Monday 14 October 2019

#runsub17 - Week 9

The #runsub17 series of blogs is brought to you with the kind support of D-Line Cable Management.

After last week's talk of increasing the mileage and also using my new bike, this week was a bit of a disaster. I ran a couple of comfortable miles to the bike shop on Tuesday and that was the end of the running for the week. More on that later! I then managed to cycle 14 miles home from the shop through the rush hour traffic in 68 minutes. 

Given my history with bikes and broken bones, I was quite nervous when I got on the saddle. To my surprise, those nerves soon went when I was in the traffic. It didn't feel that different to running with Chappie through a bustling city centre or on the long busy roads of Serbia, Romania and Ukraine. 

After 12 miles, I dropped down the bank near Plessey Woods. I had always anticipated pushing the bike up the climb on the other side but, again to my surprise, I managed to reach the top no problem. I think this had more to do with the quality of the bike rather than my current fitness level. 

As I said before, that's where the running/cycling stopped for the week as I woke up the next morning full of cold. Disappointing. I'm usually quick to shake off a cold so I expect normal service to be resumed in week 10.

#runsub17 - Week 8

The #runsub17 series of blogs is brought to you with the kind support of D-Line Cable Management.

Having had that rare drink at the weekend, I was wary that traditionally I always struggle to run for at least a few days. This observation dates back to my a was early 20s. It’s the main reason that I stopped drinking prior to the run across the USA. And by “prior” I mean 3 years prior. 

The first run of the week was a 5k effort back to my car. I parked up at Northumberland Park, got the Metro to work and then ran back. I enjoyed that first run so much, that I repeated it on Tuesday, Wednesday and also on Thursday. 

My aim this week was to try and set a pace and stick to it for every mile. So far, during #runsub17, I’ve mostly just been trying to “get round”. Only on a couple of occasions have I felt like going all out. 

I set the virtual training partner on my watch on Monday to 00:11:40 per mile. Regular runners will no doubt read that and think it’s almost a walking pace. It definitely isn’t when you are carrying 18.5 stones. I was quite delighted to finish the 5k in 00:36:19 which works out at 00:11:42 per mile. 

I set the same pace on Tuesday for the same route and finished just slightly quicker in 00:36:02. That’s only 3 seconds per mile quicker than the planned pace. Wednesday’s 5k was 00:36:20 and arguably felt the most comfortable. Again, it was only a few seconds away from the planned pace. 

I dropped my planned pace on Thursday, only by 10 seconds per mile, to 11:30. I, again, felt very comfortable but ran at the required pace to get round in 00:35:44. 
It had been a good week proving that I could control my pace. It's a pace that is nowhere near what is required for #runsub17 to be a success but it's a start. 6 weeks ago, following Steve Medd's advice, I set out to run "a minimum of 3 times a week of at least 3 or 4 miles each time". I've achieved that most weeks, I'm glad to say. 

To say that there is room for improvement is an understatement. I need to improve on nutrition, discipline, consistency, volume of miles, hydration and variety of sessions. Over the next 8 weeks, I'll be adding more weekly miles. Now that I have a bike I'll be building that into my schedule too.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

#runsub17 - Week 7

Week 7 of #runsub17 saw just two runs done. The first run was a very poor 3 mile effort where I didn't feel like running at all. I haven't had too many off days during this campaign so I suppose I was due one.

The 2nd run of the week was a 5.5 mile effort with a bit of a diversion. I had planned to run due north after work to Cramlington and get a lift the rest of the way home. When I caught a glimpse of the hilly mound at Weetslade Country Park, I decided to run up and around that instead. It was a beautiful evening and you could see for miles from the summit.  

I'm getting a bit bored of my usual 5 mile after work route so it was nice to do something different. I felt like I had plenty of miles left in me but was pleased to get a lift home when Donna passed by.

Last week marked one year since I finished the challenge that I set myself to celebrate 25 years of fundraising for St. Benedict's Hospice and other charities. The 200 mile unsupported run to St. Benedict’s Hospice (where I'm pictured below) via the Lake District raised £500 meaning the overall total for the hospice surpassed the £120,000 barrier. The fund also nudged over £20,000 for 2018. Thanks to the generosity of so many kind people the fund for St. Benedict’s Hospice went on to hit £132,127.17 with the overall charity fund at £326,667.15 by the end of the year.

I commented on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page "The run around the world is all a big numbers game for me. Pounds raised for this charity and that. Miles ran across this continent, that continent, round the world so far and still to do. Numbers of pairs of trainers needed, optimum weight in Chappie, calories burned, steps taken, bottles of water needed to carry until I reach the next town and so on.".

