Sunday 14 December 2014

£10,000 barrier broken

It has been a great weekend of fundraising! The £10,000 barrier for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation was broken on Saturday night. 

Things got off to a great start on Friday with 2 talks given in local schools in aid of the 2 charities. I really enjoyed talking about my journey so far and I got some really pleasing feedback after both events. The first talk was at a PE conference held at Cramlington Learning Village. The 2nd was a 6th form awards presentation at Harton Technology College. Both slots were 20 minutes long and, as ever, it was a real challenge to get the story told in that short time.   

On Saturday night along with members of the Run Geordie Run support team, I was a guest at my sponsor, SOS group's, Christmas party.  

Director's Andrew, John and George are pictured below. These guys have been so supportive from the outset and I was particularly surprised at the mock up of my new kit with the SOS logo in pride of place.

I addressed 100 party goers on the night with a very short version of my story so far and announced that SOS Group were the headline sponsor for the European segment of the run Around The World. This news went down very well and the audience were generous enough to not only donate £1000 but also buy the surplus Run Geordie Run t-shirts and hoodies. 

The fundraising on the night didn't stop there as I later found out that a very merry member of SOS Group staff (pictured below) took her hoodie around the party tables and asked people to sign it for a minimum donation of £5. I've got to give this lady 10 out of 10 for originality and her efforts yielded £150 for the 2 charities.

The excellent news is that, with fees for talks and the proceeds from SOS group's Christmas party, the fund for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation absolutely smashed through the £10,000 barrier. 

It's only been 53 days since the announcement of the run Around The World and to say that the fundraising has hit the ground running is an understatement. It has taken a lot of generosity from the general public but the foundations for this great start were firmly laid by SOS Group. 

Thank you yet again to SOS Group and everybody who has bought a t-shirt/hoodie or made a donation. The current overall charity fund stands at an amazing £223,285.80. 

There is so much more hard work to be done and many many miles to be ran to break through the quarter of a million pound barrier. With this kind of start, however, that total is not beyond the realms of possibility. That said, I'm never one for taking people's generosity for granted. All I can do is put one foot in front of the other, confronting many difficult situations and share the journey with whoever would like to read, hear or watch it. 

If the previous 6,358 miles are anything to go by, the remaining 13,642 miles around the world promise to be an incredible ongoing journey. 

I'll end this blog post on a festive note and news of a £10 donation from the farmer who sold us our Christmas tree. 

While picking a tree (it was tagged Jimmy for some reason incidentally), we got talking about my running. I was pleasantly surprised when he knocked £10 off the price of "Jimmy" and asked that I donate it to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.  Happy Christmas indeed!

Saturday 22 November 2014

SOLD OUT! UPDATED (29/11/014)

Thanks to everyone who bought a Run Geordie Run Around The World t-shirt or hoodie. I'm pleased to report that all stock allocated for online sales are now all sold out.

Thanks to the printer producing more many items than originally asked for, there are a few XXL t-shirts and a very small number of M, L and XL hoodies left. Please email if you would like one.

£2643 has been raised so far from sales with £360 worth of stock left. We are looking good to break through the £3000 barrier for t-shirt and hoodie sales.

Thanks to SOS Group Ltd for paying for production costs, all proceeds go to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation. That's every single penny!

The snazzy design was produced by Dave Shenton of Shenton Creative who gave his services free of charge.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Run Geordie Run Support Team News

Without the very best support team, the run Around The World and in particular the European segment will be very difficult to complete. With that in mind I was pleased to add another quality person, James Childs (pictured below), to the team that will see me safely across Europe during the Summer of 2016.

Just like, Carlton and Colin, James is one of my colleagues at Virgin Money. I've worked with him for a number of years and we have the advantage of being able to hit the ground running in terms of familiarity and camaraderie.  

James, as with the others on the team, has a strong work ethic, has that much needed sense of humour and is very conscientious. He has considerable experience of driving in Europe and, like myself, has a keen interest in maps and navigation.

James Said "The story of Run Geordie Run is a compelling one. It is one which pulls you in and connects with your own similar life experiences. I am surrounded by close relatives and friends who have fought against illness, not always with a good outcome. 

The two charities supported by Run Geordie Run do some incredible work helping people fight illness. I cannot begin to contemplate the physical demands of running around the world - what I can do is support Run Geordie Run on his unbelievable journey in any way I can (including emptying his toilet!).".

Regular readers will know that James joins Carlton, Jason and Colin as confirmed support team members. There really isn't a weakness there. It's a strong foundation of support and the search continues to add equally willing and able volunteers to the team. Watch this space in the coming months for further support team news.

Sunday 9 November 2014

Run Geordie Run Support Team News

Recruitment for the European segment support team continued this week with the acquisition of another quality person. Regular readers will be aware that the support team already consists of Carlton Fletcher (previously on the USA and Australia support team) and Jason Stobbs (previously on the Australia support team). 

Added to the current line up of experience this week was Colin Hillier (pictured below on the right), who, together with Carlton (pictured below on the left), is of my colleagues at Virgin Money. Colin had hoped to be on the Australia support team but with a baby on the way that just wasn’t possible. 

Colin brings a strong work ethic, an attention to detail and a wicked sense of humour to the team. These are all attributes that are an absolute must for anyone hoping to have a successful tour of duty on the support team. It's a very difficult job (so I've been told). 

