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: