Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Run Breeze Socks

Over the years I've had lots of offers to try pieces of running kit and various nutritional, medicinal and recovery products from a whole host of different companies. Of course, I'm very grateful for any assistance offered but usually end up declining the various company's kind offers. I have quite a strict kit list and see no need to break a winning formula. I'm referring to the likes of Brooks Glycerin shoes, Adidas Power Web base layers, Cherry Active and Oakley Jawbone Sunglasses.

From time to time, I get an offer of a very interesting product which could threaten to break into my set kit list. I had such an offer back in April 2012 when Run Breeze got in touch. I discovered that they were a very young company set up by some friends who attended Loughborough University and shared a passion for running.

Run Breeze are primarily a "specialist running sock company" which is now expanding to include a running clothing and accessories range. The product that they said that could be of use to me was their "Anti Blister" sock (pictured below). Regular readers of this blog will know the terrible issues that I had with blisters at the start and end of the run across the USA. With that in mind, I was replying to Run Breeze's email as soon as I saw the words "We would love to be able to provide you with a blister-free experience!".

I've been trialling the socks below for 6 months now and feel that now is the right time to write about them. I've been using the Run Breeze compression socks (for recovery), light weight socks (for races up to 5k) and cushioning socks (for training runs up to 15 miles). They have all performed very well indeed and I could easily devote a blog to each type of product. It's the anti blister sock (pictured below) that I'll concentrate on. Being dual layer, they are a kind of sock within a sock.

The first thing that struck me about the socks was that they were my favourite colour. That's a great start! Down to the serious stuff though. I first tried the socks on a 33 mile training run over various kinds of terrain and elevation in the North Pennines. The thing that hits you straight away is just how comfortable they are. I remember the same feeling when I put on a pair of Brooks running shoes for the first time. That comfort applies to all of the other kinds of socks I tried too, by the way, not just the anti blister socks. It's quite a difficult thing to gauge but I felt that the comfort was maintained throughout that first run. On that particular run, I was suffering in other areas and the last thing on my mind was how comfortable my socks were! 

Other test runs of note were 37 x 1 mile laps around Newcastle Quayside and the 14 mile mostly off road Coastal Run. I've got to admit that I don't get blisters easily. It's usually big day in day out mileage, especially in hot temperatures where I sweat buckets, when I would expect to get blisters.

With that in mind I put the anti blister socks to the test in a 78 mile training run spread over 2 days in September in Death Valley, California. As temperatures hit 114 degrees Fahrenheit, yet again, thinking about just how comfortable my socks were was most definitely the last thing on my mind. Pure survival was what that run was all about. 

Based on my previous experience of running through the Mojave Desert and then the eastern part of the USA during the heatwave of Summer 2011, I was expecting to have one or two minor blisters at the end of the first day's 41 miles in Death Valley. Surprisingly, there wasn't a single blister to report. It was almost the same at the end of the second day's 37 miles. There wasn't a single blister on my left foot and only a very minor friction mark on the little toe of my right foot. Not bad at all for 78 of the toughest miles I've ever run! 

Despite the scorching temperatures, I was far drier in Death Valley that I had expected to be. That lack of moisture may have been a contributing factor to the lack of blisters. Either way, this run concluded a successful series of tests of the Run Breeze anti blister socks.  I've now added Run Breeze socks to my kit list for Australia 2013.

If I were to hazard a guess, given my type of running, I'd say that each pair of the anti blister socks would last anywhere between 300 and 400 miles. I have other types of socks that wash better but the strength of these socks lies in comfort and performance. And by "wash better" I mean that some of the pairs of Run Breeze socks that have done the most miles have very minor bobbling present. When I'm running across Australia with very few or even no blisters I'll not care one jot about how well the socks wash! That said, I really don't think for one moment think that running 41 miles per day for 70 days next year is going to be a blister free experience. I am confident that the number and severity of those blisters will be helped by wearing Run Breeze anti blister socks.

I've been as honest and impartial as I can in this review and it should be noted that Run Breeze will be supplying socks for the run across Australia in return for this review on my website. Last week, I cheekily asked them for a bit more out of our deal and they have agreed to donate 20% of all sales (when code "RUNGEORDIERUN" is used) to The Children's Foundation (Charity No. 1000013).  That 20% can be used for everything on the website; socks and other clothing. That is a fantastic gesture and I'm very grateful for the lads at Run Breeze for their generosity.

