Friday, 29 April 2016

The final countdown to Europe

It has been a very busy few hours, days, weeks and months in the build up to the run across Europe. In fact, you could easily add “years” to that sentence. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. No way. 

We picked the RV motorhome up 2 weeks ago. Thank you to my sponsor FFG for storing it securely at their Washington premises until departure time. 

I welcomed 2 very special guests aboard the RV for a closer look last week: Lady Elsie Robson and World Cup winning legend Jack Charlton. Both have been very supportive of the run across Europe recently and it was fantastic, if a little surreal, to show them where the support team and I will be living in Europe for over 100 days. 

As an added bonus, Jack brought a load of Northumberland Tea for us to use in Europe. I’m very much looking forward to a cup at the end of a hard day of running. I know the support team appreciated this gesture too. You can read more about the visit on the Chronicle website

I took time out at the weekend to watch Newcastle United play for the final time this season. The game against Liverpool ended in a draw but was a great match to watch. It’s a pity (or not according to some people) that I’ll miss the final 3 games this season. I really don’t like missing Newcastle matches. This season, I will have managed to get to all bar 3 at home and have been to Swansea, Manchester United, Everton, Chelsea, Leciester, Norwich as well as Liverpool. That’s not bad going by my standards. 

I’ll be back in time for the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season but not the Championship season. Newcastle United - You know what you need to do. 

Sunday was spent working on the RV. Every nook and cranny in the RV is being used to good effect. It is full of porridge, Cherry Active, medical supplies, running kit and everything else that will be needed in Europe. 

I'll be speaking more about my use of Cherry Active for recovery and Beet Active to delay the onset of fatigue in the coming weeks. Regular readers will remember that Cherry Active helped me to run across the USA and Australia. This is the 5th year that I've been using the product. More on that soon.

There were some media duties to perform on Monday morning before we departed for Europe later that day. 

I called in to BBC Newcastle for an appearance on Alfie Joey and Charlie Charlton’s breakfast show. They were both very supportive during the run across Australia and it's great to have that again. 

I started talking on the show with only a few minutes to spare before the 0830 news. I was extremely grateful to them both for holding back the news for over 5 minutes. I’m looking forward to talking to them again at various points in Europe. 

It was then time for the official send off from the Life Brigade Watch House in Tynemouth. There were several photographers in attendance and I gave interviews to Emily Reader from Metro Radio and Andy Sixsmith from Made in Tyne and Wear. Special thanks go to Barry Peels whose photos subsequently appeared in many papers and websites.

I’m looking forward to talking to Andy Sixsmith again during various points of the run across Europe. The item below was recorded a few weeks ago in the RV.

There was just enough time to show the directors of my main sponsor, SOS group, around the RV. The picture below shows Andrew, George, John and myself having a laugh together.

It’s thanks to SOS Group that the run across Europe is a reality. Their financial support has helped towards the cost of RV hire, running kit, fuel and insurance.

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation also benefit from SOS Group’s sponsorship. A “charitable fund” is part of the deal. This amount could easily go directly to the 2 charities. We haven’t done that. Instead, we use the money from SOS group to “grow” a bigger total for the 2 charities through initiatives such as t-shirt sales, raffle prizes for the ball and Team Run Geordie Run kit for Great North Runners.

A £5 t-shirt (like the Europe one below) can yield £12 - £15 for the charities (Any postage paid goes to the 2 charities too thanks to FFG posting the items). So an overseas t-shirt costing £5 to produce can see as much as £20 raised for the 2 charities.

A £300 raffle prize saw £2000 raised at the Around The World Ball last year. £150 spent on Team Run Geordie Run running vests attracted enough runners to raise £2300 for The Children's Foundation. £1000 spent on some entry fees and Team Run Geordie Run t-shirts means that we are on target to raise over £6000 this year. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s very good use of the charitable fund.

On top of that, SOS have made some huge donations on the back of collections and raffles at staff parties and the like. SOS Group have kitted the 13 members of the support team out with branded hoodies and t-shirts. Pictured below with me at the send off event are Donna, Giles, Jason, Jimmy, Malcolm and Nickela.

Along with the other sponsors, which I’ll talk about over the coming blog posts, I’m extremely fortunate to have SOS in my corner. I know that the 2 charities share that feeling too.

Libby from The Children's Foundation and Sir Bobby’s son Andrew (pictured below) had some final words of encouragement before we departed.

If there is one thing that I want to do in Europe, it’s to make the 2 charities proud. I told Libby, Andrew and Times journalist and Sir Bobby Robson Foundation patron George Caulkin, as much on Monday.

Jimmy and I drove away from Tynemouth just before lunchtime with the various well wishers waving us off.

We made it as far as the Midlands that afternoon before arriving at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal on Tuesday afternoon. With the RV safe in the belly of the Britanny Ferry’s flagship Pont Aven we watched the coastline of England disappear. 

The article below appeared on The website, having publicised my runs since 2001, have been responsible for attracting 10’s of thousands of pounds of charity donations. have a massive reach and their continued support is hugely appreciated.

I was secretly pleased that they picked up on the subtle reference to Auf Wiedersehen Pet. Neville is pictured below also en-route to Europe.  Coincidentally, I have the DVDs with me to watch in the RV on rest days.

We made it to Santander with only a rough hour of sea travel to report out of the 24 it took us to arrive. The rough patch happened just after midnight and I was convinced that we had capsized at one point!

The overnight stop on Wednesday was Palencia in what was essentially a car park for RVs. It was right in the middle of the town but really quiet. 

We travelled down to Lisbon on Thursday. Jimmy continued to do all the driving which meant I was able to get through a lot of work including finalising the social media plan, answering many emails and finishing the weather and progress graphics that will be seen right across all my social media channels.

We stopped briefly south of Valladolid for a bite to eat. This is where I discovered that Jimmy is a master of many different foreign languages. Unfortunately, he used them all in the same sentence much to the amusement of the cantina. We all burst out laughing at his attempt to order a ham toastie. 

It wasn't all bad news as the snack that came out was a massive ham and cheese baguette. Much better than the small toastie that I thought I was getting. I later found out that it was called a Bocadillo. 

The arrival into Lisbon on Thursday afternoon was very dramatic. We crossed the 25 de Abril Bridge into the city passing the Christ The King statue. I'd passed the Angel of the North some 4 days earlier. How fitting that we were greeted by a similar monument here.

We arrived at the Camp Site on Thursday in glorious sunshine with temperatures at a very pleasant 20 Celsius. Well done Jimmy for getting us this far safely and for some top banter on the way down.

As I type this blog, Donna is on her way to join the support team. She has just sent the following picture of the Pyrenees. I'll be running up there in 3 weeks time.

There are just 2 days to go before the start of the 3400 mile (5440 km), 100 day run across Europe from Lisbon to Istanbul. 

I'll talk more about the start line at Guincho Beach on the blog tomorrow. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has made a donation. The overall charity fund is almost at a quarter of a million pounds. Your generosity is hugely appreciated. If you would like to make a donation then please click the image below to be taken to my Virgin Money Giving page.