Making sure the RV is running at maximum efficiency, cooking, cleaning, getting supplies, washing kit, drying kit, keeping me motivated and entertained, looking for safe places to stop during the day and stay overnight, logging mileage, monitoring how much mileage each pair of trainers has done, dumping the waste from the RV, filling the RV's water systems (even when there is no obvious supply such as in the outback), taking photos, spreading the word to any passers by or locals cover about 10% of the support team's duties. It's a full time job that requires maximum commitment and a realisation that nothing else matters other than a successful outcome for the runner and the 2 charities. 

I've said it many times that, while the brand Run Geordie Run implies that there is only one man who makes the run a success, it could not be further from the truth. The support team are the unsung heroes of the run Around The World. Unpaid volunteers giving up their spare time on foreign shores with the hope that they are making a difference to the community of the North East of England. And oh what a difference they have made, with almost a 1/4 million pounds raised so far for local good causes.  

Having Colin, Carlton (pictured below right) and Jason (pictured below left) on support duty on the European segment means that, so far, the team is a very strong one. Speaking from experience, there really isn't a weak link there at all. These are guys that I have worked with before, trust 100% and am confident that we'll continue to work well together. Not forgetting, of course, my wife Donna (pictured below). We are both currently working very hard behind the scenes to make the next segment a successful one. After a traumatic solo 5 weeks on the team in Australia, I'm sure she will sign up again for a tour of duty. That decision is going to take months of doing dishes, cooking and washing clothes on my part however! In other words, I'm working on her. It feels like payback for the time she spent in the RV at 38 celsius surrounded by thousands of flies!      

I hope to add more people to the team over the coming weeks. They must be of the same quality as those on the team already. It's not going to be easy to find the right people but I hope to share further support team news soon.

European segment start point

My search for a suitable start point on the European segment of the run Around The World came to a successful conclusion this week. Like the previous runs across the USA and Australia, I looked for somewhere that would allow the start to be in an ocean. This, of course, means that my runs can be truly classified, beyond any doubt, as “coast to coast”. 

I intend to find a corresponding end point in Shanghai, some 10,000 plus miles later, in due course. Meanwhile, back to the start point in Portugal, which I’m very pleased to announce is Guincho Beach (pictured below). 

Guincho Beach, situated 20 miles west of Lisbon is popular with tourists and is regarded as one of the best windsurfing locations in Europe. It was used as a location in the James Bond movie “On her Majesty’s Secret Service” where Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (played by Diana Rigg) is rescued by James Bond (played by George Lazenby).

From Guincho Beach, I'll be running due north before crossing into Spain and hitting the first Antipodal point in La Coruna some 430 miles later. I'll talk more about the subsequent route east in the coming weeks. It is important to remember that La Coruna, Spain is the exact opposite (antipodal) point on the planet to Christchurch, New Zealand. Regular readers of this blog will remember that running through those 2 opposite points of the planet and running over 18,000 miles are part of the Guinness World Record criteria that I'm following. I don't think I'll be setting any records, of course!

Monday 3 November 2014

A very generous donation

I got a nice surprise tonight when 2 people I train with at David Fairlamb's gym, Neil and Karen, offered a very kind donation for the run Around The World. This was no ordinary donation as it was 10p per mile! That's 10p for each of the 20,000 miles of the run Around The World. That is very generous of them and words just can't express my gratitude. Neil and Karen are pictured below handing over the 1st 10p to me.

Since the announcement of the run Around The World, the last 12 days have proven to me that there are still a lot of generous people out there. The t-shirts have sold out. There are just a small number of hoodies left and the fund has now burst through the £5,000 barrier for the European segment. The overall total is inching nicely towards a key milestone of £220,000. What a great start to this fundraising campaign. Thank you to everyone who has made this happen.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Your questions answered

I've been asked a lot of questions on my Twitter and Facebook feeds this week. I've tried to answer as many as I can in this blog post.

Kathryn Clark - When your body starts to tell you to rest when you can't, what keeps you going?

This is an excellent question and I found myself in this position so many times in the UK, USA and, moreso, in Australia.  It would take a long time over a series of blog posts to answer fully. I'll keep it as short as possible. Suffice to say, that I have many things in my armoury to help keep me going. 

The support and encouragement on social media is a huge help and, if used sparingly and well timed, can become the proverbial "twelfth man". Due to the lack mobile signal in the outback, I didn't always have direct access to this. During the run across Australia, my wife Donna did a great job, summarising tweets and sending them in a text message to my satellite phone. 

The tried and tested method "to keep me going" is to remind myself of exactly why I am running and the charities that benefit from the efforts. Like social media, this method is to be used sparingly. Too much dwelling on thoughts of lost loved ones can often lead to very dark moments though. This caused all kinds of mental problems during the latter stages in Australia. I'm slowly learning that a balance needs to be found. 

I've found that sending the support team 20 - 30 miles ahead, for example, to meet me for fresh supplies helps to keep going. With this method, I've literally got no choice but to keep going!

Having someone turn up unexpectedly on the route (such as Dave and Lesley Greaves pictured with me below in Colorado, USA) or a fundraising landmark being met often produces the best results. Any pain that I've experienced through running can often be masked or  extra energy found in this situation. I remember when the fund hit £50,000 in both the run across the USA and Australia. The effect that it had on my, both physically and mentally, was astounding.

