Monday 28 May 2007

A tough yet rewarding week of training.

I woke up this morning wondering how on earth I could ever manage to run 22 miles on top of yesterday's 22 miles. My legs were still sore from yesterday's effort but energy levels felt good.

I didn't set off until just after 1 pm and the first thing that struck me was how cold it was. It's the end of May for goodness sake. What is going on with this weather! At least I had a nice tail wind to push me along the way. The first 2 miles were a doddle. Worryingly though, I had some strange pains in my legs for the next 2 miles. Thankfully the pains were never to return after that.

It took me 01:55:56 to get to Stanhope where I stopped briefly to sup an energy gel and some water. The ice cream van that sells hot dogs was there but I didn't fancy one this time and proceeded to leg it up the horrible 17% climb out of Stanhope. I reached the 13.5 mile point at 02:37:34 and by now it seemed even colder than at the start point.

The following 2.5 miles up to what I now call "The Summit" weren't too bad at all. My iPod was at full blast to detract from any pain! I got a lot of encouragement from some of the passing cars. A few drivers and their passengers decided to wave at me enthusiastically and this really spurred be on up to the top at 1675 ft where Katy was waiting with fresh supplies. I supped another energy gel at 16 miles and this kicked in 2 miles later as I legged it up the final climb at a pace far quicker than yesterday.

Miles 18-22 have always been tough in the past. This is the point where I usually have many negative thoughts and enter a mental world of pain and torture. I think John might have experienced the same thing yesterday at this point. Today was different, however. These were miles 40-44 of 2 difficult day's of running. I was almost at the end. I felt great, all things considered. The chemicals in my brain were starting to do all kinds of weird and wonderful things and I got this sudden rush of euphoria going into the last uphill stretch. It didn't stop there. My legs had gone past the aching stage and when I looked at my watch I knew I was on for my 2nd quickest time for this route. I also realised that I was going to be a lot quicker than yesterday. In fact, I finished the run in 04:16:07 with the last mile at 00:08:56. This was a full 14 minutes quicker than yesterday. You can tell from the photo how pleased and relieved I was to have completed 2 gruelling days of running in the North Pennines. My first words to Katy were "King Prawn Madras". I had to replace the 8500 calories that I'd burned somehow!

This time last week I spoke of what would and would not be acceptable. My confidence is sky high now after a very successful week of training. Once again I've talked about high standards and once again I've managed to reach them. If the big run started this week I feel as though I'd be ready for it. Just as well, because in 5 weeks time I'll be starting it for real.

Finished - 2nd 22 mile run in 2 days!

I made it. 04:16:07. The last mile was the quickest at 08:52. Full report to follow after my bath and King Prawn Madras!

Training Summary (Week ending 27/05/2007)

Monday 21st May. 5 miles. Race Course. (51:00:48).
Tuesday 22nd May. 6 miles. Town Moor. (00:58:25).
Wednesday 23rd May. 8.4 miles. Havannah Nature Reserve. (01:27:56).
Sunday 27th May. 22 miles. Castleside to Middleton in Teesdale. (04:30:00).

Sunday 27 May 2007

1 down, 1 to go!

Make no mistake, today's 22 mile run was tough. Very tough! This is the 3rd time I've ran this route and this was the slowest time to date (04:30:00). I was lucky enough to have John keeping me company and he was astounded at the 3 major climbs on the route. Speaking of the climbs, "They go on and on" and "They seemed never ending" were quotes from today's run!

It took 3 miles to loosen up after an early Sunday morning start. The next 8 miles were as straightforward as ever. The weather even behaved itself. The climb out of Stanhope wasn't too bad, but by this time conditions were quite cold and I had to wear the woolly hat that I'd found at the 10 mile point.

I made the mistake of wearing my backpack from mile 10.5 to 16. That's the last time I'll be doing that! 2.2 litres of water is far too heavy to carry up the major climb on this route.

I was very pleased to reach the 1700 ft summit with relative ease. My road side supporter for the day, Katy, had bought some home made cookies from a nearby farmer's market. Just what the doctor ordered after 16 miles.

The final 6 miles were ran in a bit of discomfort. My groin was quite sore and this stopped me getting any speed up. I nearly collapsed when I reached the finish line. My legs ached so much. Energy levels were high once again.

