Endurance runner and charity fundraiser Mark ‘Run Geordie Run’ Allison will set off on the next leg of his Around the World challenge in May, with a vital and dedicated team of volunteers to support him.
The next segment of Mark’s incredible run is Lisbon, Portugal, to Istanbul, Turkey – 3,400 punishing miles across mountain ranges and international borders, sleeping in a motor home and facing a host of daily challenges.
Before he could even consider taking on this next run, Mark needed to secure a headline sponsor to help cover necessary travel expenses and increase charity fundraising opportunities.
He also needed to bring together a team of volunteers who both shared his vision and had the required skills and attitude to help him complete this difficult feat of endurance.
Fortunately, in meeting Team Valley-based office technology and services company, SOS Group Ltd., he found both a headline sponsor and a committed support team member in company Director, Andrew Skelton.
Mark, originally from Washington, then Shotley Bridge and now living in Bedlington, explains: “I first met Andrew and his fellow SOS Group directors at a student awards night where I was the guest speaker. They were very interested in my fundraising and how I was going about it and things just went from there.
“They’re a tremendous help. I’ve previously self-financed charity runs and it’s a huge strain. To have a company come in and take that load off me, when there’s already so much preparation, training and planning required, is simply fantastic.”
SOS Group’s support for Mark’s charity efforts go far beyond financial support. Director Andrew Skelton, 46 from Newcastle, was so inspired by the Around the World Run challenge that he decided to get more personally involved and join the Support Team in Europe.
The father of three is the first to admit he needed to make some lifestyle changes. Working long hours and travelling meant healthy eating and exercise had taken a back seat for too long.
Getting fit to join the Support Team and join Mark on the road is now motivating Andrew to lose weight and he is working hard with both David Fairlamb Fitness and Mineral House, the luxury gym within Newcastle’s new Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Andrew says: “I was as heavy as 19 stones last year and talking to Mark, hearing about his plans was inspirational for me.
“I’ve already lost two and half stones and I’m working hard to lose more. I ran the Great North Run for the first time in 27 years last year and my aim is not only to be fit enough to provide support to Mark on the road, the driving, cooking etc, but to also run with him when he needs it.
“To be able to run five or six miles with him over the course of a day would be a great thing for me and I hope having company will help him too.”
Andrew is joining Mark twice over the course of the Europe run, for nine days starting in Vigo, Spain, and for eight days starting in Belgrade.
Mineral House have kindly offered their support to Andrew at no cost and Susan Hall, spa and leisure manager, says: “We are delighted to support Andrew in his quest to get fit for such a fantastic course.”
Like Mark, the Run Geordie Run Support Team consists entirely of unpaid volunteers who are taking time off work to join the challenge. Paying for their own travel expenses, they will accompany and support Mark each day, helping him cope with the physical and mental pressures and providing vital encouragement as the miles take their toll.
Mark’s Around the World Run is the continuation of previous charity runs down the UK and across the USA and Australia and he is raising money for two chosen charities, The Children’s Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Generous commercial sponsors, including SOS Group Ltd, are enabling Mark to raise additional charity funds through t-shirt sales and events, while sports therapists, fitness instructors and training partners are helping ensure he is preparing himself correctly for the tough challenge that lies ahead.
Sponsors are also helping kit Mark out with the specialist equipment, dietary supplements and footwear required
In addition to headline sponsor SOS Group Ltd, Mark is receiving support from Fresh Freight Group, Chapman Ventilation, Cherry Active, Virgin Money and Sport Newcastle.
It will take Mark until at least 2022 to finish the Round the World challenge and he will have to do it in eight segments as family life, work and finances permit.
He will need to cover a total of 20,000 miles, over four continents and through 23 countries and it will take him approximately 608 days (1 year and 243 days) to complete.
His challenge began, although he didn’t know it at that time, with his John O’Groats to Land’s End 874 mile run in 2007. He has also already ‘ticked off’ the USA (2011) and Australia (2013), 3,100 miles and 2,384 miles respectively, but still has approximately 13,642 miles to go.
The European leg brings its own set of challenges, not least running through 14 different countries. Mark will begin on 1 May in Lisbon, Portugal, and will finish 100 days and 3,400 miles later in Istanbul, Turkey, on 8 August. The run is 300 miles longer than the USA and will be completed in the same number of days.
The chosen route passes through Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
It includes both the Pyrenees and the Alps and will take in many huge climbs including the Stelvio Pass (9,045 feet) in the Italian Alps. It is a huge step up from his previous runs in terms of distance and elevation and, as well as mental, physical and logistical difficulties, there will be language and cultural barriers to overcome.
After Europe, Mark will tackle the Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan leg (2018), then China (2020), Japan (2021) and New Zealand (2022) – all timings are approximate and dependent on Mark’s circumstances.
For more information about Run Geordie Run Around the World please visit www.rungeordierun.com and follow Mark on Twitter @RunGeordieRun.
If you would like to donate to the two charities, The Children’s Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.