Finally, the most basic method of keeping going is one used when mentally and physically it would appear that I have nothing left to give. Aiming for the next tree, road sign or white line on the road helps. Once that small target is achieved then another one is chosen. Before you know it you have managed another mile. Start all over again and the miles soon start racking up and the focus on concentrating on taking these small steps soon overrides the focus that was previously being used on the pain or lack of energy. 

Andrew Duffy - Which country are you most looking forward to running through? Which country do you currently feel will pose the greatest challenge? 

These are excellent questions that, again, would take a long time to answer fully.

Each of the 24 countries on the Around The World route present their own individual challenges. I think wherever the greatest physical, mental and logistical challenge lies, that is where I'm most looking forward to running. 

I chose a difficult route through across the USA but really enjoyed running through the Mojave Desert and up to 11,300 ft in the Rocky Mountains. I think, therefore, that the climbs through the mountains in Spain, France, Andorra, Italy (Stelvio Pass pictured below), Switzerland, Austria, Bulgaria and Serbia are going to make the European segment of the run Around The World pretty special.

With all of that said, it is going into the unknown where it is seemingly impossible to run and support that appeals to me. I think those ingredients are going to make for a fascinating journey that people are going to enjoy following. Therefore, to answer your question, China is the country I'm most looking forward to running through.

Andrew Duffy - If you could have anyone living/fictional/dead running alongside you, who would it be? In fact, one of each please! 

I'm going to answer this now and give it some further thought when I resume the run Around The World. For now, though, the living person I'd like to run with is the Scottish around the world record breaking cyclist and adventurer Mark Beaumont. I've been lucky enough to meet Mark on a couple of occasions and have always found his endeavours hugely inspirational. What a perfect running partner!

In terms of a fictional runner, it has to be Rocky Balboa. I grew up with those movies and the soundtrack on my iPod has got me through some tough times. I can see myself running through the mountains in Georgia.

A person who is sadly no longer with us who I'd like to run alongside me is my Dad. He died when I was just 17. He taught me a lot of important life lessons and I'm sure he would be inspirational by my side running around the world. 

Stephen Matthewson - What would your epitaph be? 

This is another question I'm going to think about during the run Around The World. In the meantime, I'd take a line from Forrest Gump and say "That's all I have to say about that".

Melanie Moore - Your feet/blisters were really pretty horrific going across Australia. Is there a way of being able to prevent or lessen the seemingly inevitable in advance by toughening your feet somehow? Will there be a change of choice in socks/footwear for this next run? Or will Carlton be honing his delicate hand washing skills in preparation for daily soft socks, rather than the crusty ones you had to endure in Oz? 

Blisters will be inevitable at various stages during the rest of the run Around The World. I'm going to be working with Alison Meldrum at the Cradlewell Clinic on this. We will be looking at what preventative measure can be taken. Alison is also going to train the support team so that they can apply simple treatment at various stages of injury to my feet.

I'm going to try out various brands of dual layer socks before the run Around The World resumes. I didn't have enough pairs of socks in Australia and washing used pairs was difficult without the necessary facilities. That's another lesson to be learned.

I will be wearing Brooks Glycerin running shoes again (pictured below with me in the USA) as they are perfect for my running style and very comfortable.

I hope that all of the above sees fewer blisters and less pain all around in future.

Fiona Stanley - When you ran across the Nullarbor I was worried about how incredibly strenuous it must be mentally. The physical pain must affect how you cope. How will you cope with it this time round. 

I must draw upon those difficult times in Australia and use that to my advantage somehow. I think having a bigger support team will help. Being on the team is a tough job and more people will make for a slicker operation all round.

I'm sure that seeing less flies than in Australia will be a massive help too. Having to wear a fly net for 10 - 12 hours a day for 82 days really got me down.

Seeing the same trees and bushes, like those pictured below, for 2000+ miles and not getting the feeling of making progress was tough. I think the rest of the route Around The World will give me plenty to occupy my mind; changes of scenery, new languages to use and all of the logistical issues that the support team and I will be faced with.

If I can lessen the pain in my feet (see the previous answer) then that will obviously help.

Experience tells me that I will grow physically stronger as the run progresses. As well as that, I'm confident of starting the next segment of the run Around The World lighter and leaner than any previous segment. I'm working with personal trainer on David Fairlamb on this. In the first 8 weeks of training I have lost 23.5 pounds of fat! That weight loss, together with a new way of eating, is unprecedented for me.

Put all of those things above together and you can start to see how I stand a much better chance of succeeding on the remainder of the route Around The World.

Kirstie Cunliffe - Are you going to have any down time between each leg or will you start training for the next run as soon as you've finished the previous one? 

As with previous segments, it would be foolish to stop training altogether upon completion. I think a "wind down/recovery phase" followed by a "maintenance phase" then a "ramp up phase" just in time for the next segment will be used.

Michael Gallon - Are you using an RV for accommodation again - if so are places readily available to stop - deal with water and drainage etc? Are roads suitable for RV? 

I think that will be the case in some or all of Europe. There is a chance that the route through Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan and most of China will be unsupported. 

Mark Richardson - Is the plan to have some sort of support team that can speak the language at different legs? If not, how do you overcome the language barrier or are you assuming everyone speaks Geordie?