An hour after the run, I realised that I had a bit of trouble with my feet. I had a nice new shiny blister on my left foot to accompany the 2 I've been running with for the last fortnight. Every time I do this 22 mile route, I seem to pick up a new blister.

Now how on earth am I going to be able to manage to do this exact same gruelling 22 mile run tomorrow. For now, I've got no idea. I guess I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and see what happens.

Saturday 26 May 2007

48 hours of tough running begins.

Tomorrow and Monday will see me attempt two 22 mile runs through the now very familiar North Pennines. I've had 3 days of rest and plenty of energy food in preparation (including 3 lots of fish and chips!). John will be accompanying me tomorrow on what promises to be a pretty rotten day weatherwise. Here is a reminder of the elevation profile of the 22 mile route.

Tuesday 22 May 2007

A good start to a massive week of training.

It's pleasing to report that I've followed up Sunday's 22 miles with 5 and 6 mile runs on Monday and Tuesday. As you would expect, I was slightly tired for yesterday's 5 miler. Normal service was resumed today and thanks go to young Steven for setting a good pace on both runs. Recovery times continue to be good.

I am now left with the daunting task of running 8.4 miles on Wednesday, 2 hard sessions in the gym, 6 miles on Friday and 22 miles on both Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday.

Hopefully, I'll have some running company on Sunday on what should be a routine 22 miles. Monday, however, is all about getting to the finish line no matter what. I should learn quite a few lessons from the next few day's runs. I'll be putting my nutritional arrangements to the test in order to ensure I'm in the best possible shape going into Monday. Without doubt this week will provide the biggest test so far in my training schedule. It's imperative that by next Tuesday morning I'm in a confident mood and I'm writing about a successful week of training. Anything else will simply not be acceptable. Standards are high now!

Monday 21 May 2007

Training Summary (Week ending 20/05/2007)

Monday 14th May. 6 miles. Jesmond Dean. (01:01:16).
Tuesday 15th May. Gym.
Tuesday 15th May. 5 miles. Race Course. (00:43:19). PB!
Wednesday 16th May. 8.4 miles. Havannah Nature Reserve. (01:22:13).
Thursday 17th May. Gym.
Friday 18th May. Gym.
Friday 18th May. 6 miles. Jesmond Dean. (01:14:22).
Sunday 20th May. 22 miles. Castleside to Middleton in Teesdale. (04:05:56). PB!

Sunday 20 May 2007

A PB for 22 miles rounds off a superb week of training!

I set off at 09:15 from Castleside for today's planned 22 mile route to Middleton in Teesdale. I was accompanied by Michael for the first 11 miles and our road side support for this first part was his identical twin brother Graham. Michael set off at a very good pace and I trailed behind right from the off and was never to catch him. I was very pleased with a consistent 10ish minute mile pace for the first 8 miles. Miles 9 and 10 on this run are downhill and as a result they were done at 9 minute mile pace. By the time I left Michael and Graham at mile 11 in Stanhope I felt in very good form.

I found the next 1.5 miles uphill a lot easier than usual and was soon at the base of the major climb on the run. Again, I found the 700 ft climb over 2.2 miles a lot easier than usual. I think the tunes on my iPod really helped. I had a mixture of Hed Kandi, the Rocky soundtrack, AC/DC and a few songs like Heather Small's "Proud" on there. All good motivational stuff.

Katy and Jack passed me in the car at mile 14 and I waved them on to the 18 mile point after they saw that I was in good fettle. The miles seemed to be going over really quickly and I was soon at the final summit ready for the 2.5 mile descent into Middleton. It's a good job I had 19.5 good quick miles in the bag as my legs seemed a little sore at this point. My energy levels were as high as ever, though, thanks to the electrolytes mixed with the water I'd been taking and the energy gel and bar I'd eaten.

I was pleased to see Katy and Jack at the finish line. Jack sprinted over to me a jumped up for a cuddle. What a rewarding way to end a run!

I thrashed my previous best (04:20:04) for this route with a time of 04:05:59. Tremendous! Overall, I felt a lot more positive than the last time I ran this route. I think having some company on the run really helped. Thanks Michael!

At today's pace I would have easily beaten the times of any of the 2 London and 2 New York Marathons I've done. Tremendous! So after 47.4 miles and 3 intense gym sessions the only fitting reward was of course a king prawn madras! Tremendous!

22 miles in the North Pennines

I did it! 4 hours and 5 minutes! Full review to follow after my bath and 3 hours sleep!