Back to the matters of last week and I had a 3rd run planned up at Edinburgh on Sunday. We had been invited to celebrate to celebrate Donna's good friend Caroline's 40th birthday on Saturday night and I packed my running shoes.

I thought I'd have a few pints of orange and I'd be well hydrated for a 10k run up to Arthur's seat early the next day. That plan went right out of the window when a few beers saw our group of friends hit the tequila shots! 

Despite not running on Sunday, I did manage to bag almost 15,000 steps at the party thanks to some crazy moves on the dance floor. Thanks to Caroline (pictured below belting out "I will survive") for throwing a brilliant party. How I never had a hangover the next day, I'll never know.

I'll end this week's blog with the brilliant news of the #runsub17 project's first commercial sponsor. A huge thank you goes to my good friends at D-Line Innovative Cable Management for their amazing support and donation to St Benedict's Hospice. That kind donation has seen the overall charity total smash through the £330,000 barrier over at

For those of you who don't know, "D-Line is a UK company with a global reputation for innovative cable management products. Their range includes the world’s fastest cable trunking systems, as used by trade and consumers, to hide and protect cables in ways that blend with modern surrounds. 

Market-leading fire-rated Safe-D Clips secure cables, while eliminating the risk of fires causing potentially fatal cable entanglements. 

D-Line Cable Tidy and Cable Safety solutions include Cable Protectors that address trip hazards, Cable Tidy Units to contain extension sockets and cable clutter, and market leading Cable Organisers for cable management in homes and workplaces.".

Thanks again to D-Line for their backing. You'll start to see their branding a lot more across all of the Run Geordie Run social media channels and this blog of course.

If you'd like to join D-Line as a sponsor of the #runsub17 project then please get in touch at 100% of commercial sponsorship proceeds go to St Benedict's Hospice.

The latest fundraising position makes for very proud reading below. I'm proud and so should everyone else be who has made a donation over the years.

That's all for the blog this week. It'll be interesting to see how numerous beers and shots of tequila affect week 8 of #runsub17!

Tuesday 24 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 6

Week six of the #runsub17 project was pretty quiet. I weighed in at the start of the week at 119.2 kg which meant that I'd lost half a stone (3.5 kg) during the first 5 weeks of training. There's clearly still plenty of weight to lose but it's a decent start.

The first run of week six was a five mile effort after work in 01:02:17. I wrote the following on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page "Quickest 5 miles this year for me. Still very slow but definitely heading in the right direction. Over 2 minutes quicker than last week and nearly 5 minutes quicker than 3 weeks ago. 

While I’m not putting any emphasis on speed right now, this is an indicator of progress. In other news, my watch is telling me that my fitness age is 59. That’s 4 years younger than 2 weeks ago. I should be like Benjamin Button by the end of the #runsub17 project! 

A huge thank you to the man on the outskirts of Dudley who shouted a hearty “Run Geordie Run”. It made a huge difference.".

I followed Tuesday's run with a short 2 mile run in to work the next day, having got the bus most of the way. Later in the day, I did the usual 5 mile route which I didn't feel like doing at all at the time. However, this extract from the Run Geordie Run Facebook page tells you just how worthwhile a run it was "I don’t recall enjoying a run as much as this in recent years. I also haven’t worked this hard on a run for a very long time. 

Heart rate was over 90% of max for the remaining 16 minutes of this 5 mile route. It took me 00:59:00 to complete the run which is nearly 4 minutes quicker than last night. I thought I did well last night! 

It’s brilliant to dip under the hour at this distance. There was plenty of shouting and fist pumping when I reached the end. I checked that there was no one around first of course!! I didn’t set out to run “quickly” tonight. It’s not part of my strategy at all at present. 

Once I got my mind in the right place at the end of the 2nd mile then things got a bit out of hand and I just went for it. As I’ve said many a time wonderful things can happen in running when the mind and body work in perfect harmony. 

Tonight was reminiscent of those quick finishes during the run across the USA between miles 35 - 40 ish. I’ll need a repeat of tonight’s effort and attitude and then some when I eventually have an attempt at beating my 3 mile PB of 00:17:00 next August. 

For now, tonight’s run has given me a huge boost in confidence. Normal slow service will be resumed for the rest of the week."

Relive '#runsub17 - Week 6 - Run 3'

The graph at the top is my heart rate effort from Tuesday night. You can see how much harder I worked on Wednesday by looking at the graph at the bottom.

That's all the running that I managed during week six.  More of the same effort is required in week seven. A couple of more runs are needed to keep the momentum building.

Sunday 15 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 5

It's been quite a journey so far this #runsub17 project of mine. When I started running again 5 weeks ago after almost a year off from running I felt so very unfit. I still feel a long way off from where I need to be but there are small signs of improvement to be seen. I can feel within myself this improvement. I'm also running a little quicker and feeling quite comfortable. 