This is something that I've just started to think about. I don't anticipate that the support team or myself will be blessed with anything other than the basic hello/goodbye etc. We will have a list of standard phrases in 20 of the languages that will encounter on the run Around The World. "I am running around the world", "Where is the nearest toilet?" and "Where can we buy water?" are 3 phrases that immediately spring to mind.

In terms of trying to explain to, say, a police officer who may stop me or the team on the route, then if they don't speak English I will have a leaflet in various languages explaining what I'm doing and why. Pictured below is Senior Police Constable Mick with one of my leaflets on day 64 on the run across Australia.

Hopefully, a combination of best attempts at speaking the language, a list of standard phrases and the multi-lingual version of the information leaflets will be sufficient. If, however, I manage to recruit a 5 language speaking expert cooker of porridge who can drive an RV then that will be a bonus.

Friday 31 October 2014

The around the world route

I quickly knocked up this map of my 20,000 mile route around the world, through 24 countries and across 4 continents. It will hopefully give a good idea of exactly how incredibly far the route is. 

Click on the map to zoom in.

T-Shirt sell out

Thank you to everyone who ordered an Around The World Run Geordie Run t-shirt. I'm pleased to report that, after only 8 days on sale, they are now all sold out and have helped the charity fund for the European segment inch over the £3,000 barrier.

The run down the UK, across the USA, across Australia and now through Europe as part of the ongoing run around the world would be a complete waste of time without the generosity of so many kind people. Thank you all so sincerely on behalf of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

There are a small number of hoodies left in sizes (chest to fit) Small - 36", Medium - 40", Large - 44", Extra Large - 48".

Thanks to SOS Group Ltd for paying for production costs, all proceeds go to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation. That's every single penny!

The snazzy design was produced by Dave Shenton of Shenton Creative who gave his services free of charge.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Amounts raised to date

With a new fundraising campaign underway, I've been setting up the spreadsheet behind the scenes that I use to reconcile all monies received by the 2 charities. Money tends comes in to the charities from various sources. The majority is via Virgin Money Giving but amounts are also sent directly to the 2 charities. It's very important to keep an eye on it all so that nothing is missed.

While setting up my reconciliation spreadsheet, I took time to have a look at the amounts raised so far and split them down by each charity that I've raised funds for. As at 6pm on the 29th October, these are as follows:
  • St. Benedict's Hospice - £99,421.91
  • North of England Children's Cancer Research - £250.00
  • The Children's Foundation - £88,029.95
  • The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation - £27,525.54 
  • Total - £215,227.40
Split by geographic area, the amounts raised so far look like this:
  • UK - £51,634.00 
  • USA - £105,717.80 
  • Australia - £55,126.60 
  • Europe - £2,749.00 so far 
  • Total - £215,227.40
Fundraising for the European segment of the run around the world started last week. I'm pleased to report that the charity fund has got off to a flying start thanks to people buying t-shirts and hoodies and various donations including £500 from SOS Group to get the fund rolling.

My own personal fundraising target for the European segment of the run around the world is £50,000.  If successful, that means that the overall total (currently at £215,227.40) will burst through the 1/4 of a million barrier and sit at £262,478.40. It's going to take a lot of hard work and generosity to achieve that figure for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation. 

The next segment of the run around the world, from Lisbon to Istanbul, is going to be incredibly difficult. There's no doubt in my mind that the bar has been raised after the run across Australia as it was after the run across the USA. 

That European segment will require an average of 37 miles of running per day for 100 days. That's quite simply unprecedented for me. As are the logistics of the next run. 

I'm convinced that the general public will once again follow the journey with great interest and will hopefully back me and the 2 charities again. That generosity is something that I never have and never will take for granted. It's this generosity that makes a huge difference to terminally ill people and underprivileged children in the region. 

Thank you once again if you have sponsored me over the years or bought a t-shirt. There aren't enough words to express how much I, and the 2 charities, are so very grateful for your support.

Monday 27 October 2014

When you tell your son that you're going to "run around the world"

My son, Jack, has been present on the support team from the early days during John O'Groats to Lands End and also more recently during the run across the USA. He's pictured below together with support man Steve Harrison and myself running in Missouri. 

I was always very curious to find out exactly what Jack's reaction would be when he learned of his Dad's plans to run 20,000 miles around the world. It's not every day that you get to break that kind of news to your son!

I wasn't surprised that his initial thoughts were for my safety. Wild animals, hydration problems and running thousands of miles away from civilisation in some countries that had seem troubles in the past were his main concerns. 

Once I sat him down and explained, just like I had previously to the 2 charities, about the route and all that I was doing to make it as safe as possible, his worries eased and soon turned to excitement. He was even more elated when I said that, by the time I got to Japan and New Zealand, that he would be old enough to drive the support vehicle!   

Running around the world is as much a sacrifice for Jack as it is for me. I'll be spending 1 year and 8 months in total running around the world. Apart from the few weeks spent with Jack on the support team, that is a long time away from him.

One of the positive byproducts of what I hope I'm doing, through, is that it sets a good example to Jack. I'm trying to teach him 2 things. Firstly, that you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Yes, it takes a considerable amount of effort, sacrifice, good fortune, support and generosity.  But with all of those things, anything is possible. Secondly, that it's important to do deeds in life that are for the good of others. I know that Jack is beginning to understand those important messages. 

I'm so proud and pleased that he is determined to be present on the support team during the segments in Japan and New Zealand. It is very fitting that my son, who was present with me at the start line in John O'Groats will be there at the finish line in Slope Point, New Zealand. 

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Run Geordie Run Around The World Merchandise

Run Geordie Run Around The World technical t-shirts (£12) and hoodies (£22) are now available to pre order for delivery week commencing 17th November. 

T-shirt sizes are: Chest (to fit) XS - 35", S - 38", M - 40", L - 43", XL - 45", XXL - 48"

Hoody sizes are: S - 36", M - 40", L - 44", XL - 48", XXL - 52"

Stock is limited and is expected to sell out very soon based on previous sales. Please get your order early to avoid disappointment.

Thanks to SOS Group Ltd for paying for production costs, all proceeds go to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation. That's every single penny! 

The snazzy designs were produced by Dave Shenton of Shenton Creative who gave his services free of charge.

Click on the image below to see it in greater detail.

Coverage on the BBC/ITV

The story is finally out there after months of secrecy! I've heard some brilliant coverage on local radio and seen news items on the BBC and ITV Tyne Tees lunchtime bulletins so far. Please tune in to ITV News Tyne Tees tonight at 1800 and then on BBC One (North East and Cumbria) Look North at 1830 where I will be live in the studio.

Run Geordie Run Around The World - Transcript of the full announcement

Lady Elsie, Captain Nelson, patrons, ladies and gentlemen, friends, colleagues and sponsors, thank you all for your attendance today. 

My name, for those of you who don’t know, is Mark Allison and I am an volunteer fundraiser for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children’s Foundation. 

I’m thrilled to be able to share the details with you of a most momentous fundraising adventure to be undertaken by myself, using the Run Geordie Run brand, in 2016. 

For over 500 years Trinity House has served the local community and beyond with many good charitable deeds. I can’t think of a more appropriate setting, steeped in so much history and tradition, in which to share my plans with you today. 

I’d just like to take a moment to remind everybody how I came to be standing here today. How is it that an ordinary Geordie in the street is standing in such a grand old place addressing a Lady, a Captain and so many esteemed guests?

Had things have worked out differently for my family then I may not have been standing in front of you at all today.

When my parents were taken from me when I was just a young man I could have done 1 of 2 things. I could have let the grief consume me and tear me apart (I must admit that it nearly did) or I could do something positive and put to good use the debt of gratitude I feel to local charities for at least trying to help my parents and for making their final days battling cancer as comfortable and dignified as possible.

Fortunately, I chose the latter option and it has helped to ease the burden of grief that I have carried with me every day since I lost my parents. It is a most terrible dark feeling that is as painful in my heart right now as it was all of those years ago. 

Thankfully, through fundraising, I have found a way to control and even some days numb the pain. There is no doubt in my mind that raising funds for such good causes as The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children’s Foundation has been as beneficial to me as it has to them and the beneficiaries of their charitable good deeds.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do realise that my story is no different to many other peoples’ in this room today or in the street outside. We have all lost loved ones. It’s what we do, in their memory, for the greater good of others that is so very important.

It was not long after I returned from finishing the run across Australia in January this year that I had a very vivid dream. I could see myself running from John O’Groats to Lands End as I did in 2007. I could then see myself running from California to New York as I did in 2011. The dream then turned into a nightmare as I was reminded of the traumatic and painful times during the run across Australia.  

I’m not sure if it was the same dream or a subsequent one later that night but I could see a map of the planet with lines drawn across it in thick black pen. Those lines just so happened to be the places that I’d ran; top to bottom of the UK, across the USA and across Australia. What a shame, I thought, that there were parts of the map with no lines on at all. 

It was at that moment in my deep sleep that I knew where my next run would be. With so many blank spaces on the map there was so many possibilities. I noticed that Europe had no line across it. Asia had no line across it. Japan had no line across it. New Zealand had no line across it. So many places to choose where to run next. Where could I choose? Where could I choose? 

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my immense pleasure to tell you exactly where in the world I have chosen to run next. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I intend to run to fill in all of those blank lines on the map until a complete circumnavigation on land is made of the world

Ladies and gentlemen, you heard that correctly, this is a run around the world

Upon completion, if I were to ever have that dream again, I would see a line across the USA, down the UK, across Europe, across Asia, across Japan, across Australia and across New Zealand. 

The run around the world will be done in 8 segments as family, financial and employment circumstances allow. The beauty of this plan is that I’ve already ran 3 of those segments. Little did I know that when I was running from John O’Groats to Lands End, across the USA and then Australia that it would actually become part of a run around the world. 

I expect the 8th and final segment to be completed by 2024. 

Whilst not pursuing a world record, the event is following 2 aspects of the Guinness World Record criteria used in cycling for “fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle”. The purpose of this is to give credibility to the claim that I will “run around the world”. The criteria is as follows. I must run a minimum of 18,000 miles and I must run through two approximate antipodal points (i.e. opposite points on the planet).

The route around the planet that I have chosen is actually 20,000 miles and will take approx. 608 days to complete.

The segment in 2016, will see me run across Europe starting in Lisbon, Portugal. The route will then take me through Spain (where I will run through La Coruna which is the opposite point on the planet to Christchurch, New Zealand). I will then run through Andorra, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece before reaching the finish line in Istanbul, Turkey some 3580 miles and 100 days later. The distance to be ran in 2016 is unprecedented. The challenges won’t just stop there however as I’m sure the support team and I will be faced with many cultural and languages differences.

The European segment during the Summer of 2016 will be without doubt my greatest challenge to date, certainly putting the run across the USA and Australia in the shade. There will be another fundraising target of £50,000 for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children’s Foundation and with a lot of luck and generosity the 1/4 million pound barrier should be broken. 

In 2018 I will start in Istanbul where I left off in 2016 and make my way through Turkey, Georgia, Russia and all the way across Kazakhstan to the Chinese border. That is a distance of 3700 miles to be ran in 110 days. At this moment in time I have no idea how I’m going to execute the logistical side of that run. It’s mind boggling as is the distance and the even greater shift in cultural change that I will see. 

In 2020 I will start at the Kazak/Chinese border where I left off and run 3000 miles across China to meet the Pacific Ocean in Shanghai in 84 days. 

In 2022 I will run from the southern to the northern most points of Japan. That’s a distance of 1800 miles to be done in 50 days. 

Finally, in 2024 I will run from the northern most point of New Zealand, passing through the opposite point on the planet to La Coruna, Spain which is Christchurch before completing the 20,000 mile distance in a total of approximately 608 days. That’s roughly 1 year and 8 months. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an ambitious plan. 20,000 miles is an incredibly long way. But I stand here today having already ran 6358 miles. The remaining 13,642 miles promises to be an amazing and I intend to take people with me on the journey with me through my website and numerous social media channels. I’m sure the media will back me as they have done so brilliantly in recent years too. 

The run around the world is the reader's, the listener's, the viewer's and the sponsor's journey as much as it is mine.

I’d like to finish proceedings by thanking Captain Nelson and the staff of Trinity House for letting us use their fantastic premises.

Thank you also to my sponsors, Cherry Active, Chapman Ventilation, SOS Group, Virgin Money and Sport Newcastle, without whom, there would be no run in 2016 to tell you about. Their support and generosity is as critical to the success of the 2016 segment.

Lady Elsie, Captain Nelson, patrons, ladies and gentlemen, friends, colleagues and sponsors, thank you all for listening and sharing in this particular part of the journey.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

SOS Group supporting the 2016 run

I reported some great news last month about the charity fund for the run across Australia closing at £55,126.60. This gave an overall total to date of £212,478.40. That total represents kindness beyond belief and it's very difficult to express just how grateful I am to the thousands of kind folk who have made a donation in respect of my running events over the years.

There was further great news this week as the 2016 charity fund got off to a great start with a £500 donation to The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation from those kind folk down at Smart Office Systems (SOS) Group Ltd* in Team Valley, Gateshead. Pictured below is SOS Group Director Andrew Skelton handing over the cheque. 

The great news didn't stop there as SOS Group said that the main reason for getting me to come down to their premises was to talk about how they could best support me during my 2016 run. I brought them up to speed with my fundraising background, the whys and wherefores and by the time I'd left we had a high level plan to help make the 2016 run a fundraising success.

Unlike funds received from my other sponsors for tour costs**, any funds from SOS Group will be wholly used for charitable purposes. In the first instance, SOS Group will be paying for the production of the new Run Geordie Run 2016 technical t-shirt and hoodie available to pre order from Wednesday 22nd October. This means that all of the proceeds from the sales can go straight to the 2 charities. Absolutely all of it. 100%. For example, if a t-shirt costs £5 to produce, then SOS Group will pay that £5. When the t-shirt then sells for £12 then ALL of that £12 goes to the 2 charities. Therefore, the 2 charities will see a nice return on SOS Group's donation.

I get the feeling that that is just going to be the tip of the iceberg and just from the brief discussions we've had so far I feel that, given SOS Group's obvious company ethic regarding charity and community support, that the 2 charities are going to benefit immensely from this partnership.

It is for that reason that SOS Group will fit nicely into the 2016 sponsorship "family" and I see the same values in the other kind companies who have signed up to support me. They are all so keen to help and to see me do well in 2016. 

Andrew Skelton of SOS Group said "I first met Mark a few months ago at the Tyne Metropolitan College Year awards. We were both presenting awards and Mark had shared his recent running experiences with the audience. I sat opened mouth and staggered by the distances Mark had ran and the money he had raised in support of the two great charities. The strength to do the various runs and emotional factors Mark had gone through was very inspiring. 

At that point I made an immediate pledge of support. In recent weeks we’ve had a chance to talk in more depth about the 2016 great venture and we have so much in common especially handling the grief of loved ones and assisting local charities whenever possible. 

I (SOS Group) did not have to think twice when the opportunity arose to assist Mark on the 2016 venture and become major key sponsor. 

We have some great ideas for the long term and achieving the ambitious fundraising targets Mark has set. I have even set myself a target to run the full distance on one of the days during the 2016 run. And at 18 stone that isn't going to be easy!".

I'm very grateful to all of my sponsors and it's great to add SOS Group Ltd to the list of growing sponsors and supporters of the run in 2016. 

*From the SOS Website - SOS Group are an independent supplier of photocopiers and multifunctional devices, with the ability to provide customers with a multitude of superior copy/print devices, we do have preferred suppliers that we recommend, call us anglethese photocopiers and multifunctional products are of the highest grade and offer the end user reliability and functionality.