Click here to see the Run Breeze range of socks. Please don't forget to use code "RUNGEORDIERUN" at the checkout and 20% of the sale will be donated to The Children's Foundation.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Everybody needs good "Neigh" bours!

In 2012, Team Run Geordie Run's efforts in aid of The Children's Foundation have involved participation in The Great North Run, Mini Great North Run, Junior Great North Run and Edinburgh Half Marathon. £2761.09 has been raised which is a tremendous effort.

This weekend will see Team Run Geordie Run's Craig Bowes run the Melbourne Marathon. Craig, originally from Crook, County Durham, moved to Melbourne 2 years ago and up until then was a regular runner in the Great North Run. In recent years, he has stepped up to a full marathon and is pictured below at the end of the Paris Marathon in 2009.

Sunday's race will be Craig's 3rd consecutive Melbourne Marathon and despite, now, living on foreign shores the exiled Geordie felt compelled to raise funds for a charity in his native North East . I'll let Craig explain: "Having raised money for an Australian charity last time around I thought it was time to return home, which is why I’m now trying to raise money for the Children’s Foundation in Newcastle. I feel honoured to be running as part of the Run Geordie Run team and will do my small bit to raise as much sponsorship as possible for this very worthy cause.".

Running a marathon is difficult in itself but Craig is considering wearing a bit of extreme fancy dress after he was pictured in the local paper last week. That's Craig below wearing a horses head during the 2011 City2Sea event in Melbourne!

Best of luck Craig and well done so far on already exceeding your sponsorship target for The Children's Foundation. I'm sure there's more to come. Especially if you run all 26.2 miles in the Horse's Head. If you would like to sponsor Craig then please visit www.justgiving.com/craig-bowes.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

More Team Run Geordie Run

Last week's Team Run Geordie Run total for the Great North Run in aid of The Children's continues to grow as the task of collecting in sponsor money nears a close. The current total is £1,559.60 with an impressive £2744.59 raised so far in 2012.

For me, last week's run got underway with a interview on BBC Newcastle with the lovely Sue Sweeney. I've spoken to Sue a few times before and was in the studio with her in the run up to USA 2011. Her enthusiasm is always infectious on the radio and she really helps to convey the atmosphere of an event to listeners the world over.

Following the interview it took my guide (Dorothy aka Donna) quite a long time to get to the back of the start area. Given the fact that I was running dressed as a Lion, I thought that it would be a good idea to start as far back as possible. The suit has very poor visibility and the last thing I wanted was to cause an obstruction to the faster runners.

The heat generated inside the suit was suffocating. That said, I didn't suffer as much as I had while training in the suit. I think the recent run through Death Valley may have helped! As you can see from the image below, I had plenty of room and the late start paid off. 

I was pleased to have the opportunity to get some fresh air when I stopped at the 6 mile point to talk to the ITV Tyne Tees reporter Derek Proud. The interview was shown on North East Tonight the following day. I was thrilled to see that they'd chosen the lion as the backdrop in the studio (pictured below).

Dorothy (Donna) and I completed the Great North Run in 03:19:58. It was easily the toughest hard marathon I'd ever done! A pleasing £54.10 had been collected in the bucket on the way round too. 

Donna raised £223 which is another excellent fundraising effort from a Team Run Geordie Run member.

I'm already looking forward to next year's Great North Run. As yet, I'm undecided what costume I'll be wearing but I will be doing it in fancy dress. I'm not normally one for gimmicks while running but I actually found it a lot of fun! 

And now for further news of some of the other members of Team Run Geordie Run. First up is Mick Butler (pictured below) who ran the Great North Run in a time of 02:00:12. Mick's fundraising this year is an amazing £999.99. Tremendous effort Mick. I'm sure Mick won't mind me telling you that he had to swap his original Team Run Geordie Run vest for a "different" size. For a small donation to The Children's Foundation, I'll tell anyone if he needed a bigger or smaller size! 

My son Jack (pictured below) ran the Junior Great North Run the day before the main run. I accompanied him round the 4k course and he completed it in 00:26:56. Jack raised £50 and is keen to do further events in the future. Well done Jack.

Sara Sarginson raised £161 and completed her very first Great North run in 02:26:52. Her build up to the run was hampered with injury and I know that she'll be keen to run much faster this weekend when she does the Redcar Half Marathon. Sara can often be seen running with her pet Beagle, Murphy. She keeps an excellent blog which can be viewed here. Well done Sara. 

