last few days. Surprisingly, none of them have stopped to give me a banana and some water!

It was good to end the day at St James Park and even better to actually see some goals! I was in the Boro end on Sunday so couldn't celebrate those 2 goals properly. I made up for it tonight mind! I bought the new away kit before the game in size LARGE. No more XL's for me these days.

As I thought on Sunday and even more so now, that Cacapa looks like a really classy and reliable defender. I'd like to see him against tougher opposition than Boro or Barnsley. The signs are good though.

As I drove home from the match, I heard Bob Moncur, on the radio, mention my lap of honour. "Letting the fan run around the pitch and receive the applause" were his words as he was talking about the recent good PR stunts coming from the club. I also got a mention from Biffa in an interview that he gave to the BBC Tyne website. You can see that here. He talks about the response from NUFC.COM readers and the "immense pride and satisfaction" that he and co-writer Niall got. Great stuff!

On a different note, due to a lot of people increasing their pledges today, the fund now stands at £26,506. I think £27,000 could be on the cards when the time comes to handover the cheque to St Benedict's Hospice! The fund was nearly a few quid short today as mackem, Lee Fisher, tried to pay with foriegn coins resembling £1 coins! I spotted his plan before I ticked his name off the sponsor form though and he coughed up some genuine Sterling. And while I'm on the subject of mackems! Steven Moore, the mackem challenger, still hasn't been able to bring himself to do a run since his day of derby day defeat in July. The shame must be unbearable!

Tuesday 28 August 2007

Day 53 - Hello! Hello! It's good to be back! It's good to be back!

It was back to work for me today and a chance to do my first lunchtime run in a long old while. I decided to do the 5 mile run to the Race Course. The conditions were superb for running.

I decided not to use my GPS watch as this period of de-training is not about getting a good time or running really fast (Aye right!). As per usual, that plan went out of the window and thanks to being 2 stone lighter than normal I used my new found speed to clock up 43 minutes approximately. This was a rough time using the clock on my iPod.

The GPS watch will be in use tomorrow though as I have a crack at beating my PB for the Town Moor.

Day 53 - Yet another sponsorship landmark.

Thanks to the generosity of a couple of Northern Rock staff the fund has now gone over the £26,000 mark. Colleagues, Mark Fleming and Richard Scholfield both upped their original sponsorship amounts and these will both be double matched by the Northern Rock Foundation.

In July, the Foundation agreed to double match every pledge made by a Northern Rock Employee. This has made a massive difference to the fund as is really appreciated.

Monday 27 August 2007

Day 52 - Something to aim for.

In order to keep my training at recent high standards and take my fitness to the next level, I plan to do a few events over the coming years. I've added a "Proposed future events" section at the right hand side of the page. These are the event I plan training for and doing:

2008 - 84 mile Hadrian's Wall run - I hope to repeat the event of 2003 but this time I'd like to run with a whole squadron of Roman soldiers. The route is the 84 mile course across the Hadrian's Wall path and will be done in 3 days ending in Wallsend.

2008 - The Midnight Sun marathon - This is labelled as a "fantastic running experience in the Arctic city of Tromsø in Norway. The opportunity to run at the middle of the night while there is still sunlight is unique.". I know Jimmy Bell has done this one so I'll be able to get some advice from the best there is.

2009 - The Dubai Marathon - This is one of my favourite holiday destinations and will be a good test to see how I adapt to running in really high temperatures. This will come in useful for the 2011 event (See below).

2009 - The Pennine Challenge - One of the most gruelling 22 mile routes there is. Just ask those injured runners who did this year's challenge if you don't believe me. I'd love to do this as a group event without having to run 380 miles beforehand from John O'Groats!

2010 - Iceland Laugavegur Ultra Marathon - Again, with a view to training for the 2011 event I think this little jaunt around Iceland will be very useful. The preparation, not only in training but with the organisation of required equipment, should provide countless lessons. This course is normally hiked in 4 days and is 55km long.

2011 - Running across the USA - This will be the next big solo event and who knows if it will be from east to west or west to east. Planning for this 3100 mile bad boy will start next year. Chances of success at present - 10%. And that 10% represents my will and determination. The remaining 90% covers everything from accommodation to food to goodness knows what else. Again, all expenses would be coming out of my own pocket so the sponsor money raised would have to be quite high.

Saturday 25 August 2007

Day 50 - Pledges from the Toon's finest.

I popped in to the Back Page this morning to pick up my bus ticket for tomorrow's Boro match. To my surprise the lads, Mick and Mark recognised me and were quick to donate 2 generous pledges to the fund; one on behalf of Newcastle United fanzine 'The Mag' and one from 'The Back Page'.

I had a bit of crack with the lads and they were full of praise for my efforts.

Mick was telling me about a marathon he sometimes does. It turns out that he was referring to a pub crawl around Whitley Bay!

Thanks for the donations lads!

Day 50 - The pants of a clown!