Saturday 19 May 2007

60% target reached.

Thanks to some generous donations from the other parents at my son Jack's school, the fund has now reached over 60% of the target. The fund level is really typical of the whole state of this event. In other words, a lot of hard work has been done over recent months but this really must be sustained right up until the end of the big run to ensure a successful outcome all round.

Week after week I keep telling people that my training couldn't be going any better than it is. Vast improvements have been made in general pace but more importantly with endurance. Just recently, clocking up 4 hours 20 minutes for a very difficult 22 mile run, numerous PBs and the general comfort in which those longer runs are completed is testament to this.

Behind the scenes there remains only a few odds and ends to sort out. Cheap hotels and train tickets for the road side supporters have been booked. The route has been planned in detail and checked numerous times. Nutrition and supplements for the run have been planned and thanks to my friends at Science in Sport it will be cheaper than buying it in the shops. The whole event and it's organisation is in very good shape. At the present time I don't feel one ounce of apprehension for the mammoth task ahead. In fact, I'm looking forward to getting on with it. Lets hope I'm still holding my nerve in 7 weeks time!

Friday 18 May 2007

Running on empty!

After 3 good runs and 3 very intense gym sessions this week I was all set to put in a good effort for the hilly 6 mile course in and around Jesmond Dene. I set off at a good pace with Dave, Carlton, Colin and Chris. Things took a turn for the worse, however, at the 2 mile point. All of a sudden, I didn't feel like I had any energy at all and both my arms and legs felt like jelly. Oh dear! I hadn't even got to the hilly bit yet. The morning's gym session had obviously taken it's toll. The last time I felt as weak as this was mile 35 of day 1 on the C2C run in 2005.

Now the old me would have turned back to Gosforth and called it a day. The new me decided to see what the effects of a hilly 6 mile run would be with very little energy. It wasn't a pretty sight! I was just about managing a 13 minute mile pace and I was so hungry! Even now, writing this entry into my blog, my arms feel a tad fragile.

So I'll put this one down to experience. I have been doing 2 workouts some days for the last 3 weeks. I haven't increased the calorie intake though! Clearly, I think I need to eat more between workouts.

Thankfully, I have a rest day tomorrow before attempting the very difficult 22 mile route through the North Pennines from Castleside to Middleton on Sunday. The run I've really got my eye on is on Monday. It'll be interesting to see how I react on Monday's 5 miles to the Race Course with Sunday's 22 mile effort still evident in my legs.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Getting faster and faster!

Conditions were ideal for today's run up to Newcastle Race Course and back. There was a "quality field" out with Michael, Pete, Ian, Rob and Steven out to keep me company. We started at a very quick (for me) pace and didn't get that much slower for the entire run. The runners were soon spread out with Steven and I at the back. However, unlike previous runs, I had the leading runners in view right up to the 4 mile mark. Normally, I never see them again after 1.5 miles!

I looked at my watch at the 4 mile mark and quickly calculated that, at this pace, I was on for a PB. Young Steven was a real asset here as he ran the last mile at a blistering pace to ensure that I got my PB. He knows that I run at my best when I'm in pursuit of someone. Steven finished a good 30 seconds ahead of me and I reached the finish line a good minute and a half quicker than my previous best. Once again, I had been to the gym before starting work so this PB was especially pleasing.

Monday 14 May 2007

Planning the intake of energy products.

I've started the difficult task of planning the supplementary nutritional intake I'll need when running from John O'Groats to Land End. Fortunately, there are a whole host of products out there to choose from.

However, after months of experimentation, the ones I trust to be the most effective are from SIS (Science in Sport). Their products are for use before, during and after exercise. They even do a night time drink for athletes. Yummy!

Just not good enough!

Well I finally did it after all these months. I didn't embark on a training run that I had planned to do. On Sunday I was supposed to run 22 miles in the North Pennines. Instead, I came out with every excuse in the book not to go. I suppose, in the end, the official reason not to go was a "headache".

This shouldn't be the action of someone who actually wants to reach Lands End in 1 piece. This shouldn't be the behaviour of someone who is being backed so many generous sponsors. This is something that only a LOSER would do.

So this is a final warning to myself. No more excuses. No more ducking out of any more planned runs. I'll count this as 1 strike. Another strike and I'll really start to question my attitude. I'll question whether I have what it takes to reach Lands End (or even the Scottish Borders!).