I recently noticed that the uploads from my GPS watch had the VO2 Max figures shown in the image below. I'm not normally one to take much notice of this kind of thing. I'm normally all about running from A to B and being able to do that on many consecutive days. That's what my training has been based on for nearly 2 decades now. These figures, however, have sparked my interest. 

Even if the figures from my watch aren't 100% scientifically accurate, I have something tangible to work towards improving. As you can see from the table below, there is much improvement to be had!

As well as improving VO2 Max, this project will be doomed to fail if I don't improve what I'm eating. It's always been a struggle for me and this has to change and soon. I've got so many bad eating habits which go from the ridiculous to the absolutely ridiculous. One example is the amount of bacon sandwiches I eat. If I go to Greggs for breakfast I will order two bacon and sausage sandwiches (it used to be 3 quite regularly). I always ask for one of them with red sauce and one with brown. This is to make the server think that they are for two different people! 

On some days this week I've had a bacon sandwich and some days porridge. I always feel fuller for longer with porridge. However, when the various around the world support teams have served it to me at a very early hour for days, weeks and months on end it is not an easy substance to eat. Donna used to try and spruce the porridge up a bit during the run across Australia in 2013 with a drawing on top made from fruit puree. Perhaps that's the answer to eating it on a  more regular basis!

The association of porridge and difficult times is a one I need to break! The focus on week six of #runsub17 will be to drop the bacon sandwiches and eat my porridge for breakfast. I also have an option of scrambled eggs so it's not all "bad news".

Speaking of Donna, I'll use this week's blog to confess to her a dark secret that I've been keeping for a few weeks. She's had a couple of boxes of birthday chocolates in the fridge for about 3 months. Knowing her, they'll still be there, fully intact, in another 3 months.

Well they would have been fully intact if it wasn't for the little hole that I made in the bottom of one of the boxes. I've had one or two out of the bottom of the box in my most desperate times in need of chocolate! If you thought the bacon sandwich behaviour was shameful then I think this is even worse!

On the back of this confession, the week six focus will be on saying goodbye to chocolate and other sugary snacks and drinks. Once that's part of my natural daily routine, I'll turn my attention to lunches and evening meals. Better breakfasts and cutting out sugary snacks is the immediate focus.

I'll also look to build on this week's haul of 21 miles next week. I managed to ditch my car, for 4 days out of 5 for the daily commute this week. I had to resort to driving in/back on Friday as I had a load of kit that needed bringing home. The logistics of self powered commuting will be a lot easier when my new bike arrives at the end of the month.

I managed six runs this week with the longest being 5.2 miles. I got slower as the working week went on but the main thing right now is trying to increase the volume and make running a regular habit.  

Relive '#runsub17 - week 5 - run 1'

The quickest that I ran was at the Blyth Links Park Run on Saturday. I managed to knock 1 minute and 8 seconds off last week's Park Run time with a time of 00:33:30. I was very pleased with that time. I even managed a quick "sprint" down the final straight. The split times were 00:10:34, 00:10:54, 00:11:04 and a pace of 00:08:23 for the final 10th of a mile. A huge thank you must go to the volunteers around the course for the encouragement dished out. 

Relive '#runsub17 - Week 5 - Run 6'

At the end of the Park Run, I had a chance meeting with a former running ally, Johnn Mallon. I'm beginning to make a habit of this!

John and I ran the newly opened 84 mile Hardian's Wall path dressed as Roman soldiers back in 2003. That's us pictured below back then. As you can see, it wasn't the full ancient military outfit but more the kind of thing that you'd wear on a stag do!

By the time we reached Segedunum 3 days after leaving Bowness-on-Solway a massive £4,140 was raised for St Benedict's Hospice. It was a brilliant 3 days with lots of laughs as well as being a worthwhile fundraising event. 

It was brilliant to catch up with John who, to my surprise, knew all about my #runsub17 project. Amongst other things, he talked about some of the recent changes that he'd made to his diet which had seen an improvement in running speed over the summer.

While the #runsub17 project was never intended to be a fundraiser you may remember from week 1 of the blog updates that Darren in Perth "...will donate 5 Aussie dollars for every second you get under 20 minutes, and $1000 bonus if you get under 17:00".

I received another message last week from David (pictured below with a strategically placed bottle of Cherry Active), who has been a brilliant member of Team Run Geordie Run over the last few years.

David's message read "...I’ve set up a £25 (plus gift aid) monthly Standing Order to St Benedict's which will give them £300 over the course of the year. Here’s the incentive. If by the end of your challenge you’ve gone sub 24 mins (easy :-) ) I’ll keep the Standing Order going for another 12 months. If you go sub 20 it’s 5 years and sub 17 is ten years. 

