Epic runs bring in huge charity sums

Mark Allison
Mark Allison

Mark Allison, of ‘Run, Geordie, Run’, runs all over the world to raise money for charity. He talked to Morpeth Rotary about what he has done and what he plans.

He first came across Rotary in 1982 when he was part of the public speaking team at Oxclose School, Washington, which was organised by the Rotary Club of Washington.

His father died in 1988 and his mother died in 1995 of lung cancer. They had been smokers. He started running out of grief and to raise money in gratitude for the support and dignity given to his parents by St Benedict’s Hospice in Sunderland.

Aged 23, he was not a runner. For him to run three miles would be as difficult as running to the North Pole for a fit person. Later that year he got a place in the Great North Run and raised £200 for the hospice.

The following year he raised £300. A year later he got into the London Marathon and raised £500. He went on to the New York Marathon and raised £1,000.

He felt he had the capacity to go on raising money and decided on running across Britain, from Whitehaven to the hospice in Sunderland. It took seven days, running 20 miles each day. The following year he managed it in five days.

There was a run along the Roman Wall of three days, covering 84 miles, dressed as a Roman Soldier, which raised £4,000.

After ten years of running, Mark decided to have a year of rest in 2006.

After some thought he wanted to go for some big money and in 2007 began to plan a run from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. He provided photos and a daily diary, took 34 days and made £34,000, with the help of the Newcastle Supporter’s website. Half the money came from there.

The next step was to run across America, so began three years of training, planning and raising money.

In 2010, a year before he was due to set off, he fell off his bike and broke his ankle. He was told he should not do the run, but set off from Huntington Beach, California on May 1, 2011, with a plan to run 3,100 miles at 31 miles a day to Coney Island, New York.

By day 23 he was at the top of Arizona and a week behind schedule. He had a support team following in a motorhome, which was a real help when crossing the Mojave Desert.

He came to love the sight of freight trains 200 wagons long, and was surprised at the poverty on the edges of some of America’s most prosperous cities.

There were obstacles, including getting caught up in a police drugs raid, being chased by dogs, and finding that the road and scenery barely changed for hundreds of miles. He sometimes ran at altitudes of 6,000ft to 11,000ft, which was hard work and gave him headaches.

Money was raised for the hospice and the Children’s Foundation at the RVI. Mark updated his followers with a daily blog and photos, and used the name ‘Run Geordie Run’ for the first time. There was incredible support, with 10,000 people on Twitter.

At day 42 he was two weeks behind. He ran over the Berthoud Pass at 11,300ft, into Denver at 6,000ft. It had been one of the hottest summers ever in the US.

He had a target to complete the run in 100 days. On the last day he got two hours sleep and had to run 60 miles from New Jersey to Manhattan. He got to a point where he thought he was losing his mind and would never make it when at 48th Street he was met by ten Brits running in Newcastle United shirts and all became well.

He completed it in 100 days, with 60 minutes to spare. He had wanted to raise £60,000, but the final figure was £105,000. He used nine pairs of trainers, with the help of a US shoe company.

His next plan was to run across Australia in 2013, so he began to gather sponsorship from North East companies. Australia was to be 2,342 miles in 82 days, starting on the west coast at Cottesloe Beach, Perth, to Shell Beach, south of Sydney. He wanted to raise £50,000, but got £55,000.

The middle bit was horrendous. He got permanently damaged feet, there were lots of flies, and he appeared to be making no progress as there was no obvious change of scenery. It took ten days longer than expected.

In 2014 he announced his dream of running around the world. He started at Lisbon beach, then to northern Spain and the Pyrenees, across France to the Alps. The plan was to get to Italy by day 60 and on to Istanbul and the threat of terror attacks.

So far he has done 9,000 miles and has 11,000 to go. He will no longer have a support team and a motor home is not viable. Next year he will continue through Belgrade to Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Astana in Kazakhstan, then China, but speaks no foreign languages. He will pull a buggy to sleep in. He has yet to sign off his plan with the charities as being acceptable and safe.

In 2018 he plans to do 3,000 miles to Astana, and two years after that cross China to Shanghai. The year after, he will run across Japan and New Zealand to complete the 20,000-mile trip.

Mark works for Virgin Money in Gosforth, but gives up work for each run.

In total he has raised £276,000 for North East charities, with a target of £500,000.

Members found his achievements astounding and developed tired feet just listening. He said he enjoyed the adrenaline, how special it was to relive the adventures in his mind, and how great it felt to raise so much money for his favourite charities.