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.

Monday 20 August 2007

Day 45 - Another internet appearance.

Concerning the lap of honour, there's a great little article on the official Newcastle United website.

The article, entitled "Mark's a local hero" goes on to explain why I was invited to do the lap around the pitch at half time and how I was presented with a shirt, signed by the squad, by the new Chairman Chris Mort.

You can see the article at

Day 45 - A mention in the match day programme and the Journal.

There was a nice paragraph at the end of the Villa match report in today's Journal.

"Mark Allison, the Newcastle supporter who ran from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise funds for a local hospice, was applauded for his efforts during the interval. Unlike the 37-year-old, United still have a long way to go."

Both the programme and the Journal made me a year older than I was but I'll not quibble too much about that!

The plans for this week are a few short runs and a couple of sessions in the gym. By the time I get back to work next I'll start to get back to the usual quick lunchtime runs and more intense gym sessions. The aim now is to get my weight down to below 14 stone before the Christmas break! That will be a challenge in itself now that I'm allowed to drink beer and eat curries again!

Thanks to todays new sponsors. The current total is £25,350! Pledges will be accepted right up until the cheque is presented to St Benedict's Hospice on September 27th. To add your donation to the fund please click on the justgiving link:

Sunday 19 August 2007

Day 44 - Living the dream!

I mentioned to the lads in the pub after the match that I fully expected to wake up this morning at 18 stone again and having had the most amazing whirlwind of a dream.

The dream went something like this. I ran 874 miles down the length of the country, amassed over £25,000 in sponsorship for the Hospice and got to run an unprecedented lap of honour round the pitch at St James' Park. You couldn't make it up!

Anyway, I spent the entire first half yesterday in a very very nervous mood. And believe you me, I don't get nervous easily. I was so nervous that I had my first ever toilet visit during open play. Not bad considering that I've been going to the match for 22 years.

At half time, after getting changed in the media suite, I made my way to the opening of the tunnel. To get rid of the nerves I imagined that I had 2 rows of teams behind me and a captains armband on. The announcer said his piece and it was time to walk out onto the side of the pitch. This time, I imagined that I was the latest new signing being unveiled to the crowd. What an impact this had and I don't think the smile on my face left me for a good few hours. As I walked onto the pitch side, I expected a few polite applause here and there around the ground so the actual reception that I got was amazing. It seemed to me that the whole crowd was applauding. Local hero played over the PA system and I set off towards the Gallowgate end.

I later found out that it was raining heavily as I ran. This was news to me as I didn't feel a drop. I can't remember running either. I just seemed to float around.

The applause and cheers never stopped as I ran (floated!) around the pitch side. Their were real looks of admiration and pride on the faces of my fellow supporters. I seemed to keep my arm aloft all the way around, while waving and cheering every now and again. All the while the smile on my face seemed to grow wider and wider. I shook the hands of a lot of people and there was a load of high fives in there too.

Now the surreal bit. I signed a couple of autographs at the Gallowgate End and some in the East Stand. Then, at the Leazes End, one lad who I'd had a supportive email from while on the run asked if I would sign his programme. Now I'd planted the other autograph hunters in the crowd. This one was genuine! GET IN!!!! I've signed my first autograph. I made my way to the Leazes/Milburn corner and caught sight of my son Jack in the crowd. I gave him a quick hug before arriving back at the tunnel. At this point my grin was at it's maximum span! I later got a text message from an occupant of the East Stand saying that "You looked chuffed!.". That was a bit of an understatement!

At the tunnel entrance, Chairman Chris Mort was waiting to greet me with a Toon shirt. The shirt had the number 874 and name Allison. It was also signed by the first team! I had a few words with Chris who seemed like a smashing bloke by the way. He presented me with the shirt and we posed for photos. I then held the shirt up to the crowd and more applause rained down. Amazing!

Little did I realise but another life long ambition was soon to be realised as I got asked to draw the Geordie Jackpot! As I said before "You couldn't make it up!". To top things off even more, I went "back stage" to get changed and met Supermac. He was full of praise for my efforts.

