Saturday 31 August 2013

A kind donation from The Castaways Tea Shop

I haven't had a cup of tea or coffee so far in 2013 but, for some reason this morning, I really felt the need for one from a good old traditional Tea Shop. Just in time for elevenses, I found myself in Seaton Sluice at the Castaways Tea Shop

While I was thoroughly enjoying my tea out of an old fashioned china cup and a rather delicious tea cake, my Run Geordie Run t-shirt caught the eye of John the owner of the establishment (pictured below). We got talking about the Benfield Run Across Australia. It wasn't until I mentioned that I'd previously ran across the USA that John said "Ah!, I've heard about you from Real Radio". Apparently, having to be early risers to get the Tea Shop up and running is the perfect opportunity to tune in to the Gary and Lisa Breakfast Show.  

Just as I was finishing off my teacake, John handed over a very kind donation for the 2 charities and his wife Leigh joined in the conversation. It is random acts of kindness such as this that really restores my faith in humanity. Thank you to John and Leigh for their very kind donation to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

Finally, I hope to be back in January after the run to try one (or more) of those deliciously looking home made cakes (pictured in the cabinet above). If you would like to try one for yourself then here is a link to the Castaways Tea Shop website with all the directions you'll need.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Meet the support team - Graham and Jason

This is the first of a few up and coming articles where I'd like to introduce the kind folk who have volunteered their time, paid for their own flights and will be supporting me on the run across Australia.

In order of appearance, first up is Graham Leslie (below) from Gosforth. Graham's duties start on day 1 on Cottesloe Beach in Perth and are scheduled to finish 533 miles later on the Eyre Highway just east of Norseman.

Graham turns 65 the day before the run starts and brings a wealth of experience to the team. He once crossed the Sahara in 4 weeks, has cycled unsupported from Lands End to John O'Groats and 2000 miles around Europe.

Graham has contributed so much to the team already with hours of extensive research done on the section of the route between Perth and Adelaide. That's a 1675 mile stretch where the best rest stops, fuel stations, camp sites, dump stations, medical facilities, etc have all been sussed out!

Graham had the following to say about why he wanted to be a part of the team: "I first came across Mark three years ago when my stepdaughter mentioned someone she worked with was planning to run across America. Although rather sceptical of his chances of success, I followed Mark’s USA blog with great interest and when he reached New York I told myself I’d try to be part of his support team if he ever did something like it again. I applied for Australia and to my surprise and pleasure was given a place on the team. 

Doing something a bit more adventurous than a normal holiday appealed and of course helping Mark to raise funds for such worthwhile charities also played a big part. I haven’t been to Australia and I’m excited about seeing those classic outback landscapes and staying overnight in remote places. I’m not so keen about meeting snakes and other dangerous wildlife. Sleeping in a hot motor-home could be a downside too. 

As a keen runner, I’m hoping to have the chance to run a bit every day with Mark to help keep him motivated. I’ve done a couple of long bike rides and so know a little about the mental side of such journeys. Hopefully that will come in useful to encourage Mark if he’s going through a bad patch.".

Graham runs for Claremont Road Runners in Newcastle and has a season best 10k time of 00:42:42. He's no slouch when it comes to running and I'm looking forward to getting some miles in with him in Australia.

Joining the team in Norseman on day 12 is 26 year old physio Jason Stobbs (pictured below with Mo Farah). That day is my first rest day and Jason's first task will be to assess the physical damage caused by running 451 miles in the first 11 days and carry out any repairs. I'll be taking full advantage of having Jason and Graham on the team for the next 2 days with the option of having more running company than when there is just one person on the team. 

Where Graham adds experience, Jason joins the team with a whole host of therapeutic and sport science qualifications and experience. Like Graham, Jason is a keen runner and has a sound understanding of many aspects of running and also the physical problems that I'm likely to encounter by running 41 miles per day in Australia. In fact, Jason came highly recommended by Alison Meldrum at the Cradlewell Clinic. Alison, of course, was responsible for getting me back on my feet after the run across the USA.

Jason's duties have already started and he has been working closely with C&P Medical who are kindly supplying the various items, free of charge,  that will be needed for my treatment during the run.