Mark Douthwaite and Kathryn Clark (pictured below) raised £110 and £50 respectively. Mark completed the run in 02:31:31. Kathryn's time was 03:02:27. It was great to catch up with them both in The Children's Foundation tent at the end of the run. Well done to you both.

Finally in this Team Run Geordie Run update, is Garry Dodd (pictured below) who completed the run in 01:38:28. This was Garry's 14th Great North Run and he raised £125 for The Children's Foundation. That's a great effort on both the fundraising and the race time. Well done Garry.

Team Run Geordie Run's total for the Great North Run currently stands at £1,714.60. Overall, in 2012 a huge £2,949.59 has been raised for The Children's Foundation. Well done again to all concerned.

Thanks again to Benfield Motor Group for supplying the Team Run Geordie Run vests and to Dave Shenton of Shenton Creative for designing them.

Thanks from Anne Oliver

I received a nice email from Anne Oliver (pictured below) the retired fundraising co-ordinator at St Benedict's Hospice this week. 

"Hi Mark, 

I heard that you were no longer raising funds for the hospice and I just wanted to thank you for all that you have done during the last 18 years. Your committment over the years is to be admired and you certainly raised the profile of St Benedict's and have been exceptional not only for the hospice but also in your personal achievements. 

I have many happy memories of those early years and still have some of the photographs. I am still fundraising, but voluntary, and as I have fundraised all my life (for my church, the Girl Guides, Macmillan and the hospice) I don't intend stopping now. At the moment I am a Trustee for the Bubble Foundation which is at the Newcastle Children's Hospital. 

It would be nice to hear from you occasionally as I am still interested in your progress but for me you are still that young lad with the quiet voice who came to the Washington shop for a tee shirt. Happy days. 

Anne Oliver"

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Response from Lady Elsie Robson

Shortly after I announced on rungeordierun.com that I would be raising funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Lady Elsie Robson had the following kind words to say "We’re very pleased Mark has chosen to raise funds in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation with his run across Australia. 

Mark’s raised a huge amount of money for charity over the years and has already supported our Foundation. He was kind enough to give a motivational speech to our Great North Runners last year and is helping Robbie Elliott with his Bike For Bobby challenge. 

He’s set himself a very great challenge with this run but we have every faith in his abilities and know how committed he is. Unfortunately he’s someone who knows the pain of losing loved ones to cancer and we know how determined he is to succeed. 

We look forward to getting more involved and finding out more about Australia as the months go on.

A change of tactics

Little did I realise that a motivational talk I gave 12 months ago would end up having a significant effect on my future plans as a fundraiser. Last year, I was asked to talk to the runners that were taking part in the Great North Run in aid of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I was only happy to share my experiences of the run across the USA and I hope that I motivated and inspired the runners to run fast and raise lots of money for such a worthy cause.

After my speech, I took the opportunity to talk to Lady Elsie Robson and her family including her son Mark (pictured below). I was very keen to find out more about The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the role it plays in tackling the treatment of of cancer. I left the talk feeling, not only, very well informed but very inspired too. 

I particularly liked how the Foundation was set up as a fund within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The administrative costs therefore, are very low indeed. No professional fundraisers are employed to raise funds or co-ordinate volunteers. The Foundation relies completely on third party and volunteer fundraisers. I believe that it was Sit Bobby's wish that it be set up this way. What an amazing legacy to leave in place for the benefit of the North East and Cumbria.

Like the other charity I raise funds for (The Children's Foundation), I really liked the fact that, despite being based in Newcastle, it reached so many people further afield. 

Having lost both of my parents to lung cancer, this terrible disease and it's treatment has a significant meaning to me personally. I was only 17 when my Dad died in 1988 and 23 when my Mam died in 1995. I was extremely close to both of my parents and to have them taken from me so soon is such a cruel thing that I think about every single day. I could talk about and dwell on this aspect of my life for hours if I had to. Some days I feel very angry and some days I feel incredibly sad. Most days, however, I feel very grateful to St Benedict's Hospice in Sunderland for giving my Mam a dignified and comfortable end to her life. It is a debt of gratitude that I will never be able to fully repay. I feel very proud, as I'm sure my parents would have, that, thanks to so many people's generousity, I've managed to raise over £100,000 for the Hospice since 1994.  

Last week after seeing the news that Lady Elsie Robson open the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation PET Tracer Production Unit at Newcastle University I decided to act upon feelings that I'd had since the talk I gave last year. I really feel overwhelmingly drawn to what I see as the "treatment of cancer through trial and research".