Hopefully I’ve pitched it well enough to keep you focused right up until the final day of the challenge whatever happens along the way.".

I was absolutely gobsmacked when I read the message from David. What an incredibly kind gesture! In fact, those words don't really describe how I feel about David's support or anyone else's over the years for that matter. 

This is the 26th year of my fundraising. The generosity shown from thousands of people over those years has been amazing. If it continues during the remaining miles around the world then my dream of raising half a million pounds for local good causes stands a good chance of becoming a reality. 

I often wonder what my Mam and Dad (in the pictures below) would have made of my running and fundraising. It's been very fulfilling to be able to fundraise in their memory thanks to the kindness of so many people like David. Most importantly, it continues to be a privilege to be able to repay the debt of gratitude that I feel towards St Benedict's Hospice for the care they gave my Mam.

Back to #runsub17 and in terms of next week's plan, I'll be looking to increase the volume of running but with little emphasis on speed (until the Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Park Run). As I mentioned earlier, there will a focus on what I eat for breakfast and also sugary snacks. It's all set up to be an important week. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope you're enjoying the early stages of this journey as much as I am.

Sunday 8 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 4

The following is from day 29 of stage one of the Run Around The World from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007 "At the 9 mile point and just as the boredom was at it's worst again I felt a tap on my left shoulder. It was none other than my regular training partner John Brettell (pictured). I nearly jumped out of my skin because during all of the 660 miles done so far I'd not once been tapped on the shoulder! John and his wife Annie had been down to Plymouth the previous day to watch their son at his passing out parade. So while they were in the vicinity John decided to join me for a few miles".

Fast forward 12 years, 1 month and 3 days to the Whitley Bay Park Run on Saturday and imagine my surprise when I received a tap on my right shoulder. It was none other than John Brettell. I haven't seen John (of North Shields Poly) for many a year and it was brilliant to run the first mile with him before he took off to get a respectable time. John was recovering from last week's Northumberland Coastal Marathon and looked as fresh as a daisy. Thanks to John (pictured in blue below) for helping me get my quickest mile so far in 2019 (00:10:55). 

The second and third miles in 00:11:02 and 00:11:41 together with a final tenth of a mile in 00:00:59 gave me a total time of 00:34:37. That's a huge improvement on last week's time at the South Shields Park Run. Surely, I'll be on for a sub 30 minute time next week. That's how it works isn't it?

I can't finish the Park Run banter without mentioning Chris Checkley (pictured below) and his family who I spoke to before the race started. As is the case with John, I've ran many a mile with Chris over the years. I even remember when he was slow! Not now though as his running over the years has gone from strength to strength representing Heaton Harriers. 

Chris was part of Team Run Geordie Run last year and has always taken time out to be part of the welcoming committee at Newcastle Airport whenever I've returned from a stage of the run around the world. 

I've no doubt that Chris' words of encouragement at the start of the run helped put a spring in my step. I also think that seeing Chris' Dad, who is still running very well at the age of 82 years young, serves as inspiration to many people.

Relive 'Whitley Bay Park Run'

The last 7 days have seen me run 3 times totalling 8 miles. It's not a vast amount but I've come through it uninjured and my desire to do well is very much there. I'm confident that over the next 4 weeks I can continue to build on that in terms of frequency, distance and intensity. I'll also be adding a few weight lifting sessions in the gym which will complement what I'm doing out on the road.

I can't finish this week's blog without a well deserved mention for Team Run Geordie Run's participation in the Great North Run today. This is the 10th time that there has been a team presence at the Great North Run. Before today's outing, £58,294.22 has been raised for local good causes (£14,061.62 for St Benedict's Hospice and £44,232.60).

I'm very proud and pleased to report that the team of David, Steve, Jeff, Sarah, James and Craig have so far raised £1762.58 this year. This means that in its 10 years of existence Team Run Geordie Run have raised over £60,000 for local good causes. That's an absolutely tremendous amount and all those who have been involved since 2010 should be as proud as I am.

That's all for this week. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to week five of the #runsub17 project. Check back next week for hopefully more good news. 

Monday 2 September 2019

#runsub17 - Week 3

I was determined to put Gateshead Harrier Steve Medd's advice into action during week three of #runsub17 with a minimum of running "3 times a week of at least 3 or 4 miles each time". It's may seem like a very small amount of running compared to what I've done in the past but I've always been a great believer of starting small when building up the miles. Steve Medd calls it "building a base" and that's exactly how the week's mileage felt. I wasn't bothered in the slightest at the lack of quality. Getting the running shoes on and putting one foot in front of the other is what it's all about at the moment.