Jason will be on the support team until day 31 and leaves the tour in Ceduna where Carlton will be taking over. I'll talk more about that in a future blog post.

Jason had the following to say about his time on the team: "I will be accompanying Mark for 3 weeks on his run across Australia. I'm a sports therapist and joined the support team because I have a passion for helping people achieve their goals and running. Therefore, supporting Run Geordie Run across Australia is the perfect combination of my interests. 

After setting up my own company 4 years ago (Sports Therapy North East) I am always looking to further my career and develop myself. After spending time working at the Olympics in 2012 it provided me the opportunities to work with a vast range of people and experience sports therapy at another level. Soon after that this exciting opportunity came up. 

I believe my trick for motivating Mark to achieve the goal mileage each day will be simply that after experiencing the pain of his first massages Mark would rather carry on running for a very long time!

I'm enjoying all the preparation going into the run but can't say I've enjoyed reading all the horror stories about extreme cases of creepy crawlies and reptiles that keep getting emailed around.".

With regard to Jason's last point, I must admit that some of the support team and myself have been known to send the odd email about the various beasts in Australia. From what I can gather, there isn't a single person on the team who isn't afraid of something or other. I get the feeling that this is going to make for various high jinx on the trip and rumor has it that various plastic snakes and spiders have already been purchased for careful placement around the RV (or in sleeping bags). That's just a rumor though!

So that's the first 2 members of the Australia support team. They have a really important and very difficult job to do. It's imperative that we all get off to a good start and ensure that all of the miles that need to be run are done in as quick, safe and efficient manner as possible.

You can follow them both on Twitter where I'm sure they will be giving their own view of things in the build up and during the run itself. Graham is @GLes48 and Jason is @JasonStobbs.

I'll talk soon about the remaining members of the team; Carlton, Dave, Ian and Donna.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Thank you to The Big Optician

Thank you to The Big Optician in Ouseburn in the east end of Newcastle for providing a very nice pair of custom Oakley Jawbone sunglasses for use in Australia. I visited the shop for an eye test recently and not only were my eyes given a clean bill of health but they were kind enough to offer me some sunglasses.

They are black and white, of course, and have "Run Geordie Run" etched into one of the lenses. They are very comfortable and lightweight at only 28 grams. They also come with a spare pair of ventilated lenses which may come in useful during the more humid parts of the run across Australia.

Much to my surprise, the sunglasses recently appeared on the front page of the Journal. Given that I'll be running across Australia during the Summer months I anticipate wearing them 99% of the time. I'll probably even wear them while running in the dark over the top of my head. I remember that I did this for comfort and a feeling of security, for want of a better word, during the run across the USA. It may sound strange but it's true. Just look at the photos on this blog of me during the final mile of the USA run and there they are, sitting comfortably on the top of my head.

Thanks again to The Big Optician who you will find at Stephen Street, Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne. NE6 1JX. Please visit the Big Optician website here

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Australia getting closer!

With only 63 days until the start of the run across Australia it's about time I gave an update and made a start on building the online momentum on

I'm relieved to report that the final critical tasks on my to do list are underway. Thankfully, there are only a small number of things still left to organise. Arranging accommodation in Sydney, agreeing the support car arrangements with Mitsubishi, announcing my headline sponsor and finding the optimum method of communication are the major tasks left. As well as all of that, there is also the small task of finishing the training programme, doing my day job and making sure I spend as much time with my son Jack as is possible. It's going to be pretty much full on between now and the start of the run at Cottesloe Beach, Perth on October 16th.

Away from the logistical side of the run, I have tried to fit in as many long runs as possible this year. I recently completed a 41 mile run from Blyth to Seahouses. It served as a huge reminder as to how mentally as well as physically tough running that kind of distance is. The run was completed in a little over 9 hours with an hour's worth of refueling stops in between. This timeline is what I'll be striving to maintain for 70 days in Australia. If I manage to keep that pace up then an 0600 start will see me finish between 1600 and 1700 every day. I expect that to happen for just a minority of days. 

Realistically, I expect to be finishing between 1900 and 2000 on an average day and between 2100 and 2300 on a bad day. I'll talk more about this in a blog post very soon. It's something I've discussed with the support team. I'll introduce you to them too very soon.