All in all this was a great day! Later on, I relived the half time lap over a few beers and a curry with the lads. I would never have dared imagine today's events would be possible when I set off from John O'Groats on July 7th amidst severe wind and rain. And I swear that my grin just got wider and wider as the night went on!

At this point I'd like to thank Newcastle United and Gary Oliver in particular for looking after me so well yesterday. Thanks are also due to Rachel Kerr at the BBC for her superb coverage and wonderful photos. Thanks to a certain pair over at NUFC.COM for the part they played in getting the lap organised. Thanks also to today's new sponsors for adding to the fund which currently stands at £25,310.

Pledges will be accepted right up until the cheque is presented to St Benedict's Hospice on September 27th. To add your donation to the fund please click on the justgiving link:

Day 43 - Was it all a dream?

One of the proudest 10 minutes of my life can be seen at:

Saturday 18 August 2007

Day 43 - Like the best dream I ever had.

What a reception on the lap of honour! And to be presented with a signed shirt by the new chairman topped it off superbly! Full report to follow tomorrow.

Day 43 - What a result!

I now go into today's lap of honour round the pitch at half time with the fund for St Benedict's Hospice currently at:


This makes the shin pain, hamstring pain, exhaustion, blister pain, the mental pain, not seeing my family, running on my birthday, running in the wind, running in the rain, running in 29 degree heat, not drinking for 8 months, all the training, missing 2 home friendlies, missing the Bolton game, dressing up as Borat, dressing up as Batman all worthwhile.

Don't forget that I got to beat a mackem work colleague who challenged me to running a marathon distance in the Cairngorms on day 7 of the big run. Despite him being 10 years younger, 5 stone lighter and me having run 160 miles already I still managed to destroy him and win the challenge. I hear on the grapevine that his confidence has been shattered and he hasn't ran since. He did manage to raise £1500 sponsor money in his own right though! This is separate to my total and will also be going to St Benedict's Hospice.

The Pennine Challenge, undertaken by Northern Rock staff who joined me on day 16, also raised sponsor money in it's own right. At present, this is estimated to be in the region of £3000. This is also separate to my total and will also be going to St Benedict's Hospice. There were some pretty nasty injuries to some of the Northern Rock staff as a result of that run on what was a very very difficult course. One lad is due to have an MRI scan on his knee soon and Ian "The Coach" Glasgow hasn't managed a decent run since. Also due to a knee injury.

The above total, standing at a very proud £25,120, would not have been possible without the publicity given to me by Niall and Biffa at NUFC.COM. Oh and by the way, as a little bonus from the tax man, the Gift Aid that the £25120 fund attracts is in the region of £5000.

When I asked the 2 lads to publicise the run I expected a short piece on their site for a few days. Much to my amazement and utter gratitude, they stuck with me day after day on the run and kept you, the readers, up to date with my shenanigans. The run finished 5 days ago and I'm still on the site! Brilliant! Crikey, I hope, they remove me after the Villa game! I've been on there more times than Marcelino had injuries.

I'd like to think I've been a good ambassador for the Geordie Nation. It's very fitting that the vast majority of pledges have been made by fellow Geordies, both at home and abroad. What a superb message this must send out about the wonderful people in our region and those who have moved away from it.

I'll be accepting pledges, right up until the cheque is handed over to the Hospice on 27th September. News on this evening of gratitude, congratulation and cheque presentation will start filtering though on this site starting next week. We still need a venue, Geordie band, PA system and all sorts but we should manage to put on a do that is fitting for cheques of this magnitude.

To say that this event has been a success is an absolute understatement. I set about achieving a certain result and boy did I deliver (with a lot of help from a lot of people). Not bad for putting one foot in front of the other a million and a half times in 37 days!

As the sign post read at Lands End, Geordie Pride indeed!

Friday 17 August 2007

Day 42 - £25,000 barrier smashed!