After looking at a few other charities, I realised that my fundraising heart was already with The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. I have therefore decided after many months of careful thought and consideration to cease fundraising for St Benedict's Hospice and concentrate all of my fundraising efforts in aid of The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children's Foundation.

For me, this is nowabout helping to raise funds to allow the experts to find a cure for this terrible disease. A cure that may, indeed, have saved my parents lives had it been found.

As an ambassador and fundraiser for The Children's Foundation, I feel equally as strong about raising funds to help ensure the happiness, health and safety of so many children in our region. This "vision" is, of course, delivered through the many projects that are funded by the charity.

I've now got Lady Elsie Robson's (pictured below) words permanently in my mind - "Bob always said 'when' not 'if' we beat cancer.".

It may take many generations to beat the disease. The generation that currently exists right here and right now can really play their part in the fight against cancer. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is one of many such charities that are fighting the disease through trial and research in our world. It has a huge part to play in this ongoing battle. To quote Lady Elsie again "by pulling together we will continue to play a significant part  in the fight against this disease.".

I visited the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre yesterday and heard about future plans as well as the 93 ongoing clinical trials. I can say that the future plans are very exciting as well as very ambitious. For the first time in my family's 24 year association with cancer I genuinely believe that the good that comes from the centre is going to greatly advance mankind's knowledge in the effective diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The purchase of the Biomarker Generator, that was in the news last week, is testament to that. It's only the second of it's type in the world and the first in Europe.

I informed St Benedict's Hospice of my plans yesterday and received a lovely and very understanding response "….. obviously very saddened by your decision, but we are extremely grateful for your total and utter commitment to St. Benedict's Hospice for a great many years. 

Everyone here in the fundraising office wish you well and good luck in your challenge and please keep in touch - we'd love you to visit the new Hospice when it opens in the spring; after all its people like you that have made it possible! 

Once again, Mark, thank you so much.!".

I'll miss dealing with all of the fundraising staff at the Hospice and will look fondly back on the time I spent with Anne Oliver (pictured below with Denise Robertson and myself) over the years.

It's now time to look forward and focus very strongly on a successful 2600 mile run across Australia. Like the run from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007 and the run across the USA in 2011 it's going to take a lot of dedication, planning, support and an ounce of luck here and there to make it as successful as previous campaigns.

With a renewed fundraising focus I am as determined, if not more so, as previous years to do my bit to warrant the general public's generousity. That "bit" just so happens to involve running across some of the world's most inhospitable terrain. As ever, it promises to be quite an adventure. Stay tuned over the next 15 months to see how it all pans out.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Team Run Geordie Run - Great North Run 2012

Last Sunday saw Team Run Geordie Run's 3rd year competing in the Bupa Great North Run. I've had contact with some of the team since the finish and I'm very pleased to report that, so far, £1520.60 has been raised in aid of The Children's Foundation. The charity were on hand at the finish line to offer snacks, drinks and a brilliant physio. It was very good of them to allow the Team Run Geordie Run runners access to their tent. I know from talking to some of the team that this was really appreciated.

Despite the ongoing collection of sponsor money, I'm in a position to highlight a few of the team's fundraising contributions so far. I've got to say that they look very fetching in the Team Run Geordie Run vests that were provided by Benfield and designed by Shenton Creative.

Claire Woodhead (pictured below) raised £112 and finished the run in 01:50:03 which was a new PB by 9 seconds. Brilliant!

Iain Richardson (pictured below) raised £283 and finished the run in 01:49:41 which was also a personal best. Iain said "I guess the incentive of running for a good cause makes a difference. Its been an honour to run for the team and I hope I can contribute further in the future.". Well done Iain.

Elliott Atkinson (pictured below) raised £152.50 with his participation in the Mini Great North Run. That is a fantastic amount for a 7 year old to raise. Elliot completed the run in around 9 minutes and he is "keen to do it again next year" according to his Mam Joanne. I've since heard that Elliott has tried out a local running club after being "bitten by the running bug". Watch out for this young man in the future and I'm sure that he will be standing on a podium in the future with his own pose. For now, he looks brilliant doing the Mo-Bot.

Erika Nergaard (pictured below) raised £110 and fulfilled a personal ambition by completing her first ever Great North Run. Despite having some injury problems in the lead up to the run which meant very little training was possible, Erika still managed to get round in 03:07:54. I think she stopped for a chat her and there too with some family and friends. Well done Erika. 

