Laying the foundation for 2011: Mark Allison

Some of us start the new year with goals for 2010.  Others of us look at 2010 as a year to lay the Foundation for the future.  For me, one of the most inspiring stories I’ve read about when it comes to plans for a physical adventure for charity in the future has got to be the story of Mark Allison, Mr. RunGeordieRun.  For those of you not from the UK, Geordie means, in colloquial British English, someone from the area around Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or the northeast of England. 

I first came across Mark on Twitter.  It is not everyday you come across someone who is planning to run a continent.  Reading his story is impressive – he has already run from the north to the south of the UK, and in addition to the 2011 run across the US, he also hosts regular Sunday 6 bridges runs in Newcastle.  And… he’s doing this all to raise money for charity.  His current plans exceed my own physical abilities, but they inspire me nonetheless. 

Pictured in my RunGeordieRun shirt at Tuesday swim fitness
I hope you will join me in supporting Mark and Run Geordie Run.
DD: First you ran the length of the UK… Now you are planning to run across the US… Some people would say this is crazy! What has motivated you?The primary motivation for the USA 2011 run, as with all of my previous sponsored runs, is to raise funds for local charities. I find it remarkable that so many kind people are willing to contribute to charity as a result of me putting one foot in front of the other a few million times. It’s a great process when you think about it in it’s simplest terms! My run across the USA is being done under the brand RUN GEORDIE RUN. I’m an immensely proud Geordie and having the chance to be an ambassador for the North East region is also a motivating factor.

DD: What was the toughest moment of your run across the UK? 

This is an easy one. Running with shin splints and a pulled hamstring for 8 days through the English/Scottish Border region and into the Pennines was sheer agony. By rights I should have given up. I was in absolute agony. However, with so much sponsor money riding on my success and the amount of support and encouragement I got, I just kept going. 500 miles into the run and these symptoms disappeared and I got stronger each day after that. The rest, as they say, is history.

DD: Have you always been a runner? 

Not always. I started running in the winter of 1993 at the age of 21. I’ve got no idea why I started running. I just did. The first sponsored event I did was in 1994 just before my Mam died. Looking back, I’m so pleased that she got to stand at the finish line of a few runs to see me right at the start of my running “career”. Ever since then I’ve had the desire to run further and further, pushing the boundaries each time. I can still remember that first 3 mile run at 6 in the morning through the snow.

It is, indeed, true that “The longest of journeys start with the smallest of steps”.
DD: What about the run across the US – what has been the hardest part of the preparations so far?

Again, another easy question. The hardest aspect of the preparations so far has without doubt been eating the right kinds of food in the correct quantity. While I’ve been very happy with the running I’ve done so far, I’ve been far from happy with the nutritional side of things. This is something I must put right over the remaining training months. It’s a massive learning curve and I’ve struggled so far to apply the right amount of discipline and planning. It’s not been unusual during a 90 mile week in training for me to binge on 20 – 30 chocolate bars!DD: What is the route you will do?

The route starts in Huntington Beach, California and ends in New York City. I will be running through a total of 15 states. The runs takes in unforgiving heat in the Mojave Desert and relentless climbs in the Rocky mountains with a summit of 11,307 ft (Berthoud pass). A high level route can be viewed here.
DD: What do you friends and family think about the RunGeordieRun challenge 2011?

The majority of people are in awe of the task that lies ahead and my wife Katy and son Jack are very proud of what I’m trying to achieve. There are, however, a minority who think that I’m wasting my time and that I won’t succeed. I’ve heard it all before when I ran from John O’Groats to Lands End. I value their negative opinion as much as the positive ones as this makes me more determined to succeed.
DD: How about the charity piece of the puzzle? Which causes do you support?

The 2 charities I raise funds for are St Benedict’s Hospice and The Children’s Foundation.DD: How did you choose St Benedicts and the Children’s Foundation?

St Benedict’s Hospice (Charity No. 1019410), cared for my Mam during her final days battling cancer in 1995. Ever since then, I have tried to repay the debt of gratitude I feel towards the Hospice and the staff. I have a young family myself and I’m very proud to contribute to The Children’s Foundation (Charity No. 1000013). They care for the health and wellbeing of so many children in the North East. It is estimated that, last year, the charity touched the lives of over 90,000 children.DD: How much money have you raised for the charities so far, and what is your goal with your 2011 run?

Since 1994, I’ve raised over £50,000 for St Benedict’s Hospice. Since 2008, I’ve raised just over £5,000 for The Children’s Foundation. I’m not normally one for setting fundraising goals but an event of this magnitude has to have one. Given that £34,108 was raised during my last run from John O’Groats to Lands End in 2007, the USA 2011 run has a fundraising target of £50,000 (£25,000 for each charity). It’s a massive target and with the help of so many generous people out there it’s one I’m confident of achieving.DD: For those interested in showing their support to you, how can they donate?

I have a page for each charity on the popular site. They are and As well as traditional pledges, I also have t-shirts and a specially written and recorded CD for sale. Details on how to purchase these can be found at The full amount for the sale of these items go to the 2 charities.DD: For those interested in charity fundraising, do you have any tips that you could share?

The main tip is to be shameless in your fundraising. And by that I mean don’t be afraid of asking as many people as you can to sponsor you and don’t be too shy about it. If the event and charity are worthy of sponsorship then, in my experience people, are usually more than happy to donate. DD: And finally, what goes through your head during the toughmoments? Any particular song, mantra, or motivating thought you could share with us?

There are many things which I call upon during the tough moments. The obvious one is music and I have an armoury of tunes to pull me through the dark times!A favourite trick of mine is to think of the headlines in my mind for my next blog post. The second part of this is to perform the necessary actions required to make those headlines a reality.

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