Thanks ever so much to today's new sponsors. The current total stands at:


Thanks to a £200 pledge from Anthony Chapman, the fund is now over an incredible and most amazing £25,000. Over £16,200 has now been pledged from NUFC.COM readers. If you would like to add to this total please click on the justgiving link:

I've enjoyed reading the comments on the justgiving website over the last 6 weeks. The following are a selection of my favourites:

Ben Biggs - "Unbelievable. You've run further in 37 days than Kieron Dyer did in 8 years. Fantastic - well done." [Harsh but fair - MA]

Ian Mearns - "Just like the lads Top of the League. Well done mate!".

Jon L - "Forget those overpaid primadonnas, there'll only be one star at St James' on Saturday.".

Gordon - "Fantastic effort Mark, a real hero in black and white stripes for a change.".

Brian J - "I have really enjoyed logging onto your Blog site. A tremendous effort, a true inspiration."

Adrian S - "What a champion - I'll be cheering you even more than the 'lads' next Saturday.".

T Bramble - "Go on son (can I come back?) "

M Purdy - "You've already done more miles in a Toon shirt than certain players ever will!!! Well done mate...".

Steve R - "Well done mate I just hope the Toon show half as much spirit as this in the new season.".

Paul R - "Sorry I'm away today when you run past my house. I wanted to see the legend myself!".

Kev (Crook Mags) - "In the land of the Prince Bishops,we pray for giveness in your shins. Just do it, for all of us.".

Brigga Broggs - "Absolutely amazing! Makes me even more proud to be a Geordie.".

Horsey - "Good luck kidda, well done on stuffing the Mackem!!! "

Dave Nelson - "Howay, Mark! Pledging an extra £10 for the first of 3 Toon wins over the Mackems this year!"

Tom Bowlby - "Finest performance in a black & white shirt for a long time!".

LJB - "Ultimate respect mark, all the best! NUFC players to join you as part of pre-season?"

The Officers Club - "Good luck fat lad - if you drop some weight we can give you a new pair of jeans!". [Not so fat now! None of my jeans fit me anymore. Is the offer of a pair still valid? - MA]

Day 42 - So close to a major sponsorship landmark!

It's still hard to believe that the sponsorship amount for my efforts is just short of £25,000. That is an incredible amount and one that I did not dream was possible when I started planning the big run. I always thought that my initial target of £10,000 was possible so you can imagine how pleased I am with more than double that amount. Not to mention how pleased St Benedict's Hospice are!

It would be brilliant if the fund reached £25,000 before I did the lap of honour around St James' Park tomorrow.

Speaking of the lap of honour, I'm very excited about running around the pitch at half time. I'll be wearing the full home kit of course. My shinpads are in the wash so I'll be leaving them at home! Katy and Jack will be there to see the whole thing. It'll be Jack's first match. I found it daunting as a 15 year old going to the match for the first time (a 0-2 loss to QPR). Goodness knows how 4 year old Jack will cope with the noise.

I've asked the club to play some music from the Rocky soundtrack during the lap. I think the adrenalin will be pumping so fast, I doubt I'll even hear the music. I think Local Hero might get an airing too.

Hopefully, chants of "Who are ya, who are ya" and "You fat b*&^*d" will be kept to a bare minimum!

I've been promised a few beers afterwards in The Bridge by friends and colleagues. Due to my lack of drinking lately, my mate Dan Tweedy has reminded me that drinking is "a marathon not a sprint!". Sound advice indeed from the man who has missed more matches due to hangovers than I care to remember!

Thursday 16 August 2007

Day 41 - Getting back to normal 4 days after the run.

I've found it very difficult to adjust back to normality since finishing on Sunday. My mind and body are still expecting me to run 20 odd miles a day. I have no aches or pains to speak of other than those acquired as a result of beating my press up PB on Tuesday!

I managed to fit in a light gym session over lunchtime today and was introduced to a few new weight machines by Ian "The Coach". I've lost a lot of weight from my arms and these need building up again over the coming months.