The running week got underway on Wednesday with a 5 mile run to work. Donna dropped me off near her office and I ran the rest of the way. With Donna having previously been part of the Australia and Europe support teams I thought for a moment that I had 30-40 miles to run. Thankfully, Wednesday route was just from Dudley to Longbenton.

My legs were very sore right from the start with cramp being felt all over. It's the type of mild pain I've felt on many returns to running over the years. There are no concerns there for me.

The 5 miles took me a whopping 01:07:59 to run. To say there's room for improvement is an understatement!

Relive 'Run to work'

The second run of the week took place on Thursday and was my first lunchtime run in a long while. It was a 3 mile effort around Longbenton which took 00:38:11. A marginal improvement on the previous day. More importantly, I was able to suss out the shower facilities at the office. There appears to be a lot of off road options nearby and Jesmond Dene isn't too far away. I expect to increase the number of lunchtime runs greatly over the coming months. 

On Thursday night, Donna and I attended the wedding of Michael and Yuliana. Regular readers will remember that Michael was my "fixer" in Ukraine. He was responsible for putting me in touch with some very kind folk in Kalush, Turnopil, Starokostyantyniv, Zhytomyr and Kiev during stage 5 of the run around the world last year. He was a game changer last year and we were really honoured to help them celebrate their wedding. 

This is the second "around the world" wedding we've attended with Mel and John's wedding in Perth Australia being the other one back in 2015.

Congratulations to Michael and Yuliana. 

The final run of the week was done at South Shields Park Run on Saturday morning. I found the course very challenging compared to the other Park Runs I've done but I really enjoyed it. There were the usual wide range of abilities in attendance and I put myself at the back of the crowd. Michael said he would keep me company but I don't think he realised how slow I would actually run. It's always "good for morale" when the running company jogs ahead, comes back, starts running backwards alongside you and doesn't break a sweat. Support man Carlton has done this many a time over the years! I'm used to it thankfully.

The pleasing thing for me is that Michael said that he only started running after meeting me in Kiev last year. That's always a great thing to hear. I'm sure that won't be the last I see of Michael during the #runsub17 campaign and he is currently on his way back to the Canary Islands where he teaches English. 

Before he left, I heard that he took Yuliana to the Newcastle match on Saturday afternoon. Now that sounds like a perfect honeymoon to me!

I intend to try a number of different Park Runs over the next 12 months. I hope to return to South Shields in October to see if I can improve on my time of 00:39:50. That included a very discreet toilet stop which cost me 30 seconds!

Thanks to the South Shields Park Run volunteers for some enthusiastic encouragement on the way round. I always appreciate that.

Relive 'South Shields Park Run'

Tune in next week for the week 4 #runsub17 blog and hopefully a greater number of miles at a slightly faster pace. 

Monday 26 August 2019

#runsub17 - Week 2

I've met a lot of amazing runners over the years and I recently turned to someone for some advice. I didn't really get any guidance or advice back in the 1990s when I was a decent runner. All I used to do was just try and run as quick as I could to the beat of the music on my Walkman. I don't think I'll get away with that approach this time around. I'm therefore handing over this week's blog to someone who knows what it takes to run quicker than 17 minutes and then some. 

Pictured below is Steve Medd who is a Gateshead Harrier and he has also represented England. Steve started to run to lose weight, after piling on the pounds. He found that he enjoyed it and it was so much more interesting than hitting the gym! The rest, as they say, is history as Steve has a very impressive record indeed. According to Strava - Marathon - 02:38:22. Half Marathon - 01:13:31. 10 miles - 00:57:12. 10k - 00:33:33. 5k - 00:16:25. 1 mile - 00:04:53. 1500m - 00:04:27. As I'm writing this blog, I've just heard that Steve grabbed a gold in today's Tartan Games 1 mile event.

What Steve continues to achieve is even more phenomenal when you take into account that he is a secondary school teacher that has a young family! I think I'm right in saying that Steve is well placed to offer me some sound advice on running.

I asked Steve one simple question "What advice would you give me if I'm to have a chance of succeeding at beating 17 minutes for a 3 mile run?". Over to you Steve.

"The pace you need in order to run 3 miles in 17 mins is 5:40/mile. This is equivalent to 17:36 5K pace, which is no mean feat. 

In order to run fast you are going to have to get used to exactly that - running fast. You need a combination of speed and endurance. Depending on your starting point, I would take the approach of building base mileage first, taking 4-6 weeks to get used to running a minimum of 3 times a week of at least 3 or 4 miles each time. Once you have that base, you can start to introduce to at least one of your runs the cornerstone of faster running, what are usually referred to as ‘sessions’. These often consist of repetitions of the same shorter distance/time period efforts, but at a faster-than-normal pace with a set recovery (sometimes jogged) in between. 

