Thursday 27 September 2018

25th Anniversary Challenge - Day 8

For the first time on this challenge I woke up in a nice warm bed in Tow Law. While Chappie is always likely to be my home on these sorts of challenges, I think it's wise, where possible, to accept the kind offers of accommodation that come my way. Thanks again to Mike for putting me up for the night. It was also nice to have my first shower in 3 days! 

The day started with Mike and I loading Chappie onto the trailer ready to make the short trip to the previous day's end point. There was a slight detour to Greggs in Tow Law to stock up on bacon sandwiches. To be precise, it was 2 bacon sandwiches and a bacon and sausage sandwich. "Just sauces on the bacon sandwiches please" I told the lady behind the counter. The reason why is to fool them into thinking that the order is for more than one person and to disguise my shame at ordering such a huge amount of food.

We got to Sunniside near Tow Law for 0800 and I said goodbye to Mike. It was a sunny yet chilly start to the day and, once again, I felt relieved at not having to spend a 3rd consecutive night in cold temperatures.  

I found it quite easy to devour my sandwiches while running. The previous day's calorie burn meant that I was ready for a good feed. They weren't the highest quality calories that I was putting in but the fat and salt that I craved suited me just fine.

I made my way past many farms in County Durham. Visibility was good and the views were spectacular. I didn't hang about to take photos and the downhill miles ticked by quite nicely.

I reached Langley Moor after 9 miles and noticed a familiar looking silhouette in a shop to my left. It was familiar because it was a sight that I'd been used to seeing when I ran across Australia and Europe. It was none other than sports therapist Jason Stobbs or Stobbsy as he's affectionately known. We had a brief chat and I continued on my way towards Durham. Of course, I'll be seeing Stobbsy at the Around The World Ball in a few weeks time.  

I got stuck in a traffic queue on the climb up to Neville's Cross in Durham. I waited patiently and the lights were kind enough to stay on long enough for me to reach the other side safely. 

A kind lady stopped me and handed me £4 for St Benedict's Hospice. In time honoured tradition, I paid it straight into

I made it into Durham City Centre with a bit of patience and cooperation from passing traffic. I stopped very briefly to take a picture of Chappie on Framwelgate Bridge. I didn't hang about and it wasn't long before I was on the busy A690 heading out of Durham.

I crossed over the A1 and decided to have a quick break at the 14 mile point. While I was eating a snack I decided to tot up how much had been raised on the 25th Anniversary Challenge. I realised that I was only £3.15 away from £400. I quickly put that out on social media and there was a flurry of donations.

My rest was over and I was delighted to be on a bit of a bike track at the side of the A690 for a while.  I turned off the A690 south of Houghton-le-Spring at the 17 mile point. There was then a nice uphill stretch up to the 19 mile point. I had a really positive run from here on. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride as I ran the final miles to St Benedict's Hospice. I reflected on a successful 25 years of fundraising in my mind and thought just how proud my Mam and Dad would have been.

I kept getting notified of donations on my phone as I ran those final miles. I turned into the Hospice road to be told by a workman leaving the adjacent building site that the road came to a "dead end". I continued on my way and he didn't look too pleased that I ignored him.

I reached the Hospice entrance after 24 miles of running and Catrina, the fund raising manager, was there waiting for me. It was just like the old days when I used to finish a run at the Hospice and Anne Oliver (the fundraising manager at the time) would be there waiting. Incidentally, I believe that it was Anne's 80th birthday when I finished. Happy Birthday Anne and thanks for the part you've played over the years in my fundraising. 

Andrew, from my sponsor SOS Group, was at the finish line. He'd being doing some business in the area and it was fitting that he was there to see me complete this run.

It was nice to talk to some of the Hospice staff while I stuffed my face with some delicious cheese scones from the Hospice bistro. The cheese sandwich and can of pop went down very well too!

When I got home I got a notification to say that two children had made a donation. The message left on my Virgin Money Giving page read "Mark the boys wanted to donate their pocket money this week . Well done keep up good work . James and Noah x".

How very kind of the boys to donate their pocket money.

Once I'd made a donation for the scones etc that I'd had at St Benedict's Hospice the final total for the 25th Anniversary Challenge was a very pleasing £500. Thanks so much to everyone who made a donation and left a message on That is far and beyond what I thought would be raised when I left home just over a week ago.

I later found that a few fundraising milestones had been hit during the day. The first was that the  £120,000 barrier had been breached for St Benedict's Hospice. The current total for the Hospice is £120,039.27. 

The second milestone was breaching the £20,000 barrier for the year for St Benedict's Hospice. The current total for the Hospice in 2018 is £20,007.37.

The total for the current campaign nudged closer to the 47k barrier and stands at £46,953.60. With the Around The World Ball in just 2 weeks time, it looks odds on that my personal target for the Stage 5 campaign will hit its £50,000 target. What's pleasing about that is that this campaign is just a 2 year one. It's taken longer in the past to raise a similar amount. The stage 4 campaign was 3 years long and raised £55,147.25. Stage 3 across Australia was only 2 years but had the backing of a local radio station and newspaper. Stage 2 across the USA was a four year campaign with £75,000 coming during the final 8 months. Again, it had the backing of local radio and newspapers as well as some unplanned national coverage. have been at the heart of my coverage since 2001. They remain the most important cog in the awareness machine and have been responsible for helping to bring in tens of thousands of pounds. The amount of contacts that I've made all over the world through have been invaluable. Game changing.   

Pound for pound, I think Stage 5 of the run around the world could be the most successful yet. The support on social media and the interest in the blog is very healthy. The support from my network of friends and colleagues for this stage has been outstanding. People seem to have bought into my vision of unsupported running with a 100+ kg buggy and with a lot of support from home too it all adds up to a tremendous team effort. Then their is the support that I've received from local people wherever I've ran. People all across my route in Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and this week in Northumberland, Cumbria and County Durham have been so friendly, supportive and generous.

Convincing people to donate to a cause that is not close to their heart is always very tricky. Getting people to back my very personal mission hasn't always been easy. The loss of my parents was a long time ago. I'm no longer riddled with the terrible grief. I sometimes think that my message isn't as strong these days. This is partly to do with the fact that, thanks to fundraising, I'm in a really good place. I think they refer to it as "mental health" these days.

What I absolutely must do going forward is make a better job of telling my sponsors what difference their money makes to terminally ill people. Those people are in the same situation as my Mam and Dad once were. They have no future. What they do have, though, is a supportive and professional institution who will try their best to make a person's final days as positive, comfortable and fulfilled as possible. 

As Catrina from the hospice said earlier this year "This isn't a place to die, it's a place to live.". I've pondered over that statement all year and, relating it to my Mam's experience at the Hospice, I completely agree. My Mam's exact words in 1994 were "I'm not dying from cancer, I'm living with cancer.". It's the same message using different words.

There are so many people to thank over the previous 25 years. I hope that I've always managed to get that message of gratitude across. I have spent 25 years of asking a lot of things from a lot of people and I'm eternally grateful to them all. As are the charities who have benefitted I'm sure.

So what about the next 25 years? I'll talk more about that at the Around The World Ball on October 13th. Rest assured, I'm determined as ever to raise funds.

I'll finish this blog with Catrina's take on St Benedict's Hospice. If you'd like to make a donation then please visit