Now that I'm at 14 stone 11 pounds, the aim is to get down to 14 stone before the end of the year. The majority of this weight should come off while running around after Jack for the next couple of weeks. We've got a lot of playtime in the park to catch up on!

Thank you to today's new sponsors. I still can't believe that £25,000 is within touching distance.

Someone told me today that I had a mention on Vernon Kay's show on Radio 1 last Sunday. Fame at last! I wonder who was responsible for that?

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Day 41 - Random acts of kindess (Part 1).

There have been a number of random acts of kindness during the course of the big run. I think it is worth highlighting them in the blog over the coming days.

The first one I wish to speak of was by Bill Tweedy (pictured). I reckon his wife Linda had a big part to play in this too. Bill and Linda are the parents of my mates James and Dan Tweedy.

It was Bill's 60th birthday bash on day 30 of the big run. I was running through Bristol around this time so, unfortunately, I couldn't attend.

At the party, Bill and Linda had placed envelopes on the guest's tables and asked everybody if they would like to contribute the price of a pint to the run fund. It seems some of the contributions were very generous and Linda later commented that "some of them must have thought you only drank Cristal Champagne!".

A lot of Bill and Linda's old neighbours were there and they remembered my Mam from her days as a dinner lady at Holley Park school in Washington. Bill and Linda used to live near the school you see.

The first I knew of this whipround was when a donation was made via the justgiving website. It was for £180 and made by "Party Animals". The comment with the donation read " Missed you on Sunday. Here's what we saved buying you drinks!!". I racked my brains but I couldn't think who the Party Animals were. Then the penny dropped!

I must say a special thank you to Bill and Linda for taking time out and remembering my run on Bill's special day. Thanks to the very generous party guests are also due.

Pictured to the right is Bill in his Sunday morning "reading the paper" outfit.

Day 40 - On the Beeb!

As promised, Rachel Kerr has written a great article on the BBC Tyne website about my run.

Here is the link:

Katy, my missus, is going to have a fit when she reads this bit:

"As far as the future goes, you get the feeling that it won't be long before he is pulling on his trainers again for another challenge. He said his ambition is to run across America from east to west...".

Thank you to today's new sponsors. The fund is creeping towards £25,000!

Tuesday 14 August 2007

Day 40 - Busy times "off the pitch".

I had my fitness assessment yesterday afternoon (pictured) and I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The most meaningful figures to the man in the street are of course weight and body fat. Well, I'm pleased to report that during the course of the run I lost over 2 stone. I went from 17 stone 1 pound to 14 stone 12 pounds. Considering I was 17 stone 8 pounds in January then this is some loss indeed! I can't remember the last time I was 14 stone anything. I think it was perhaps 1998, just before I went on a 3 week drinking holiday to Australia with my mate Adam!

My body fat percentage was 27% at the start of the run. Amazingly, this is now down to 19%! That's an 8% loss in body fat. In January, this figure was 35%! That's a whopping loss of 16% body fat in 8 months. The likes of this have surely not been seen since Mick Quinn was on Celebrity Fat Club.

There were improvements for figures concerned with lung function, blood pressure, resting heart rate and cardiovascular condition (V02). The V02 score was in the highest range and according to the assessment report "compares well with sample scores of international athletes". With respect, I think this must be referring to Brendan Foster as he is now!

Never mind all those meaningless stats though. I had a press up record to beat. The previous PB was 20 in a minute, achieved 2 days before the run started. I made a good start with the press ups and after the 10th one remembered to breath! With 5 seconds left I managed 21 in total before collapsing in a heap on the floor. What a victory! Almost as good as getting to Lands End! I managed a 40 minute session in the gym afterwards to celebrate.

Earlier on yesterday I spoke to the BBC Tyne website and they will be putting an article on the BBC Tyne website soon. It was cliches all the way! I'll post a link to the article when I have it.

I also had some correspondence with the justgiving website who want me to attend a "superuser" group. The idea is to find out if there is any advice that could be passed on to the larger community, resulting in everyone being more successful. There was also mention of me being the fundraiser of the month. This is great news as it attracts a £50 donation to the fund.