**All of my running events, up to and including the run across the USA in 2011, were paid for out of my own pocket. I couldn't afford to fund another event, so the USA was always going to be my last charitable run. However, £105,233 was raised as a result of that run and I felt that I owed it to the 2 charities to try and have another go at raising £50,000 (my original USA target) in Australia in 2013. The run across Australia would simply not have been possible without the backing of commercial sponsorship which was used for flights, RV motorhome hire, fuel, insurance, nutrition products and kit. Through some incredible generosity, that run saw another £56,126.60 raised for charity.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Run Geordie Run Support Team News

Last week I reported that recruitment for the 2016 Support Team had begun with Carlton Fletcher signing up for what will be his 3rd stint of duty after runs across the USA and Austrailia. This week I'm pleased to report that Jason Stobbs (pictured below) has agreed to support me during the 2016 run. Jason is a Sports Therapist and was a huge asset on the team in Australia for 3 weeks on the Nullarbor.

Jason and I agreed that, given the task ahead in 2016, we will have to make use of his services in a timely and prudent fashion. I get the feeling that the 2016 run is going to become very tactical and Jason's time on the team will be a big part of that.

As well as his driving and Sports Therapy skills, like Carlton, Jason brings a wicked sense of humour to the team. It was humour that got us through 3 weeks in the Nullarbor. I did tend to take the micky out of him a lot in Australia but it served as the foundation for some brilliantly funny but very tough times. The #stobbsytales hashtag became popular on Twitter. It was used to highlight some of the trivial yet amusing goings on as we crossed the Nullarbor.
I remember one thread going something like this:
  • "Half marathon done. Deficit down to 92 miles. Time for one of @jasonstobbs omelettes."
  • "@jasonstobbs thinks this could be "the best omelette yet." #stobbsytales"
  • "I'm letting @jasonstobbs use some of the eggs to make an omelette for himself. I'm not normally this generous to the team. #stobbsytales".
  • "@jasonstobbs omelette is sticking to the pan. "Oh, I'll just have scrambled egg then". #stobbsytales".
Jason had the following to say about signing up for 2016: "Stobbsys back! I didn't want to let the public down as I knew everyone wants more #stobbsystales so when asked if I would support on the next run I couldn't say no! 

On a serious note I loved supporting Mark in Australia as hard as it was (maybe not as hard as running across a country, but nearly!) I learnt a lot supporting the last time and will take all that experience with me and hopeful do as good a job if not better!".

Thank you to Jason for again agreeing to give up his time in support of the 2016 run and the 2 charities.

I'm sure you will agree, that the 2016 campaign has got off to a flying start. Progress with the acquisition of commercial sponsors and recruitment of support team members has been brilliant. 

I'm going to be telling the world exactly what my plans are on Wednesday morning. I'm going to be doing that with a lot of confidence and also the realisation that there is another long and difficult journey ahead. 

Monday 13 October 2014

The Cradlewell Clinic supporting the 2016 run

Following recent announcements about the growth of my commercial sponsorship base (Cherry Active, Chapman Ventilation and Sport Newcastle) and the 2016 Support Team (Carlton Fletcher), I received some further good news today.  

I'm pleased to reveal that The Cradlewell Clinic will once again be providing much needed clinical help and expertise for the in 2016. Alison Meldrum, the podiatrist at the clinic (pictured with me below), was responsible for bringing my feet back to full health after both the run across the USA in 2011 and Australia in 2013. 

Alison is well known to the running community in the North East. She has diagnosed and fixed countless running injuries and ailments over the years in her well established clinic located in Jesmond. She will not only be putting right any damage caused in 2016 but will be taking preventative steps before the event to make sure that we do not see a repeat of the horrific state of my feet while in Australia.

Given the huge mileage ahead, it's safe to say that Alison has her work cut out! I genuinely mean it when I think that I'm in some of the best hands in the business. I don't think it's any exaggeration to say that the chances of success in 2016 are increased 10 fold thanks to Alison at The Cradlewell Clinic.

Friday 10 October 2014

Sport Newcastle supporting the 2016 run

All of my running events, up to and including the run across the USA in 2011, were paid for out of my own pocket. I couldn't afford to fund another event, so the USA was always going to be my last charitable run. However, £105,233 was raised as a result of that run and I felt that I owed it to the 2 charities to try and have another go at raising £50,000 (my original USA target) in Australia in 2013.

The run across Australia would simply not have been possible without the backing of commercial sponsorship which was used for flights, RV motorhome hire, fuel, insurance, nutrition products and kit. Through some incredible generosity, that run saw another £56,126.60 raised for charity.

There has been so much incredible support of Run Geordie Run and the 2 charities via commercial sponsorship to date. It continued today with Sport Newcastle becoming the 3rd sponsor to back me for the 2016 run. Now a registered charity, "Sport Newcastle was created from the former Newcastle upon Tyne Sports Council and offers funding and support to men, women and children seeking to realise their sporting dream.".

As was the case in Australia, Sport Newcastle's funding will allow me to buy the kit that I will be using during the run in 2016. The Sport Newcastle logo can be clearly seen in the image below during the final few moments of the 3100 mile run across the USA. It will be a privilege once again to carry the logo on my shirt over the thousands of miles that I'll be running in 2016.