Nick Cotterill (pictured below) before and after he lost 5 stone this summer raised £258.10. Nick finished the run in 02:13:00 which was well inside his target of 02:15:00. Nick Said "I'm certainly not built for running even with 5 stones less of me! Not sure I'll be rushing to do it again!". I've since learned that Nick is due to run the Redcar Half Marathon in a few weeks time. Watch this space for news of Nick running a sub 2 hour half marathon some time soon. Well done Nick.

That's all for now. I'll highlight the rest of the teams' achievements later in the month.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Chapman Ventilation backing Sir Ranulph Fiennes

I was shocked and amazed this morning when I heard the news that Sir Ranulph Fiennes (pictured below with me a few stone heavier in 2010) was to lead a team on foot across Antarctica during it's winter next year. I've got a decent idea of temperatures around various places in the world at particular times of the year. I didn't realise, however, that it's going to be up to -90 degrees Celsius (and worse with the wind chill factor) during what is being dubbed as "The Coldest Journey.

What I was also pleasantly surprised with is that one of my sponsors for Australia 2013 is involved with Sir Ranulph's expedition. Chapman Ventilation together with their sister company Sirius Products  "designed, developed and fabricated stainless-steel sinks, urinals and glove racks for use throughout the expedition, all of which required significant planning and research in order to develop a product able to withstand such extreme conditions.".

It's brilliant to have a company like Chapman Ventilation in my corner. I'm also very grateful to Sirius Products for a very generous raffle prize donated recently to The Children's Foundation. 

I'm very much looking forward to watching Sir Ranulph's progress next year and I'm sure he'll add a tidy sum to the 15 million pounds he has already raised for charity over the years.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Wizard of Oz

My participation in tomorrow's Great North Run will be in fancy dress, in what seemed like a good idea at the time! I'm not normally one for novelty runs but a chance to push myself once again in extremely difficult and hot conditions seemed too good to turn down. My the end of the half marathon distance tomorrow I should have the answer to that all important eternal question - "Which is hotter? Running 78 miles through Death Valley or 13 miles in a lion outfit on Tyneside". 

To keep things remotely relevant, I'll be accompanied by my very own Dorothy (aka Donna Houghton). The very tenuous link being the Wizard of Oz (Austrailia). Do you see what I did there? 

I doubt very much that we'll be able to skip down that virtual 13.1 mile yellow brick road as I anticipate that the run will take up to 4 hours to complete. I'll also be weighed down by a hopefully heavy collection bucket for The Children's Foundation.

These were some of the words of wisdom from Team Run Geordie Run's Mick Butler "Wear it with Pride! Hopefully you'll not be too hot as it's going to be Mane-ly overcast. Straight to the cub for a beer". Kenny McPherson from Tyne Bridge Harriers added "I would be lion if I said I would ever run in that suit". Don't give up your day job lads!

If you do see us on anywhere on the route and happen to have some spare change then please feel free to throw it in The Children's Foundation collection bucket. Alternatively, please use the link below. Thanks so much in advance.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The final countdown

The diagram below shows exactly where I am in relation to finishing the run across the USA and starting the run across Australia. It's was a frightening moment when I realised today that tomorrow I'll  be closer to setting off from Perth than reaching New York. 

It was great to share this fact with Jonathan Morrell live on air on ABC radio in Australia this evening. It's the second time that I've been on his show this year and it was really nice to talk to a familiar voice after watching him on ITV and listening on Real Radio over the years.

I also caught up with personal trainer and mentor Dave Fairlamb this afternoon. We both know what needs to be done in the next 400 days to make the run across Australia a success. The real countdown to Australia 2013 starts now.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge - Completed

This is a quick blog post to say that the 78 mile Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge was successfully completed at 21:00 on Friday evening. I always thought it would be tough but nowhere near as tough as it turned out to be. The fight against dehydration and overheating was considerable and I almost came to, what I can only describe as physical shutdown on numerous occasions. Perhaps I was foolish to carry on but I got lucky and somehow managed to get to Jubilee Pass without major incident.

I took the above picture at mile 17 ish on day 1 where I started to feel very unwell. I was certain that the hovering bird was going to swoop down and have a bite at me! 

I'll write a full review of the run on my return to the UK. In the meantime, here are a selection of Tweets that I posted to give you an idea of what I've been through during the previous 48 hours.