It is time to remember those immortal words - "A winner makes commitment. A loser makes promises". Or something like that!

Training Summary (Week ending 13/05/2007)

Wednesday 9th May - Gym.
Wednesday 9th May - 8.4 miles. Havannah. (01:16:56).
Thursday 10th May - Gym
Friday 11th May - 6 miles. Jesmond Dean. (01:02:00).
Saturday 12th May. Gym.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Shoes selected for the big run!

Since January, I've ran 530 miles in my current pair of trainers (Asics Gel Nimbus VIII). So I thought it was time for 2 new pairs of trainers. I should perhaps explain why I need 2 pairs. The first pair will be used for the remainder of my training and roughly 2/5 of the John O'Groats to Lands End run. The second pair will hopefully see me safely the rest of the way to Lands End.

With so much riding on the next set of shoes I decided to give Northern Runner, in Newcastle, a visit. I've bought trainers from here in the past and I sent Ian "The Coach" here a couple of weeks ago so I knew that they would have a good look at my feet and recommend the best shoe for the job. As soon as I tried on the pair of Brooks Glycerin 5 trainers I knew these were the ones for me. A quick run in them at of the back of the shop confirmed this. They felt like a really comfortable pair of slippers. Just what I'll need for the big run! As you can see from the picture, they are really clean at present. It's going to be a shame to have to run round the Town Moor in them tomorrow lunchtime!

Saturday 12 May 2007

Another Fancy Dress Day Sponsor.

After 5 months of pestering, begging and pleading, the fund has now passed the £3000 mark thanks to another Fancy Dress Day deal. I'm pleased to announce that have donated £100 to the fund and as a result I'll be wearing the Batman outfit a 2nd time! This will be as early as day 2 which is a tough old 27.7 miles from Whaligoe to Navidale in the far north of Scotland.

In addition to the generous £100 donation, our friends at have agreed to donate 10% of any booking fees to St Benedict's Hospice when quoting "MARK ALLISON". What a very generous gesture indeed! So why not click on through to the site and have a look at the substantial villa on offer in the heart of Orlando, Florida. The huge villa (pictured) looks fantastic and is very reasonably priced. Disney attractions are only 10 minutes away. But never mind all that! The villa has a 65 inch widescreen HDTV, a heated pool and spa and a fully equipped games room! Nice!

So if you or anyone you know is thinking of renting a villa in Orlando why not give some consideration. In the meantime, Mark Allison's John O'Groats to Lands End run (Day 2) will be brought to you in association with our friends at

The Dynamic Duo on tour in the Borders!

Ian "the coach" has reluctantly agreed to join me in fancy dress for 10 of the scheduled 24.5 miles on the 19th July. This is the day that is sponsored by It is only proper that Ian will be donning a Robin outfit to compliment my Batman one. We should raised a few eyebrows, dressed as the Dynamic Duo, as we cross over the English/Scottish border at Carter Bar. Who knows we may even get a few donations from tourists en route in exchange for a photo or two.

I asked Ian today if he fancied doing a trial run in the costumes around the 6 mile Town Moor route. I can't print his reply here, but suffice to say, he wasn't exactly up for it!

Once again, thanks go to for sponsoring day 13 of the John O'Groats to Lands End run.

Thursday 10 May 2007

The first "fancy dress day" snapped up already by a local company!

What a great start to the "fancy dress day" sponsorship campaign! I have sealed a deal within 1 hour of posting details of the very attractive corporate sponsorship deals I have available for this year's big run. Thankfully (for me), the naked Forth Road Bridge run still remains unsold!

I'm very pleased to announce that Newcastle based have pledged support if I dress up as Batman for one of the 36 days. The exact day is yet to be decided but expect something like "Mark Allison's John O'Groats to Lands End run (Day 13 - Newtown St Boswells to Catcleugh Resevouir) is brought to you in association with".

Now if I could only find a willing "Robin" to run with me for a day! Please get in touch at if you or your company are interested in sponsoring a fancy dress day.

Massive sponsorship deals - Bids welcome!

While I've been very very pleased indeed with the level of sponsorship received so far, I think it's time to try and give the fund a bit of a boost.

This is an opportunity, to all companies and well off folk, for a chance to be part of a major sponsorship deal. This isn't any ordinary deal! This is the chance to be part of something massive. Something very spectacular! Did that sound convincing enough?