You can do sessions on the flat, on a hill, on the track....there are loads of different ways to do it. The key is that you are loading your training in a different way than just running at a standard pace. You need to push the envelope of what seems a comfortable pace. These sessions are much easier when done with other people, which is an advantage of training with a running/athletics club. 

The reps should initially be short and the recoveries in between long and you should aim to be reasonably consistent through the session. As you get fitter, extend the rep length/shorten the recovery/increase the number of reps. 

Longer term, I would be building to a minimum of running 5 days a week. Build to two of these being the sessions described above. The introduction of a tempo session for one run would also be a good idea (this could be a parkrun) where you run harder than normal pace for a few miles, but slower than race-pace. 

A long run once a week is still useful, even when training for a shorter distance - maybe build up to 10 miles. Also you can supplement with one or two easy runs at ‘recovery pace’ - nice and relaxed, just to turn the legs over.".

Thank you Steve for giving me the advice that I'll turn into a structured training plan. Tune in to next week's blog where I'll be putting Steve's initial advice to the test and also talking about the main threats to the success of the #runsub17 project.

Sunday 18 August 2019

#runsub17 - Week 1

You'd think that week one of the #runsub17 campaign would get underway with an actual run. Well, given my current weight and lack of running confidence I opted for a short hilly session on a static Bike on Monday. I wrote on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page "The #runsub17 campaign has started on a Wattbike connected to Zwift. I really stuck in tonight to knock 90 seconds off yesterday’s time for the “hilly loop” route. I’ve always been a fan of the Watt Bike since being introduced to it at David Fairlamb Fitness gym.".

I enjoyed the session and most importantly of all, it reminded me just how short I am of fitness. I intend to fill in the week with more of these low impact types sessions until I build the running mileage up and drop some weight. 

One thing I will say about the Watt Bike Atom and Zwift is that I never feel that I'm simply pedalling away on a static bike. There is plenty to keep my mind focussed on these shorter rides. There's the regular gear changes to think about just like a real bike on various inclines. Every so often there are sprint sections and the temptation to try and beat my last time is always there. There are also many other riders in the same virtual world to try and pass. So far, all that has happened is that they've passed me time after time. 

On Thursday I wrote "I did a short run in Monument Valley last month. I really can’t remember the last time I ran prior to that! That long break from running has been much needed after many years of major trans continental campaigns. It’s a case of back to basics today. I’m going to see how I get in with a 3 mile run which will give me something to work on over the next 12 months.".

The run went well and I reported "The longest journeys start with one step blah blah blah. That was certainly how tonight's first run of the #runsub17 campaign felt. 

There's no doubting that I'm physically in poor shape right now. Running "uphill" out of Bedlington into Nedderton felt like being in the Alps again! The pleasing thing was that I never felt like stopping to walk. I don't feel that I could have gone faster at any point either. There is so much work to do if I'm to have a chance of getting under 17 minutes for 3 miles. 

From a mental point of view, I'm exactly where I need to be. After so much time away from running I'm ready for the challenge again. Back to tonight and I felt well up for the "out and back" 3 mile effort. 

I absolutely tried to run as quick as I could. Speed isn't that important right now, of course, but I did want to put a marker down with a maximum effort session. I'm pleased to report that I managed to run 3 miles in 00:35:48. It's a start!".

And a start is all it was. I've got to follow this first week up with more running sessions, more cycle work, underpinned with some routine and structure next week.

On Saturday morning I received a message from an old ally from the run across Australia days. Darren Miller, who is an exiled Geordie living in Perth, was at the start of the run back in October 2013. He was one of two "locals" who ran the first 13 miles with me out of Perth. Darren is pictured below with me as I prepared to set off from Cottesloe Beach. As well as that company on day one in Oz, Darren has been a key supporter with repeated charitable donations over the previous stages around the world.

Back to Saturday and Darren's message read "Love your new challenge. I can’t wait to see how you get on! Seems impossible at the moment but you have got some willpower so I won’t put it past you. I will donate 5 Aussie dollars for every second you get under 20 minutes, and $1000 bonus if you get under 17:00".

I must admit that I was already formulating plans and schemes to absolutely guarantee getting under 20 minutes when I read the offer of 5 Aussie dollars per second under 20 minutes. When I read on, I soon responded on the Run Geordie Run Facebook page with "The #runsub17 stakes just got raised this morning! I didn’t intend for this near impossible challenge to be a fundraiser. The main aim is to help me get in peak condition for stage 6 of the run around the world. That all changed when I got a message saying that should I beat this challenge (i.e. run a sub 17 minute 3 mile time next August) then £500 would be winging its way to St. Benedict's Hospice. 

