Wednesday 29 August 2018

Team Run Geordie Run 2018

This year's Great North Run will see 24 Team Run Geordie Run runner's taking part and raising funds for St Benedict's Hospice. Last weekend, I wrote the following on the Team Run Geordie Run Facebook Page which I'd like to share on my blog. 

"Here are just some random thoughts of mine to remind us how we got here as a team and what the benefits are. Team Run Geordie Run was born out of a desire to repay a debt of gratitude to charities who make a positive difference to the lives of a lot of people in the north east of England. 

Most people have been affected by cancer and some of the team’s family have even used the services of St. Benedict's Hospice, the chosen charity for 2018. I’m aware that the majority of people on the team have their own story to tell. My own story is a simple one however. It's how St Benedict’s Hospice made a huge difference to my family. 

The care that my Mam received at the Hospice helped to give her a dignified and as comfortable as possible final few weeks of her life. That was in March 1995. She spent 14 days on the palliative care ward at St Benedict’s Hospice. 

St Benedict’s Hospice back then was a much smaller premises than it is now. There were three people in the same room as my Mam. Only a curtain separated them. 

I remember that my Mam, even during her final days and fighting her own battle, tried to help and talk to the other two people on the ward. I remember one lady was just a mere skeleton with little chance of being able to communicate anything other than her state of discomfort. A state which was soon calmed and helped by the Hospice nurses. My Mam never reached the kind of physical condition that this poor lady was in. My Mam’s cancer spread to her brain and that is what brought the earlier than expected end to her life rather than any complications with the initial cancer in her right lung. 

When I used to say goodbye to my Mam at the end of each visit she would wave out of the window in her room at the Hospice. After the ninth day she was no longer able to get out of her bed to do that. Sadly, she lost any ability to communicate during the final three days. When I say that she fought against the cancer, that’s exactly what it looked like she was doing. It seemed like she was battling for every breath until finally she took her last one. 

I wasn’t there when she died and that is something that I struggled to cope with for a few years. It wasn’t until I had a visit from a Macmillan Nurse in 1997 that I was helped to make sense of things. I was aware that the Hospice used to contribute funds to them. 

Of course, the grieving process continues. Like many other people that I talk to, I’ll never fully recover from losing both of my parents. My situation isn’t unique I have come to discover. Specifically though, St Benedict’s Hospice have helped thousands of terminally ill people and supported their families over the years. That’s what makes it all the more important that we continue to do as much as possible to help them. 

The staff and patients at St Benedict’s Hospice are now housed in a wonderful purpose built premises. Every patient has their own room. The grounds contain some amazing green spaces which lend themselves to providing a calm and relaxing backdrop to what, for all families, will be a terribly difficult and sad time. 

If you have ever sponsored Run Geordie Run or have been part of the team, then you should feel unbelievably proud of how your efforts are helping to improve the quality of the end of life care given by the staff at St Benedict’s Hospice. 

There are other fundraisers like us who will feel equally as proud. We are playing our own small part but together as a team we are making a huge difference."

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Debrief with SOS Group

It was great to spend time with Andrew and John from my sponsor SOS Group Ltd this week. In keeping with other recent mammoth brainstorming sessions it took us a good 3 hours to talk about the stage five campaign and assess whether or not it had been a success for both parties. The answer to that was a unanimous yes. 

Of course, the current campaign is not over yet with Team Run Geordie Run’s participation at The Great North Run and also the Around The World Ball still to come. Both of these events are heavily supported by SOS Group by the way.

As well as support to the charities I raise funds for, SOS Group support a whole range of other local causes. It's no exaggeration to say that they have been responsible for adding tens of thousands of pounds to the total amount that I’ve been able to raise for The Children’s Foundation, Useful Vision and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in previous years. In 2018, they have helped to raise further funds for St. Benedict's Hospice. 

Ultimately, without the support of SOS Group the run Around The World would have ended in 2016. Thankfully they, along with my other sponsors have helped to keep the journey alive as well as raising a huge sum for local good causes. 

We saved a bit of time, at the end of our meeting, to discuss our future plans and the Run Geordie Run / SOS Group partnership. I've got to say that I’m very excited about that. With an unprecedented amount of effort, good luck and a willingness to learn from past experiences the future is looking bright. 

Debrief with Helen

The debrief of stage five of the run Around The World continued this week.