I'm not the usual kind of "athlete" supported by Sport Newcastle. I am therefore very grateful for their support which allows me, in turn, to attempt to raise thousands for charity.

Sport Newcastle said "Sport Newcastle are delighted to be able to support Mark on his 2016 challenge. Mark is such a fantastic ambassador for the North East and once again we are proud to be associated with him. Everybody at Sport Newcastle wish Mark all the very best of luck in his 2016 endeavours and we are sure that two great causes in the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Children’s Foundation will continue to benefit from his efforts.".

Sport Newcastle have now joined Chapman Ventilation and Cherry Active as sponsors for the run in 2016. The commercial backing that I've received so far is helping to lay the foundations to make the run in 2016 another success. Together, we are within touching distance of raising a quarter of a million pounds for good causes in the region. 

The announcement of the 2016 run is now less than 2 weeks away. Invites will be sent out to the media and sponsors next week to attend a very special announcement event in a very special venue. These are very exciting times for me and I'm looking forward to sharing the details of what promises to be another amazing and unprecedented fundraising event.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Run Geordie Run 2016 Support Team news

The man who once said "never again” after supporting my run across the USA and subsequently went on to support my run across Australia has signed up for a 3rd stint on the Run Geordie Run support team for the 2016 run.

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that Carlton Fletcher, pictured below during the run across Australia, will be supporting me once again. Carlton brings a wealth of support experience and, arguably more importantly, a tremendous sense of humour to the team. He knows exactly how I operate, what my thought process is and what motivates me during these major endurance events.

Carlton is a very innovative quick thinker and not a bad cook, photographer, mechanic and driver to boot. It is these kinds of attributes which have helped us get out of many difficult situations in the USA and Australia.  To this day, I don't know how he managed to get a 36ft motor home through the busy roads of New York to the finish line at Coney Island in 2011.

Carlton knows how to operate an RV motor home and can be seen below using the last of the water to do the dishes when I needed a shower! As I said, he has a tremendous sense of humour! Oh how we laughed in Australia when I hadn't showered for 4 days. We had very clean dishes though!


Carlton's skills don't stop there. Over the years he has been involved in supporting my fundraising activities too. He has been responsible for raising thousands of pounds for the charities since he has been on the support team. His last fundraising efforts saw him "dress up" and run a marathon on one of the scorching hot days in Australia. He raised £1300 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation as a result. I dread to think what he might do in 2016!

There are many funny stories that I could add about Carlton's time on the Support Team but that would probably be for a book rather than a blog post. In the meantime, Carlton's account of the final hours of the run across the USA can be seen here.

When pushed for comment Carlton said that I could use one of the following quotes. I've published them all for completeness!

"He makes me do it. He also takes my dinner money."
"Helping mark, is like helping a small needy child."
"Despite saying I would never do that again, the reality is I just can't get enough of it."
"What Mark does is inspirational, and helping him fills me with warm happy feelings."
"It gets me away from the family for a couple of weeks."
"It's a small sacrifice to help the enormous sacrifice that Mark makes for such brilliant causes."
"It's truly satisfying to help Mark make a difference. The difficult living conditions, continual abuse, pain and suffering that the support team face for a couple of weeks, pales into insignificance compared to the good that Mark's chosen charities bring to ordinary people on a daily basis."

Whatever his reasons for his amazing continued support, I'm very grateful to Carlton for volunteering his time and money to help the 2016 run become a success. And that, at the end of the day, is exactly what he is; a volunteer. He spends time away from his family (I've not heard them complain yet), pays for his own flights and accommodation and is a member of a team making a huge difference to the local community. Without such volunteers there would be no running down the UK or across the USA or Australia and no charitable funds raised. Thanks Carlton!

Monday 6 October 2014

Chapman Ventilation supporting the 2016 run

I'm very pleased to report that Chapman Ventilation will be joining the recently announced Cherry Active as a sponsor for the next major run in 2016. Regular readers will be aware that both of them are former sponsors and were hugely supportive during the run across Australia in 2013.

Chapman Ventilation are "one of the UK's leading HVAC contractors for the restaurant industry. With clients such as Nando's, Jamie's Italian and Hawksmoor". During the run across Australia they were the sponsor of the daily weather updates (shown below) seen on the Run Geordie Run Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

I'm aware that Chapman Ventilation do a lot of good charity work within the company already and I'm very grateful that they have chosen to continue their support of Run Geordie Run, The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

A couple of years ago, together with their sister company Sirius Products, they supported Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team in their attempt to cross Antarctica on foot during Winter! They "designed, developed and fabricated stainless-steel sinks, urinals and glove racks for use throughout the expedition, all of which required significant planning and research in order to develop a product able to withstand such extreme conditions.".

Chapman Ventilation had the following to say: "Here at Chapman Ventilation, we are consistently taken aback by Mark's determination and the lengths he's gone to to raise money for such worthwhile causes. Just the thought of flying across Australia is enough to tire us out. Because of this, and because David and Anthony Chapman are both stalwart Newcastle fans, we're delighted to announce that we will be sponsoring his 2016 challenge. Good luck Mark, we'll be rooting for you! ".

I'd like to say a huge thank you to David and the kind folks at Chapman Ventilation for their continued support. Without it, just like the support from Cherry Active, there would be no run in 2016 and no shot at reaching the 1/4 million pound milestone for local charities.