I was gobsmacked and totally surprised when I read the message another few times. I didn’t think that I could feel any more motivated right now. How wrong I was. Given that there is charity money at stake, the complexion of #runsub17 has totally changed for me. 

I always knew that there would be little room for error over the next 12 months. Now I know that I’m going to have to excel in everything I do and then some. I was always going to give this challenge 100% effort. Now I’m going to have to do that and find a bit extra from somewhere. 

Regular followers will know that I’m all about the charity money. Therefore, many people will be able to understand exactly what is at stake for me. I’m going to have to do what I reckon very few people have ever done. 

I still think the chances of success are very slim but I absolutely won’t be standing on the start line next August knowing that I couldn’t have done any more in preparation. Thank you to Darren, an exiled Geordie in Perth, for the kind pledge.".

I'll finish the week one update with some stats and a recent front and side profile. Apologies, if you're having your dinner looking at this! I last stood on the body composition scales two weeks ago (04/08/2019) for comparison with today.

Weight: 120.4 kg (-2.3 kg)
Body Water: 46% (+0.5%)
Body Fat: 31.3% (-1%)
Visceral Fat: 16.5 (-0.5)
Muscle Mass: 78.7 kg (-0.3 kg)
Metabolic Age: 63 (-)

To say there is a lot of work to be done is an understatement. Watch out for further updates on the blog next week. Next up, I've managed to get the opinion of someone who has been there and done that in the world of running. They will be giving me a total reality check in terms of the  task ahead and what will need to be done to even stand a remote chance of being successful.

Sunday 11 August 2019

Introducing #runsub17

I'm a forty something year old runner who, despite running almost 20,000 miles over the previous 25 years, has gotten slower and slower over the decades. One of the reasons for this is that I've switched my focus from running the quick times in the 1990s to running considerable distances across various countries of the world. 

You could add age as a reason too but I think the main reason for getting slower, however, is the fact that I spend most of the time being overweight. I tend to gain weight then lose it over a two year period. Each time, though, I gain a little more and lose a little less. 

I simply love food and have very little discipline with it or accountability. A bacon sandwich here and a chocolate bar there all adds up over time. When you're doing that seven days a week it becomes habit and I've often felt like I've been fighting a losing battle. 

The image on the left below was taken on day three of the run across the USA in California. I was 18.5 stones (117.5 kg) and my body fat was a whopping 32%. Fast forward to day 100 in New York and my weight was down to 13.5 stone (87.7 kg) with body fat at 5.8%. To say that I was lean and mean by the time I finished the run across the USA was an understatement. There was similar weight loss when I ran across Australia in 2013 and Europe in 2016.

Running across a continent is not a sustainable way to lose weight and when I get back to normal life the weight soon goes back on as I've already mentioned.

I've often wondered if it would be possible for me to reverse the trend of running slower as I get older. With that in mind, now is the right time to announce my next running "project"; RUNSUB17

The aim of RUNSUB17 is "simply" to try and beat my three mile personal best set in 1994. It was set on a simple loop around Washington where I used to live. The miles were done in 00:05:29, 00:05:31  and 00:06:00 to give a time of exactly 17 minutes.

I'm going to give myself 12 months to try and achieve the target with an attempt to crack 17 minutes to be done on the weekend of 8th/9th August 2020.

At the time of writing, I don't believe it will be possible for me to be successful at this. That might sound really negative but perhaps, I'll gain some belief as the months go on. For now, though, I feel like I don't stand a chance at this.

The real aim of RUNSUB17 is to try and do absolutely everything possible to give myself the best chance of running 3 miles in less than 17 minutes. As long as I do that, I'll consider the project a huge success. I'd be able to start stage six of the run around the world 8 months later in great shape and with a lot of confidence. 

You'll be able to follow a weekly blog on with regular updates on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the #runsub17 hash tag. Watch out for the first blog update next weekend.

So that's my focus over the next 12 months. I hope you enjoy following the journey and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday 12 May 2019


I've had a really nice rest since stage five of the run around the world finished last Summer. This period has seen probably the least amount of miles that I've ever done since first putting on my running shoes back in 1993.

It's been important for Donna and I to step away from it all for a short time in order to come back with greater focus and determination. Training for stage six will begin in August 2019. That will give me approximately 21 months before the 2100 mile run starts from Kiev, Ukraine to Nur Sultan (formerly Astana) in Kazakhstan.

I'm still working on an exact start date for stage six with numerous factors to take into account such as my employment situation, gaining enough commercial backing and the date of my 50th birthday!

I've thought a lot recently about my approach to the next stage. I'm absolutely certain that, for this campaign to be a success, I need to work as hard as I did during the build up to the run across the USA. Specifically, before I broke my ankle in May 2010. The period of training from January 2009 up to my accident 17 months later was very consistent, it was very tough and that schedule was absolutely relentless.

