Where did it all start for Run Geordie Run?
It all started in 1994 when my mother was being treated for lung cancer in 1994 at St Benedict’s Hospice. She sadly died later that year. I just felt that I had to do something to repay the hospice for all the hard work they’d done. Initially, I just wanted to run around the block without stopping. Then I thought about running to work which was about eight and half miles. At the time I thought that was going to be hell.
Where does this passion for long distance running come from?
I wouldn’t call it a passion, but the thing that spurs me on is the thought of what my running is doing to benefit the charities involved and how much is being raised. I began raising money for St Benedict’s through events such as the Great North Run, then the London Marathon and the New York Marathon. Then I decided to take the step up and do the Coast to Coast and it’s just grown from there really. I’d always wanted to do John O’Groats to Lands End, so that was the next step.
Where do the projects come from?
It’s all been about taking it to the next step, upping the ante so to speak. Once I did the length of the country I knew that the next thing had to be to run across America.
“Geordies wear their heart on the sleeve. They’re very proud of what they do.”
Did you ever think Run Geordie Run would become this big?
Yes, I really did. Before I set up the brand and I ran the John O’Groats – Lands Ends route I was just texting people I knew who could help me out and I got a great response. When it came to running across America I knew coming up with a brand name would gain more attention and support. The name comes from Forrest Gump and its connection to the US. I was up until the early hours of the morning in the US updating the blog and tweeting to get more people involved. Twitter was really taking off then so I was getting more and more support when people started to spread the word, which was great. This time around in Australia, I’m going to take people on the journey more with the blog, with more personal entries and posts on how it’s affecting me, to show everyone the day-by-day progress.
How do you keep yourself motivated on such long runs?
I’m motivated by the money that’s being raised. The miles are nothing. From one mile, to five, to ten and twenty is the easy part. I’ve got so much gratitude for St Benedict’s and all of the other charities I support; it’s all about repaying my debt to them for the fantastic help they provide. I’d say when I start the runs about 80% of it is physical and 20% is mental toughness. Towards the end it switches. My legs could barely carry me, but I had to keep pushing on, using the motivation of the fundraising to get to that finish line. The relief of finishing with that type of motivation is just phenomenal.
How is your fitness ahead of the run across Australia?
It’s taken a long time to recover from the US run. I’m getting old as a runner and it’s taking a toll, I’m still recovering from it now. The 2 year anniversary since the start of it is May 1st, and I’m still carrying those miles in my legs. I’ve been working with David Fairlamb, not only on my fitness but we’ve been talking a lot and trying to address my worries ahead of the run across Australia. I have to make sure that all my targets are spot on, I can’t risk messing up the timetable and dates with all the support I’ve got and with the support team in place. My confidence has been poor in comparison to the trek across America. The step up of 31 miles to 41 has knocked my morale.
What boost does running with Geordies on these events give you?
With all the Newcastle fans helping me along the way in America for the last 13 or so miles, it was an absolute breeze. When I reached Manhattan it was a doddle. I was running alongside several blokes who I’d never met before in my life, talking about football and what was happening back home. Before then I knew I was close, but with them I knew I could do it. They were an invaluable boost. I’ve already had people contact me about meeting up in Australia. With so many ex-pats out there that’s going to give me a similar boost.
Finally Mark, how has it changed your life?
It’s all had a big impact on me. It keeps on spurring me on to do these events and raise these crazy sums of money. I don’t take any of it for granted and really appreciate what I’ve got.