After my recent weight loss, it's time to go into town today to get some new clothes. Both my jeans and work trousers are like clown's pants. On the flip side I've get some clothes in my wardrobe that I haven't been able to get into for some years!

Best of all though, my vintage Newcastle tops fit me again!

Friday 24 August 2007

Day 49 - Random acts of kindness (Part 3).

Pictured is a view that was very familiar to me during the 5 week run from John O'Groats to Lands End.

That view is one of oncoming traffic. And lots of traffic at that! I must say though that 99.9% of traffic and the HGV drivers in particular gave me a wide berth.

So I'd like to pay tribute to all of those motorists (and there were thousands of them) who took care when driving past me.

I'd also like to thank those drivers that weren't concentrating or were on a mobile phone and saw me at the last moment. I really appreciated all of those last minute swerves away from me.

That's the A30 in Cornwall in the picture. I felt very lucky at the time as I had a small hard shoulder to run on. Luxury!

Day 49 - Fund increases even more.

The fund total continues to rise and has gone up by over £200 this week. Pledges made by Paypal have now been added in to the total. Also, when some pledges have been collected the sponsors have decided to increase their amount.

I think the fund could reach £26,000 once the cheque presentation evening is taken into account. Katy and I are still busy planning that evening and a reasonable venue continues to elude us. Hopefully, we'll have that sorted out by the end of the week and then we'll be able to get some tickets printed.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Day 47 - A message to all sponsors.

Tonight I issued a message via the website to all sponsors that left an email address. To those that didn't leave a contact address I'd like to, once again, thank you for your wonderful support for the Lands End to John O'Groats run. At the time of writing the total stands at a remarkable £25,503!

The vast majority of pledges have been automatically passed to the Hospice via I'll be starting to collect the remaining cash next week. This should take me right up until the cheque is presented on September 27th to collect. There are quite a few people to pester!

There was an anonymous pledge of £1000 on August 10th. I have no way of thanking that kind sponsor personally but, believe me, it was appreciated and has made a huge difference to the total. If that person would like to get in touch then I'd appreciate it.


Tuesday 21 August 2007

Day 46 - Thanks to the likely lads!

After 47 days of first class publicity and exposure I've finally disappeared off the NUFC.COM home page. Apart from attracting over £16,400 in additional sponsorship, it's been brilliant to see what I've been up to from the supporters point of view.

I'll never be able to thank Niall and Biffa enough for their invaluable help. They backed me unquestionably right from the start and raised the profile of the run to a level that I could only dream about. As I mentioned earlier, the readers of their site were generous enough to put their hands in their pockets to the tune of £16,400!

I had anticipated doing a lot more canvassing and pestering on the run for sponsorship. The pressure was completely taken off me in this respect and I was able to concentrate on actually doing the run thanks to the generous NUFC.COM readers.

It all started earlier in the year with an article that saw a few hundred quid pledged. It wasn't until July 6th, though, when they wrote an article entitled "Local Hero" asking for further pledges to help achieve the target of £5000.

They were very quick indeed to pick up on my blog site updates and apply the latest news to NUFC.COM. July 11th saw me get top billing on the site with the headline "Ton up kid!". At this point I'd passed the 100 mile mark and the sponsorship had passed £11,000.

The coverage on July 13th was exceptional and the headline "Derby victory for birthday boy" made both the victory over my mackem challenger and my 36th birthday so much sweeter. The article went on to explain "Toon fan Mark Allison continued the John O'Groats to Lands End run that he started on Saturday, with Friday seeing him trounce a mackem work colleague over a marathon distance.". At this point the £12,000 mark had been passed with more than £4,000 coming from NUFC.COM readers.

"Epic runner Mark Allison gets to sleep in his own bed over the next few days, as he progressed through the border country..." was the start of an article entitled "Run for Home" on July 18th. The fund was bulging at over £13,000 with donations of over £5,000 coming from NUFC.COM readers.

The Geordie public must have feared the worst, on July 25th, when they read "443 miles gone on his John O'Groats to Lands End run and Mark Allison has played his joker on day 19 by opting to take timeout spare day to rest his battered shins and hamstrings. Fear not though as this contingency day was built into his punishing schedule - and he'll be back on the roads tomorrow to press on for Cornwall and those much-awaited beers (he's been on the wagon all this year in preparation for this).".

On August 3rd, as news of Newcastle United's amazing invitation to do a lap of honour broke on NUFC.COM, the £16,000 barrier was "shattered".

As I got closer to the finish line, on August 11th with the headline "Lands Ahoy", it seemed that pledges of £20,000 were a realistic possibility.

As I crossed the finish line the next day, over £22,000 had been pledged with the headline "No words required" on NUFC.COM. Due to a loss of mobile phone signal I was unable to update my website with news of my success. One quick text to Niall and Biffa was all that was needed and their site carried news of the finish more or less straight away. They went on to explain "Those of you keeping track of his progress via the blog will get the full details when the lad is back in signal range - but we can tell you that he finished in one piece, is in great form and that first pint of 2007 didn't touch the sides.".