  • 18 miles done. I've never ran in such hostile conditions. This is about pure survival now. 
  • I've stuck to a plan so far and each mile is different to the last. Felt very unwell at miles 4 and 17.
  • Drinking about a litre of fluid every 3/4 mile. Haven't had anything to eat yet. Zero appetite. 
  • Can't overstate just how dangerous a place #deathvalley is. I'm very close to overheating. 
  • Feelings of sickness come and go. Time to dig in. 
  • Finished day 1 of the @ChapmanVent #deathvalley Challenge after 13 hours and 41 miles of running. 
  • Most difficult day of running ever. Finished running in the dark and it was still 110 Fahrenheit. Drank approx 30 litres of fluid today. 
  • Finished with a headache, nausea and tingling fingers. It remains to be seen if I can safely manage day 2. 
  • Very sleepy now. Had nothing to eat all day, yet still feel like I've got plenty of energy. Very strange. 
  • Got a canny tan despite factor 70 sun cream. 
  • I've had some close calls in the past but had cause for major concern throughout today's running. Rarely have I been as worried. 
  • Going to try and eat something now and get some much needed sleep. It's no exaggeration when I say that I'm glad to be alive. 
  • Woke up feeling very sick with a huge headache. Tablets and back to bed for an hour. Looks like I'll be starting to run at 0800 today. 
  • Off to start day 2 of the @ChapmanVent #deathvalley Challenge. Only 37 miles to the finish line. Very anxious about running today. 
  • After 25 hours of running madness I finished the @ChapmanVent #deathvalley Challenge. Never again will I attempt something so stupidly dangerous. Until the next time! 
  • The temperature was hotter than yesterday. It's going to hit 117 F tomorrow! Today's 114 F was bad enough. 
  • Almost 25 litres of fluid consumed today. I almost gave up 5 times today. I am a broken man. 
  • Looking forward to running again in the very cool North East. 
  • Running across Australia is going to be a piece of cake compared to running through #deathvalley. 
  • Final reaction and summary is that if I was ever close to death then these last 2 days were it. Will blog full thoughts soon.
As you can see, I've had a very tough time of it. It's almost 24 hours since the end of the run and I still feel very much out of sorts. I can only describe it as if all of the nutrients have vanished from my body. It's nothing a few Californian burgers won't cure!

Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me. If you haven't yet and would like to do so, in aid of The Children's Foundation, then the link below can be used. Thanks in advance. Please bear in mind that I was very close to death when you sponsor me! Only joking. As ever, all donations, regardless of size are very greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Crikey! It's a bit warm!

I'm writing this blog post with only 12 hours to go before I start the Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge. I reached "base camp" in Death Valley during the afternoon today and was amazed at what 120 Degrees Fahrenheit feels like (See picture below taken at Furnace Creek). I have, of course, ran many 40 plus milers in and around the 115 Degrees Fahrenheit mark. That said, the various feelings and memories associated with that kind of temperature have long been forgotten. The resulting blisters and dead nerves are all healed nicely too. I'm sure all those memories will resurface tomorrow as I set off on a 41 mile section from Stovepipe Wells at sea level to Badwater Basin at 282 ft below sea level.

I've driven quite a few miles this afternoon checking out the route. The reconnisance mission's first stop was the start line at Stovepipe Wells (pictured below). Having watched James Cracknell's Race Across America and view this many times in Google Street View I felt as though I'd been here before. I'll be back here to start running at 0700 in the morning (that's 1500 in the UK).

There is absolutely no shelter on the route and I'm going to have to be very careful as the temperature is expected to peak at 120 Degrees Farenheit again. The image below will be my view at around the 5 mile point. I'll be able to see Furnace Creek from here some 20 miles in the distance. I find that having a reference point that far ahead can sometimes give a mental edge. 

Given the amazing scenery that will surround me there is going to be plenty of mental stimulus. To my left will be the Amargosa Range in the east and on my right will be the Panamint Range. 

The final straight on day 1 is shown below. If I've got the slightest scrap of energy left then I hope to push on past the 41 mile point and make it to the Badwater Basin tourist area.

I had a look at Badwater Basin this afternoon (pictured below). I was surprised at how windy it was. Normally, I would welcome any breeze when the temperature is so high. This wind, however, was like being blown by a very warm hair dryer! I could also compare it to the heat blast when you open an oven door. In a nutshell, any breeze here is going to be no help whatsoever.

So with day 1 of the route checked out, I've got to admit that I'm feeling even more apprehensive than I was this morning. The conditions are extremely dangerous here in Death Valley. A sensible approach is going to be needed tomorrow. Good hydration backed with a sensible pace should see be reach the finish line well before sun down.