"What am I getting for my money?" I hear you all ask. Well! I'm willing to sink to new depths (even lower than the 100 yards I ran naked on the C2C route in 2004!) in order to raise funds for St Benedict's Hospice (Charity No 1019410).

For a decent sum of money I'm offering the chance to sponsor and be associated with one of the days of my big run. All days up for grabs. That's not the end of it! I'm prepared to run a particular day in extremely embarrassing fancy dress. Not any old fancy dress mind! Oh no! For example - £100 will get you a superhero costume. I think Batman would be my choice here. £200 will get you a character from Little Britain. I think Andy "I want that one" would be suitably embarrassing. At least I've got the stomach for that part already!

Now it gets really embarrassing! £300 gets you Borat's slingshot bikini thong! Now howay ladies and gents. Get your hands in your pockets! I'll be getting hundreds of hits on this website when those pictures are posted. £300 is an absolute bargain! Imagine it - "Mark Allison's John O'Groats to Lands End run (Day 12) dressed in nought but Borat's thong was proudly presented to you in association with your company name here.". Again, £300! It's the deal of the year.

Now I think that there will be lots of interest in that one , so just to top it off , £400 will get you another Little Britain character. This time, it's Daffyd "The only gay in the village". I'm half hoping that £400 is a little to pricey but on the other hand it's all for a good cause.

And finally, it's the big one! £500 will get you a naked 1.5 mile run across the Forth Road Bridge. This spectacular event needs little introduction or explanation. This event is probably why I have 1 contingency day at the end of the big run. I might need it to explain my antics to the local constabulary. Again, I've priced this one based on risk as well as embarrassment!

So there we have it - 5 very reasonably priced sponsorship deals. If any of these events interest you or your generous company, please drop me a line at for further information. Remember, these embarrassing tasks are on top of the already daunting 888 miles I'll be running from John O'Groats to Lands End. I'd almost forgotten about that bit for a moment!

Due to the nature of these events, I'd ask that money for these very attractive sponsorship deals should be paid, up front, directly to "St Benedict's Hospice, Monkwearmouth Hospital, Newcastle Road, Sunderland. SR5 1NB.".

And remember, it's all for a good cause!

Wednesday 9 May 2007

YAWN! Another PB.

Conditions were a little on the warm side for a crack at the 8.4 mile route around Gosforth and the Havannah Nature Reserve. I was accompanied by young Steven from work and he set off in spectacular style, setting a very good pace indeed. We managed to do the first mile in 08:37 and I suspected early on that I might be on for a PB. I know I should be training at a slower pace but I just can't help it! I've got this new found speed and I want to put it to good use!

We were attacked by thousands of flies at the 3.5 mile mark. I could have done without that as I cannot stand flies! I must have looked like a right loony, trying to run while waving my hands around in an attempt to keep the flies away. They soon went as we hit open space and this allowed me to concentrate on keeping up the pace that young Steven had started.

Just over an hour had past and we hit the Great North Road on the way back to base. I knew then that it wouldn't take that much of an effort for a PB. Young Steven was suffering slightly in the heat so I ran at a pace to make sure that I wouldn't get too far in front of him while making sure that the PB was still on the cards. To his credit he dug in and finished only a few seconds behind me. I was very pleased with the final time of 01:16:56, knocking nearly 4 minutes of my previous PB and a whole 15 minutes quicker than various times in January and February. I should add that I was also in the gym at 07:15 this morning for an hour. I'm trying to build this into my daily routine in an attempt to get my weight down to less than 16 stone when I start the big run.

As you can see from the split times (pictured) I was nowhere near the 10 minute mile pace I'm supposed to be running at!

Monday 7 May 2007

888 miles in 36 days

After many hours spent re-planning the route I'm pleased to confirm the mileage for this year's big run is 888 miles. I'm going to try and run this in just 36 days, which means I should reach Lands End (pictured) on the 11th August 2007. I'll use the 12th August as contingency should anything go wrong or my mileage is a bit out! Hopefully the 12th August will be spent driving home.

I will have to run 24.7 miles a day on average. Heaven knows what pain this will cause over the course of 36 days! I'm preparing myself for some minor injury, illness or disability. Hopefully, all that will occur will be some extremely sore legs and a few blisters!