I've thought about the possible outcomes of the run across Australia many times over the last few years. Despite running successfully across the USA in 100 days, the mileage I have to run in Australia is not something I have yet managed to get my mind round. I don't think I ever will until I get to the finish line in Sydney on December 24th.

If I am successful, the brief research that I have done suggests that I will be the first person from the UK to run from Perth to Sydney. That will make me the first Geordie too. I could only find 11 other recorded crossings of various types by people of other nationalities. On average, an attempt has been made just once every four years since 1973. That is a stat that constantly plays on my mind. Why have there been so few? There must be a very good reason for that! On the other hand, it feels like an absolute privilege to try and do something that so few people have done on this planet.

The run across Australia will be, without doubt, the most difficult and dangerous run that I've ever attempted. I like to compare it to a high jumper raising the bar after each successful jump. The bar was once set at a height that saw me run around the block. It is now set, such that I may not be able to clear it. "Was the run across the USA the pinnacle of my running/fundraising career?", "Is Australia a step too far for an ordinary man in the street?" are questions I often ask myself. I have to remind you that, despite previous success, I don't class myself as a particularly good runner. I am very good at putting up with extreme pain and mental torture however.

During the build up to the run across the USA, I was always quietly confident about being able to run 3100 miles in 100 days. I've yet to show even a glimmer of that confidence during this particular campaign. It will be interesting to see how the run across Australia pans out. The chance of failure is relatively high and so many things need to go right to give me a chance of success. This all may sound negative but I don't actually look at it that way. I'm desperately looking forward to the extreme challenge that lies ahead. It is going to be so tough and will require a huge step up in performance and a great deal of luck than that of the USA run in 2011

The other challenging aspect is to ensure that an event of this magnitude is financially rewarding for my 2 chosen charities. At the time of writing, the fund for The Children's Foundation and The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation stands at £11,631.37. There is such a long way to go before the target of £50,000 is reached. As ever, I'll be working as hard as I possibly can, on behalf of the 2 charities, to deserve every single penny that is pledged.

Finally, I'll close tonight by pleading with you for a donation to the 2 charities. I've said it many times before that any amount, no matter how large or small, makes a huge difference. The difference this time may be, for example, that The Children's Foundation are able to continue to pay for the Clown Doctor's service at The Great North Children's Hospital or that The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation are able to fund a ground breaking piece of equipment to assist with cancer treatment. These are things that I have witnessed first hand so please rest assured that your money will be well spent within 2 charities that have very little administrative overhead.

The link below to my Virgin Money Giving page can be used to donate direct to the The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

Thanks so much in anticipation of your kindness and generosity.

Friday 9 August 2013

Flashback to day 100 - Live at the finish line on Real Radio

It's exactly 2 years since the finish of the the run across the USA. You can hear how the final stages were completed live on Real Radio with Gary and Lisa using the links below.

Flashback to day 100 - Images from the finish line

These are my favourite images from the finish line:

Thursday 8 August 2013

Flashback to day 100 in the USA - Singing on the bridge

At 16:35 US time (21:35 GMT) on August the 8th 2011 I tweeted the following: "Crossing the George Washington Bridge into NYC. 36 miles done. Very tired!". Here is another previously unpublished clip from that time. It's not the best quality but it is a reminder of the brilliant camaraderie that got me to the finish line on time.

That was the last I was to see of Carlton until the finish line at Coney Island some 9.5 hours later. How on earth he got a 35 foot RV through Manhattan and safely to Coney Island is anyone's guess! This image was taken by him from the RV.  

Below are a few more images taken from The George Washington Bridge with 25 miles still to go. 

Flashback to day 100 in the USA - Seeing The Empire State Building

It's time for more previously unpublished footage from day 100 of the run across the USA. This clip was taken when I first saw the Empire State Building for the first time at the 32 mile point (near the Hackensack River on Winant Avenue) for the day. It's so far away that you probably can't make it out. It was definitely there though! This video was taken at 21:07 GMT. That's 16:07 New York time.


