Friday 4 November 2016

The final 11,000 miles.

The Around The World Ball in October was a huge success for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation. During that event, I announced my intention to run the remaining 11,000 miles around the world without a support team. Regular followers will remember that the next segment is from Belgrade to Astana in 2018. Runs across China, Japan and finally New Zealand will follow in the years after that. 

My plan, while running unsupported, is to run while pulling a special “buggy” containing all of the supplies that I’ll need. It will also be my accommodation and provide the (solar) power needed for comms, GPS tracking and social media. 

The main reason for the change of direction in terms of support is to greatly increase the amount raised for the two charities.

When I announced this plan at the Ball, the room fell deadly silent. The feeling of shock was evident and it was obvious that nobody expected to hear that I’d be running the remaining miles solo. 

I also announced that I was setting a 4th November deadline to get the project off the ground. So that meant there were only four weeks to gain enough commercial backing to make it worthwhile, calculate a safe route, identify and document risks and how I intended to cover them and seek the approval to press ahead from my wife Donna and then the two charities (as I do with each segment of the around the world run).

Four weeks have now passed and I haven’t managed to complete all of those tasks. It was an impossible timescale to stick to really. But that, dear reader, is where the “bad” news ends! It’s safe to say that it’s been an incredible four weeks.

I’m delighted to say that in only four weeks I’ve exceeded all expectations in terms of getting the right level of commercial backing to make the run from Belgrade to Astana worthwhile. Suffice to say that not only have all costs of this tour have been met but there is a significant sum of money for the two charities.

Most importantly, we have the costs for the buggy covered. Unlike the RV hire costs of the past segments in the USA, Australia and Europe, this is a one off cost and will allow an even bigger profit margin to be realised for the two charities. It’s a very important piece of equipment for many reasons and I’ll talk more about that over the coming months. In the meantime, I’ve already started liaising with, Nottingham based company, SJH projects on the design of the buggy. That’s a really exciting aspect of this whole trip I can tell you.

A huge thank you must go to Chapman Ventilation, Virgin Money, DLine Cable Management, Fresh Freight Group, Cherry Active, Northumberland Tea and headline sponsor SOS Group for their incredibly generous backing. 

Next up was the task of trying to calculate as best as possible how much I thought would be raised for the 2 charities by the time I got to the end of the world run. In other words, is continuing the run worthwhile doing? Based on previous amounts raised and fundraising schemes in the pipeline, a worst case scenario would see almost £600,000 raised by the time the run ends in New Zealand. That doesn’t take into account public donations via Virgin Money Giving. A best case scenario will see that figure reach 3/4 million pounds. 

Thanks to some amazing generosity, I’ve always exceeded my own personal expectations and targets for fundraising. With that in mind and the realistic “worst case” figure I’ve calculated there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that running another 11,000 miles for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation is, very much, a worthwhile exercise. It’s not going to be easy and is going to require a lot of luck and generosity but I sincerely believe that if I stick to my plan then the run around the world will be a huge fundraising success. 

The next challenge was to calculate the safest route from Belgrade to Astana. Bearing in mind that this kind of task in the past has taken months to complete, I believe I have accomplished this at a reasonably high level. I’m satisfied with the research done so far (advice from our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as others including the CIA State Dept) but there is still much to be done. As we have done in the past, we will be making direct contact with the relevant embassies. This approach has always served us very well. You’ll be able to read just how well when I write the book. That's for another time. 

So it’s my belief that the route through Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan is as safe as it can be and needs to be for a solo traveller. I’ll be going as far as I can over the next few months to back that up.

The risks of travelling alone are numerous. Whatever those risks, a UK based support/monitoring team (so far that is Donna and Jimmy) must be able to know the following at all times: 

1) My location. 
2) My wellbeing.
3) The recovery and possible repatriation procedure and how to execute it if required. 

I’ve been able to come up with a robust plan to cover the first two points. I’m currently working on the 3rd point. I’m speaking to insurance companies, technology providers, experts, world record holders, adventurers who’ve seen it and done it amongst many others. This is going to take a few more months to complete.

I’m very confident of having a robust plan in place early in 2017. Believe you me, I’m leaving no stone unturned.

Once that is complete, Donna and I will have “the conversation” and give a “go” or “no go”. Given all of the research undertaken and advice received only then, using our own judgement and experience, will make the correct decision for all concerned. Based on the work that has been done so far and the current state of the world I believe that will be a “go” decision. I’ve got very little doubt about that. But I’m prepared for that to go either way.

All that will remain in early 2017 will be to present our findings and plan of action to the trustees of both charities. Both the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation have a duty of care to ensure that any fundraiser is not putting themselves at significant risk whilst raising funds. Despite an impeccable track record of safety over 9,000 miles in the UK and across the USA, Australia and Europe it is very important that I gain their approval to continue the run around the world. 

So that’s the state of play after four weeks. There is so much positive and exciting stuff going on in the background. I’ll talk more about that very soon and I’ll keep everyone updated via the blog on a more regular basis from now on. 

Everyone should rest assured that I’m as determined as ever to do my best for The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation in memory of my parents and my brother. 

I feel that it’s so very fitting that I write this news on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. It may be 28 years since he lost his battle against cancer but I feel that he, as well as my Mam and my brother are right here with me. Every step taken towards the end of the world would have made them incredibly proud. I miss them all every day but that thought gives me great strength and comfort.

Finally, to everyone reading this, thank you for being part of the journey with me. Your support and generosity is amazing and I’m very grateful for it.