I said on Twitter this afternoon that "No matter how prepared I think I am for running in this heat, it's going to be a living hell. That is no exaggeration!". That pretty much sums up what I expect to go through in the next 2 days. The risk of dehydration, heat stroke or worse will be ever present. I'll be listening to my body throughout the run. I don't have a fancy medical or sports therapy team present. Should I suspect things aren't quite right with me physically then I will make as sound a judgment call as I can on whether or not to continue. That said, I'm prepared to push myself to the absolute limit, just as I did when I ran 3100 miles across the USA last year.

Thanks once again to Chapman Ventilation for their support. If you follow them on Twitter (@chapmanvent) you will notice that they are asking their followers to guess how long it will take me to run the 78 mile route through Death Valley. The person with the closest guess will win a 32" LCD TV.

Finally, not only is the Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge part of my preparation for the run across Australia in 2013, I'm also raising vital funds for The Children's Foundation. If you would like to sponsor me then please use the link below. Any donations, no matter how large or small, are always gratefully accepted. Thanks in advance.

PS. It was nice knowing you all!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Team Run Geordie Run

There promises to be a strong Team Run Geordie Run presence during this year's Great North Run in aid of The Children's Foundation. The Team Run Geordie Run vests, as kindly designed by Shenton Creative and paid for by Benfield Motor Group were sent out to all runners this week. Amongst that number are 2 young members, 7 year old Elliott Atkinson (pictured below) and 9 year old Jack Allison (pictured below on the Quayside). Elliott will be running in the Mini Great North Run and Jack in the Junior Great North Run.

I'm very grateful to all members of the team but I think there is something very profound when 2 local youngsters sign up to raise funds that will benefit other local youngsters. Watch this space to see how Elliott, Jack and all of the other members of the team get on. We also have a participant in the Melbourne Marathon. Go Team Run Geordie Run!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge

Ever since I started writing the USA revisited series of blog posts earlier this year, I have felt the urge to return. Incidentally, I hope to finish that series by the end of this year. With each blog post taking 2 - 3 hours to research and write I think I did quite well to rewrite the first 27 days of the journey across the USA. You can read the series so far here

I'm pleased to report that the urge to return to the USA has now been transformed into reality and in 4 days time I will be setting off on a 78 mile run through Death Valley in California (pictured below). The run is sponsored by my good friends at Chapman Ventilation. This company are also helping to make the run across Australia happen.

The run through Death Valley, which is by far the most difficult one off run I’ve ever attempted starts at just above sea level in the north west point of the valley at Stovepipe Wells. It’s the same place that James Cracknell started a run in his Race Across America event. I have watched that particular DVD numerous times and, despite having never been there, I feel like I know the route very well. Before I ran across the USA in 2011, I took a similar approach, getting to know, in particular, the route through the Mojave Desert and Rocky Mountains.

I'l be starting the The Chapman Ventilation Death Valley Challenge on September 6th 2012 with 41 miles being ran on the first day and the remaining 37 miles the day after.

From Stovepipe Wells (pictured above), the route heads east for 8 miles on the 190 before veering south west to Furnace Creek at the 25 mile point. I'll be running a further 16 miles to Badwater Basin (pictured below from Dante's View) at 282 ft below sea level. This will give a total of 41 miles for the first day. That is the daily distance I'll be running in Australia next year.

The second day continues south from Badwater Basin before heading east up Jubilee Pass. The finish point, at 37 miles for the day and 78 miles in total is at the same "Jubilee Pass" signpost that James Cracknell finished at.

The route itself isn't too difficult. It's a distance that I've achieved many times over 2 days. However, what with this being Death Valley, temperatures are expected to peak at 115 degrees Farenheit (46 degrees Celcius) next week. I ran in these kinds of temperatures last year when the heat wave hit the USA in July and August. They are conditions that are extremely difficult to run this kind of distance in. Although safety is paramount and a very important factor, I'll be pushing myself as hard as possible to get through the 78 miles in as quick a time as possible. I'm going to be looking for as much quality in my running as I can at this stage of my training for Australia 2013.

The image below was taken during the recent Badwater Ultramarathon. It shows the lead runner cooling down in what I call an "ice coffin"after 40 miles or so. I have looked at this image many times over the last 6 weeks and I think the effect it's had on me has really shown in my training and preparation for the run through Death Valley.