Sunday 6 May 2007

Training Summary (Week ending 06/05/2007)

Tuesday 1st May - 6 miles. Town Moor Memorial. (00:59:56).
Thursday 3rd May - Gym (Fitness Assessment).
Friday 4th May - 6 miles. Jesmond Dean. (00:58:16).
Saturday 5th May- Gym.
Sunday 6th May - 11 miles. Castleside to Stanhope (02:08:04).

Friday 4 May 2007

Will 900 go into 37?

I've struggled to get road side support for 4 days of the run so I've had to formulate a plan B. I don't fancy running between Kidderminster and Bristol unsupported (day 24 - 27) so I've been thinking about moving some of Katy and Jack's support from day 33 - 42 to plug this gap. This would mean that I would have to finish the run 5 days early. Gulp! I'd be faced with the prospect of running 900 miles in 37 days. That's an average increase of 3 miles on each day of the run and I'd have no contingency whatsoever should anything go wrong!

I've spent a lot of time this week confirming the mileage for each leg of the run. This is important when all of a sudden there is far less margin for error. I will have finished this exercise next week by which time I should be in a position to say whether or not running from John O'Groats is achievable in 37 days. If you would like to see how my route planning is progressing click here.

On the plus side today, I have managed to fit into a shirt and pair of jeans last worn about 4 years ago! I was amazed when the buttons actually managed to meet the button holes. Yahooo!! If all goes to plan, one of the first jobs I'm going to have to do when I finish the big run is go clothes shopping as I suspect nothing I have will fit me! Can't wait!

Thursday 3 May 2007

Another sponsorship landmark reached!

I've spent so much time training and planning the logistics of this big run that I've fallen behind with getting the required amount of sponsorship (not to mention work and family life!). Thankfully, things are calming down a bit on the logistics front so I will have time to get out there and pester more people for their generous pledges. The fund received a boost today with a few more pledges. A very generous £50 was pledged from one of my ex bosses, Alexis, who lives not too far from the route of the big run in Scotland.

Perhaps one of the most random acts of kindness you are likely to see came when one of the girls from work, Mandy, was getting a massage earlier this week. She happened to mention my big run to the masseur who promptly told her to pass the fee for the massage to me as sponsorship. Smashing! I'd love to tell you how much was pledged for this, but that might reveal the "level of service" Mandy got on her "massage". Thanks to all involved!

I have now reached 55% of the target. Still a long way to go, but I'm getting there!

Fitness test proves hard work is paying off.

I had my 3rd fitness assessment in 6 months this afternoon with some pleasing but totally expected results. It turns out that I'm a stone lighter and have 9% less body fat since October last year.

As you would expect with all the training this year, the various scientific read outs for my lung and cardiovascular functions showed the biggest improvements. I had previously registered an "above average" in these areas. The print out at the end said "good" with noticeable increases across the board. I even broke my own most press ups in a minute record of 11 with a staggering total of 18!!!! Get in there!!!! I could only manage 5 last October.

My next scheduled fitness assessments are July 5th and then at the end of August just days either side of the big run. I should be down to a double size zero by then!! Normal size zero is so last season! Anyhow, pictured is me with a few friends from the gym celebrating the good news.

Tyne versus Wear derby battle to commence early!

If running 900 miles in itself wasn't enough, I've now been challenged, by a young Mackem from work, to a race of mountainous proportions. Steven Moore, who proudly supports that team who play in red and white, reckons he can beat me over any 26.2 mile section of the Land's End to John O'Groats route. I told him today that my choice of route was the 26.2 mile course from Kincraig to Dalwhinnie. This section runs through the Cairngorm National Park in Scotland so there's plenty of hills where we can battle it out for local bragging rights!

Steven and I will be wearing our respective team's colours and he has agreed to ask his friends and family for sponsorship in aid of the hospice. It should turn out to be some battle indeed as Steven is 10 years younger and 5 stone lighter than me. Not to mention that fact that I will have run 160 miles over the previous 6 days. There's no room for excuses though! I'll be hoping to follow in the footsteps of O'Brien, Dabizas, Bellamy, Shearer, Emre, Chopra etc etc and get one over the local rivals.

Steven commented earlier today that "Derby games are never pretty and whoever wants to defend the pride of their club the most will probably be the eventual victor.". So the first Tyne v Wear derby will be 13th July this year (also my birthday!) Challenge accepted!