This morning, I spoke to Paul Tully who is the editor of the Newcastle United matchday programme. He seemed like a smashing bloke and was full of congratulation. There'll be an article about my run in this Saturday's Aston Villa programme.

I've been racking my brains to try and remember how many times I've been in the programme over the years. As far as I can remember the first time was when I, how can I put it, decided to take annual leave from school. It was January 1986 and the pitch at St James Park was full of snow. Me and my mate, Mark Huck, turned up to help clear the pitch after hearing an appeal on Metro Radio. It was a brilliant day. We must have cleared 10 square feet of pitch and I remember getting free fish and chips as a reward. A group of us had our photo taken and it subsequently appeared in the programme. The Spurs game the next day was still called off mind. The highlight of the day was getting hit by Derek Wright with a shovel full of snow.

The next appearance was in the 1992/1993 season. Again, me and my mate Mark Huck, were part of a photo that showed a huge section of the Gallowgate End. It was the first game of that promotion season against Southend and the photo appeared in the next programme. I think Mark's brother Neil and our friends Dan Tweedy, James Tweedy and Graham Robertson can all be seen in the photo.

My final known appearance was in 2002/2003 where I did an interview for a Football Aid match that I'd previously played in. The match itself was back in May 2002 and I wore the number 9 shirt. It cost me £1000 and my missus went off it when she found out what I'd done with the housekeeping! Now the following might not be entirely accurate but you know how it is! Peter Beardsley was my strike partner wearing the number 8 shirt. Manager Bob Moncur led us to a 5 - 2 win. The game seemed to pass by really quickly and I remember dragging a centre half away and Beardo ran into the space I'd made and scored a trademark sidefoot goal. I scored a belting header at the Leazes End that Sir Les would have been proud of. Unfortunately, it was during the pre match warm up!

I did an interview for Sky Sports News the following May and photos of this appeared in the programme. The interview involved me doing keepy uppies with Peter Beardsley and John Carver
at the side of the pitch. Peter did about 10 and so did John before I wellied the ball into the Milburn Stand! HAVE IT!!!!!

Moments later, Sir Bobby Robson arrived to do an interview. He was a patron of the Football Aid charity. After the interview I got to talk to him for 5 minutes. He took one look at me and said "Did you manage to last the whole 90 minutes?". We then talked about my Mam's Uncle - Charlie Wayman. Charlie played for Newcastle in the forties and was a prolific little goal scorer. Bobby remembered lots about him and it was great to talk to one of the finest men I'm ever likely to meet.

Day 39 - The pledges and the messages just keep on coming.

Despite the run finishing on Sunday, my inbox is continuing to be filled with congratulatory messages. Also, the pledges just keep on coming and coming. Thanks so much to everyone!

I'm finding it very difficult to wind down after the big run and will be continuing to run or go to the gym for some time to come. I always anticipated a period of de-training to bring me back down to earth. After a month or so, this phase of training will cease and I'll get back into the old routine of lunchtime and weekend running.

Training without any major focus or goal will be very strange. I suppose the goal now is to reduce my weight even further and perhaps enter some weekend runs in the region. Secretly though, I've got to start and give those Northern Rock runners a run for their money!

I've got a fitness assessment in the gym at 13:00 today. Hopefully, I'll see at least a 2 stone loss in fat weight and improvements in all other areas. Most importantly though, I've got a a PB of 16 press ups in a minute to try and beat!

Here are a further selection of emails received over the last few days:

Adam Cook (My mate and an exiled mackem in Jacksonville, USA) - "Just finished reading the closing entries on your blog. I know I am just echoing the hundreds of other messages you have received, but I just want to say how proud I am of you for this super human effort. I never knew your Mam, Dad and Brother and you've never really talked about them to me, but I do know they produced and raised a big-hearted and devoted son and brother and I'm sure somewhere they are brimming with pride at your efforts over the past 40 days.

I'm proud to be able to call you my mate Mark and look forward to hopefully sharing a beer or two with you in the not too distant future.