Please feel free to follow the story of Day 100 as it continues to be retold on Twitter with realtime retrospective updates with the #runusa hashtag.

Flashback to day 100 in the USA - Seeing New York for the first time

Today is such a special day for me personally. I'm able to transport my mind back to the events of 2 years ago and all of the agony and ecstacy that went with it. When I think back to the final day, it is with such fondness of some incredibly tough times. 

The story continues to be retold on Twitter with the #runusa hashtag. Meanwhile this previously unpublished video shows my reaction of seeing the Manhattan skyline from a hill in New Jersey. It was taken at about the 30 mile point (the halfway point for the day).


The following image was my view of the Bronx in the distance. 

Please feel free to add your memories of that final day on Twitter using the #runusa hashtag. I'll retweet as many as I can.

Flashback to day 100 in the USA - Support Man Carlton's view of things

Today is the 2nd anniversary of the completion of the run across the USA. I have been retweeting all of the tweets from that day from myself and others on Twitter today using the #runusa hashtag. All of the amazing memories have been flooding back and you can follow that hastag by clicking here.

I've just been made aware of an email account of events that support man Carlton Fletcher (pictured above) sent during the final day to his friends and colleagues. The text of that email can be seen below.

"I don't know how he managed yesterday. It started so well, meeting in McDonalds for WIFI and coffee. I bought a couple of steaks for him. Nice! Then, being without proper communications became an issue, and I ended up tearing around the countryside looking for him, to find he was where I had been waiting for him 20 mins earlier. 

So I put the steaks on (I should have been sacked for it not being ready), but we are out of propane. So I whip out the BBQ. It lights. It goes out. It wont light again.And being in a church car park, in the middle of a forest, I thought it was for the best. Ham sandwich anyone? 

Then hills! From nowhere, windy twisty hills up and down, and you cant help thinking someone could have put a road along the valley in a straight line? Just when all was lost, we find a steak restaurant. From there it was 3 miles and wait, etc. On the third of which, mark was greeted by flashing police lights, and me standing by the roadside having my license checked. I was sort of on a exit road from the long winding hill road with no waiting areas. But he was cool about it, and was very interested in Mark's story. I can dine on his exploits for days ahead! Right on cue Mark arrives for handshakes with the Police.

The next stop was as scary a place as I have been in my life. Forest road, very few cars, mist, crickets, things moving in bushes. And a pair of headlights in the woods pointing at me. With a slight breeze the lights flickered as if movement. I had my weapon of choice to hand - toilet paper. Thank god when the car (poacher?) drove off. And then Mark arrived to call it a night. 

Turn the engine. Dead. Try again. Dead. Emergency backup starter. Didn't start. Poo the bed. Try again, woohoo, we are cooking on gas. Except we don't have any! Oh, and the spin off is the fridge is powered by propane too, so the ham is now off. Dry bread anyone? 

But wait, we are moving, but the petrol light is on! waaa? When did that happen? We are below empty. Quick make it to Morristown for the night and a 24 hour petrol station (ironically, gas station). Pass one, shut. Another, shut. Supermarket car park. Night night, worry about petrol in the morning. Except I couldn't. Starting at 5 on a Monday morning, nothing will be open. Mark will fail, and it's all my fault. Will he still let me have the hotel room in New York?

No sleep. 4:30, he's up, so I start to drive him back. Engine, starts first time. Petrol, quarter full, no light! Woohoo. I can let it run empty again before worrying. Will see if i can get to Coney Island and see if there is petrol there perhaps!

So he is on his way. Cooked breakfast is 2 bananas that have been cooking in the heat of the RV overnight. 

I smell like roadkill, even with a cold shower yesterday (I told mark I used the last of the propane on a hot shower just to see the look on his face). The consolation is Mark smells worse . I saw roadkill skunk turning up what was left of its nose at him just now. 

So we meet in McDonalds at 7 miles for more coffee and planning. 

Keep following him on Twitter, the number one trended person in UK (i know all the terms) to see him at the finish line 23:59 ETC. Now get back to work everyone. This isn't a sideshow."

Thanks for that Carlton. I look forward to similar events occuring in Australia in a few month's time.

Tuesday 6 August 2013