The end of the run didn't, by any means, signal the end of the coverage. NUFC.COM's Aston Villa pre-match build up carried the news of the lap of honour and the hope that the fund would reach £25,000 by that time. And reach £25,000 it did!!! At the time of writing this blog entry, the fund stands at a most remarkable £25,375. £16,400 of which has come from NUFC.COM readers.

So, I'm sure you'll agree, that a massive amount of credit and thanks are due to Niall and Biffa. I've often spared a thought for them over the years, given the volume and frequency of updates on NUFC.COM and the fact that they hold down regular jobs. The service that they provide the Toon community is invaluable. Ultimately, the service that they gave to myself and St Benedict's Hospice proved to be just as invaluable.

Thanks lads!

Day 46 - Major all time sponsorship landmark.

I've been raising funds for St Benedict's Hospice since 1994. During this time I've been sponsored by a great many people for doing events ranging from the Great North Run right through to running from John O'Groats to Lands End.

The pledges made yesterday took the total amount that I've raised to over £40,000. What a landmark!

I look forward, over the coming years, to continue to raise funds for the Hospice in memory of my Mam.

I hope that, as a result of this year's event, I've inspired lots of people to do the same for whatever cause is dear to them. I suspect that this is actually the case judging from the hundreds of emails I received over the last 6 weeks.

Day 46 - Random acts of kindness (Part 2).

One of the most important types of kindness to get me through the daily grind of running for 37 days was the appearance of special guests en route.

The first such guest was young Steven Moore who'd nicked off school for the day to challenge me to a marathon through the Cairngorms on day 7. This also happened to be my 36th birthday. The fact that I wiped the floor with that Sad mackem Boy has been well documented so I'll not bore you further with the details!

The next guest appeared on day 10 at about mile 250. Mark Fleming made a timely morale boosting visit on the way to the Open at Carnoustie. I'd had a particularly tough day and the boost of seeing a familiar face really managed to make the remaining miles go over quickly.

Three days later and my morale was getting very low. The main reason being was the excruciating pain that I was experiencing in my shins. The tablets that I was taking didn't even scratch the surface of the pain. I knew I had the Scottish/English border at Carter Bar to reach that day and it seemed like 50 miles away and not the required 23.

The first 13 miles were done at an average of about 15 minutes per mile. Then, just north of Jedburgh, 2 guardian angels in the form of Uncle Brian (not really my Uncle but you know how it was in the 70s when we had respect) and Aunty Ada (not really my Aunty but you know how it was in the 70s when us kids used to get a good thrashing for calling an elder by their first name) passed by in the car. Then they passed by again! This spurred me on to a couple of 10 minute miles right through the pain barrier and into the centre of Jedburgh. We stopped for a chat and just as I was about to start running again, a lad from work, Jonathan Jobe, passed by. He'd taken a 3 hour lunch (check his flexi!) to pop up and see me for what turned out to be only a few minutes.

About a mile further down the road I ran into my mates, Dan and James Tweedy who'd also had a drive out to give their support. After so many lonely miles on the road (about 320 at that point) it was great to once again see so many familiar faces.

I eventually made it to Carter Bar that day in an astonishing amount of pain in my shins. Aunty Ada and Uncle Brian were there again to witness the crazy celebrations that followed. I was so relieved to reach the biggest landmark so far on the run and this was the night that I got to go home and see Katy and Jack.

The following day I was joined by more "Aunties" and an "Uncle". You know the drill by now with the respect thing. It was Aunty Joyce, Aunty Carol and Uncle Bob this time. About 10 miles south of Carter Bar they put on a cracking picnic. This made a smashing change from the usual banana break. Once again the appearance of familiar faces served to take my mind off the pain I was almost in tears with, if only for half an hour. You might not think that a picnic in the middle of July is unusual but you should have seen the wind and rain that day!

Later on in the day I bumped into John Mallon, an ex colleague, who was out for a run near his home in Otterburn. He ran the last mile with me after I'd put in a very painful shift of the cruelest climbs that Northumberland had to offer. John was training for the Helsinki Marathon that took place last Saturday. It was at the end of this day that Katy made me go to Shotley Bridge Hospital's minor injuries unit. This was one of the turning points of the whole run as the medication they gave me took only 3 or 4 days to work and it wasn't long before I was running almost pain free again.

Day 15 saw more cruel climbs in Northumberland and the prospect of running 28.5 miles to get back on schedule. Another colleague, Patrick Aynsley-Smythe joined me for a few miles early in the day and saw me safely into Corbridge.

A few miles down the road and the tablets were beginning to wear off. Imagine my surprise when I saw another colleague, Mike Paul and his wife Michelle.
I'll not forget that lovely hug from Michelle in a hurry and it played it's part in me getting back on schedule after 15 days of running 384 miles!

That just about raps up the first lot of guest appearances. There were plenty more to follow over the next 21 days. I'll add more on that subject later this week.