My good friend Helen has provided psychological telephone support for the last two stages in Australia and Europe and was called upon again this year. She has proved to be worth her weight in gold and has an amazing ability to talk me out of some dark times. 

Helen always helps to make me see difficult situations in a certain completely different light. She’s very much like my wife, Donna, in that respect but on a very qualified and professional level. 

Donna, Helen and I talked for 4 hours about what went well on stage five, what can be improved on, the grieving process, relationships with the various stakeholders (sponsors, the public, the charity etc), St. Benedict’s Hospice, plans for the future and Run Geordie Run as a fundraising project in general. It was a very thorough and thought provoking 4 hours. 

The discussion that we had is going to take a few days or even weeks to digest and fully contemplate. As a lay person, I found it fascinating to get a professional view of many aspects of my running and fundraising. 

Thanks to Helen for always being there for me and Donna. She’s an absolute one off. A real character. 

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Stage five debrief

This afternoon I had a debrief of stage five of the run Around The World with David Fairlamb. Some excellent points were raised and valuable lessons have been learned. It’s this kind of analysis that will ultimately shape the remaining journey around the planet. 

It was interesting to note how stage five compared to the runs across the UK, USA, Australia and Europe. Every event so far has had its positives and negatives. While each route has had different kinds of challenges there are definitely common themes throughout. For me, the mental battle of these multi month events remains the biggest challenge. I wouldn’t say that I’m better prepared for the mental battle but I’m definitely aware that I expect to have a fight on my hands. Especially, towards the closing stages of an event. Australia still remains the lowest point mentally. 

Behind John O’Groats to Lands End, this last stage probably saw me cope much better mentally. The major contributory factor here was the amount of unplanned local support in various places. Without doubt, the daily interaction with the Serbians, Romanians and Ukrainians had a huge positive impact on my morale.

The amount of comments and feedback on the Facebook page also helped. Support on Twitter was much less than previous years. 

The logistics behind each stage are getting more and more difficult and I think this is my major weakness. Particularly so where customs and visa issues are concerned. Getting Chappie in and out of various countries efficiently and in keeping with customs/border legislation is going to require massive improvement and better solutions next time. I can’t expect to have any reasonable guidance and assistance from a freight company. The buck stops with me on that one. 

There are so many positives to bear in mind. Physically, I stood up to the task from Belgrade to Kiev. My final plan gave me the best chance of getting a decent distance further around the planet and only 200 miles from the half way point. This was the stage where the final outcome differed massively from what I set out to do. No amount of training in the UK could have prepared me for life in a buggy. It was only getting out there and trying it out that showed me what was possible and what wasn’t. 

Progress on stage five was hampered by the amount of time I spent with local people. I don’t necessarily see this as a negative. Being able to talk to community groups, schools, universities and the foreign national media about my journey can only be a good thing. Even though this doesn’t necessarily yield funds for St Benedict’s Hospice, I need to give thought to similar engagement going forward. 

It was, without doubt, a much more difficult journey without a motor home and a support team. More difficult doesn’t necessarily mean better. I personally found it a fascinating challenge to run unsupported. I think those that followed the journey bought into this also. Social media engagement and website hits were massively up on previous years. Despite that, I failed to convert this interest to donations. I don’t know why this was the case. What I will say though is that my gratitude to those who did donate and have done so in previous years is considerable. If you donated in 2018 or 2008 or even 1998, I don’t forget about it and it’s hugely appreciated. Public support is something that I will never take for granted. 

As well as public support, the commercial backing from SOS Group Ltd, FFG Logistics, Chapman Ventilation, Brooks, D-Line, Active Edge, Virgin Money proved to be the difference between the success and failure of stage five. That support got me to the start line and will, hopefully, see the final total raised reach close to £60,000 by the end of the year. 

So, lots of lessons learned. Some issues that I don’t have answers to just yet. Lots of positives. Lots of great memories. The desire to raise funds for St Benedict’s Hospice is as strong as it was back in 1994.

I’ve got a similar de-brief meeting with my main sponsor, SOS, later this week. That’s an opportunity to thank them in person as well as talk about the various aspects of stage five. 

Once the Great North Run and the Around The World Ball have passed, Donna and I will then take time to reflect on this current campaign. We must ensure that we keep on doing what we do well in certain areas and make sure to improve in areas that need improvement.