Since the USA campaign, I have never been able to reach those heights in training due to the focus needing to be on the amount of planning and logistics involved in subsequent campaigns across Australia, Europe and to Kiev.

I have the luxury this time of an already worked out detailed route from Kiev through Russia to Nur Sultan. That's going to save many man hours of planning. I also have the benefit of knowing what is involved in running unsupported with Chappie. The were some valuable lessons learned during stage five in 2018 which will be put to very good use in the future.

I'll be doing more work this time to ensure Chappie arrives safely and without any customs issues in Ukraine and then back again from Kazakhstan. Regular readers will remember how help from the British Embassy and a chance meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury was needed in Belgrade in order to get Chappie released from Serbian customs in 2018. I'll be doing all that I can to avoid that scenario again!

Time also needs to be spent finding the correct level of commercial sponsorship to make stage six worthwhile. Stage six will see the least amount of "tour costs" than any of the other non UK stages. There must be a significant amount of money though for St Benedict's Hospice. This is hugely important.

Given the experience gained in the past and work already undertaken, I'm convinced that there is enough time to devote to getting the required level of fitness to make stage six a success. It won't be easy and I feel that there will be little margin for error or complacency. It's going to take an unprecedented amount of effort and discipline to get to the start line looking like the athlete Run Geordie Run should be. I've failed at this more than I've succeeded in the past as the image below shows. 

My personal dream of raising at least half a million pounds for local good causes remains a very realistic one. The desire to repay the debt of gratitude to St Benedict's Hospice is as strong as it was in 1993.

The overall fund currently stands at £326,897.15. There are so many people to thank for making that possible. The generosity of so many has been incredible. Chances are that if you're reading this, then you are one of the many who have donated. Thank you!

As you can see from the image below, some donations have already been made this year. There is a very long way to go to reach the target of £50,000 that I've set for stage six. If you'd like to sponsor my efforts then please visit my Virgin Money Giving page here

Wednesday 9 January 2019

Team Run Geordie Run

Team Run Geordie Run was setup in 2010. Its sole purpose was to use the Run Geordie Run brand to attract people to raise funds for St. Benedict’s Hospice who otherwise would not do so by taking part in the Great North Run. 

For the first five years, runners who had secured their own place in the Great North Run made up the team. £7000 was raised for St. Benedict’s Hospice and subsequently The Children’s Foundation during this time. The average size of the team was five people who did very well to raise the sum that they did. 

It wasn’t until SOS Group got involved in 2015 that Team Run Geordie Run’s fundraising was taken to a whole new level. This was achieved by using a combination of charity places secured by The Children’s Foundation and a small sum of money provided by SOS Group to reduce the cost of entry and also provide a quality finish line goodie bag and commemorative t-shirt or vest. 
The reduced entry cost appealed to more runners than had shown interest in previous years. As a result, from 2015 – 2018, the average size of the team grew to 25.  £12,048.50 was raised in 2015 for The Children’s Foundation and SOS backing proved to be a huge success straight away. It seemed to be a classic case of “speculate to accumulate”.  

In 2016, the retention of some of the 2015 team together with some new runners saw £10,000 raised for The Children’s Foundation. SOS Group paid the entry fee for those high performing fundraisers in 2015 and this helped to continue the higher than average total raised per person. A slightly higher spend by SOS Group in 2016 saw the goodie bag contain a golden bottle of Prosecco. This helped commemorate the Olympic games of that year. Medals were also given out to the top three Team Run Geordie Run finishers.

Once again, SOS Group paid entry fees for high earning fundraisers in 2017. This saw an increased retention of runners from previous years as well as the highest number of new runners. 2017 was the biggest team to date and £18,684.10 was raised for The Children’s Foundation. This particular year saw four exceptional fundraisers raise £8,000 of the final amount between them.

The formula for success was repeated again in 2018. In line with the main Run Geordie Run campaign, it was St. Benedict’s Hospice who provided the Great North Run charity places this year. SOS Group helped to reduce the cost of entry fees to those people who signed up early. They also paid for the ever popular finish line goodie bag as well as the dashing Team Run Geordie Run commemorative t-shirts and vests. 2018 saw the highest average amount raised per person. With a slightly smaller team, £10,561.62 was raised.

It took Team Run Geordie Run five years to raise £7,000. Since SOS Group got involved, a further £51,294.22 has been raised over the last four years. This means that, to date, an amazing £58,294.22 has been raised for St Benedict’s Hospice and The Children’s Foundation by Team Run Geordie Run runners.

There is always a healthy pressure for Team Run Geordie Run to raise a five figure sum for local good causes these days. With the likes of SOS Group backing the project hopefully this will continue for years to come.