Enjoy your big day at St James next week. (Make sure you stretch. You don't want to pull a hammy in that massive 300 yard final leg).

Take care,


Dave Lynn (Queensland, Austrailia) - "Dear Mark, As an exiled Geordie I have followed your run via and I just wanted to thank you for an inspirational and emotional few weeks. Every day I have been following your journey from here in Australia. Whilst I cannot begin to imagine what your effort physically felt like I can sort of imagine what the messages of support and encouragement did for you and I can definitely imagine the feeling you will have on your lap of honour at the Villa game. I will be watching on Fox Sports and hope that there will be at least a glimpse of your lap. Enjoy it! No one deserves it more than you. The least they can do is make sure we get three points to go with it. That would make it a fitting tribute.

Cheers mate and well done.

Dave Lynn

Martin Scott (Watford) - "Mark, I don’t know how you did it! I kept an eye on your progress through your blog, and still can not believe how you managed to stay focused and determined for such a long period of time, over such a mammoth distance. I managed to complete the 26 mile breast cancer moon-walk during May, but my effort pales into near insignificance in comparison with what you have achieved over the last few weeks (not forgetting the massive amount of training required beforehand).

As an exiled Geordie in Watford, you have been a reminder of what it means to come from our part of the world. All your family and friends are lucky to know you, and you should be immensely proud of what you have just achieved.

Enjoy the welcome you so richly deserve when you get back home, and during your lap of honour at St. James’ Park on Saturday. I wish I could be there to congratulate you in person.

Congratulations, and enjoy the rest.

Martin Scott"

Craig Swallow (Warwickshire) - "Mark, I just wanted to add my congratulations to all of the other thousands of emails you must have received. I'm a runner also but I average a week what you have done each day for over a month. Its amazing that you have had the mental and physical will to continue and to finish with no injuries is just remarkable.

Like you I also lost my mum (and nan & grandpa) to cancer, she was 56. I started running to raise money, first for the Newcastle General who looked after her and subsequently for Cancer Research. I was never a runner at school, I preferred team sports. Somehow though, the memory of loved ones lost propel me along as they have clearly done for you. Your mum will be smiling down and be massively proud.

Enjoy Saturday, I'm an exile-mag and living in Warwickshire now. You need to get yourself a contact at the BBC before the weekend and make sure they show your lap of honour on MOTD!

Congrats again, put me down for a book if you do write one.

All the best


Chris Smith (Gibraltar) - "I am an exiled Geordie working in Gibraltar. I’ve already sent you one e-mail but I couldn’t resist sending another one.

What you’ve done is amazing. You have definitely inspired me (and no doubt many others) to get out training when I would rather have stayed in the house. What’s a 10km run when you are doing 40km a day?

Your attitude is a lesson to all of us and you deserve all the credit you get. You have made a difference to an amazing number of lives – not just with the money you have raised but in the way you have set about doing what you have just done. I have forwarded your website to all my friends here so they can see what I mean when I tell them Geordies are the salt of the earth.

Congratulations – you deserve all the praise and credit you will now receive.

Well done."

Chris Smith"

Monday 13 August 2007

Day 38 - I'm coming home Newcastle...

...I wish I'd never been away.

Katy, Jack and I arrived home safely at 20:45!

Thanks ever so much for all the new pledges today and to NUFC.COM for giving me top billing most of the day.

The fund has just topped £24,000 and I've just had a message from Anne Oliver at St Benedict's Hospice. To say she is pleased is an understatement!

Thanks also for the many messages of congratulation today. It's just amazing to see the far reaching effect that this run has had on a great many people!

Day 38 - The long journey hyame.

There are still 300 miles left to drive before we get back to the North East. It's very peculiar not running but I could get used to it! Thank you to the new sponsors today. The fund will remain open right up until the cheque is presented next month. It's also a bit strange driving along the route that took many days to run. The next milestone for me is a fitness assessment in the gym tomorrow. The last one I had was 2 days before the run started. The results should make for interesting reading.