It's going to be a very tough 78 miles. The temperature in Death Valley will peak in the afternoon and I'll be ready for it when it comes. I've almost forgotten the pain and anguish that these kinds of conditions caused during last year's run across the USA. I'm sure those memories will come flooding back on Thursday and Friday!

Not only will this be a great simulation of what I believe will be a worse case scenario in temperature in Australia next year but I'm also raising funds for The Children's Foundation too. As ever, I would really appreciate it if you would consider sponsoring my 78 mile effort through Death Valley. Donations can be made using the Virgin Money Giving website here. Thanks in advance for any donations and I'll get round to thanking those who have left an email address when I return to the UK.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Lion spotted

Given the situation regarding the recent  sighting of a lion in Essex, I saw an ideal opportunity to post the following picture. 

I was snapped wearing that lion costume back in February during one of Dave Fairlamb's Beach Bootcamp sessions in Tynemouth. I was testing the costume out at -2 degrees Celsius with a view to wearing it during the London Marathon some 2 months later. Despite the freezing temperature, far too much heat was generated in the costume and visibility was extremely poor. Running the London Marathon in it was just too risky.

All is not lost and I've decided to use it for the Great North Run along with other characters from the Wizard of Oz! The link being Oz/Australia for those who haven't guessed yet. 

I've only just got the costume again from The Children's Foundation. That gives me a couple of weeks to train in it before the Great North Run. It will be getting it's first outing (minus the head) tomorrow at a Tyne Bridge Harriers training session. The plan for the group I run in is 10 x 2 minute efforts! It's going to be quite a challenge! If all goes well on Tuesday, I'll be doing my regular 8 mile run to Dave Fairlamb's gym in the costume (again without the head). On Saturday, I'll be doing a full dress rehearsal with a 10 mile run to Beach Bootcamp. You couldn't make it up! 

There was a bit of interest in the picture on Twitter today and the Sky Tyne and Wear website picked up on the story here.

37 laps around the Quayside

With just 2 weeks until the run through Death Valley, I was very keen to do one final confidence boosting long distance run. Last Saturday, the plan was to run as many times as possible in 9 hours around a 1 mile course down at Newcastle Quayside. The route took me from Baltic Square on the Gateshead side then across the Swing Bridge before heading back along the Newcastle side across the Millennium Bridge and back to the start. That's right! I'd be running round in circles in the rain for 9 whole hours!

I'd set my expectations at a realistic level before setting off. I thought 35 laps in 9 hours was easily achievable and that was the target that I had in my mind before the start.

I "advertised" the run on Twitter and Facebook the week before asking for people to run with me. I wasn't to be disappointed with the turnout despite the poor weather conditions. It was a very wet day down on the Quayside but that didn't dampen my spirits as I set off running right on noon.

I ran the first 3 laps on my own and was joined by Helena from Heaton Harriers and Donna from Tyne Bridge Harriers for 2 and 5 laps respectively. My mate Nigel ran a lap with me next. He's new to running and had already ran 4 miles that morning. To add an extra mile onto that was a great achievement. He is doing the Great North Run for the first time in a few weeks!

Personal Trainer Dave Fairlamb and Dawn from The Fit Factor joined me for 4 and 2 laps respectively.  Dawn along with her fellow participants, some of whom were there to cheer me on, have lost stones upon stones of weight over the last few months.

I lost 10 minutes while waiting for the Millennium Bridge to re-open. It was raised for a yacht which was 5 minutes late. I had tried to time it so that I would have missed the bridge raising. It wasn't to be. A hazard of the course I guess. Before setting off I'd had a chat with the bridge controller and discussed the times that the bridge would raise. He recognised me from last year when I actually got to open the bridge. That was one of my lifetime ambitions fulfilled that day!

The bridge reopened and next to join me on lap 10 was Janine (pictured below) from Tyne Bridge Harriers. She did 3 laps with me as part of a planned 12 mile run.

The miles started to fly by and I was joined by Jack aka Run Geordie Run Junior (pictured below) half way through the run. I enjoyed running with him even though he said that I was running too slow for him! He managed to run 2 miles with me in his Team Run Geordie Run vest. These are the vests that will be worn next month by those runners taking part in the Great North Run raising funds for The Children's Foundation.

I stopped to chat to a few curious passers by who had seen me run past them a few times. One couple told me how their mother was cared for by the same Hospice as mine (St Benedict's Hospice) and another how their son was operated on in the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital. 

I ran through the marathon barrier after 5 hours and 45 minutes of running. I was slightly ahead of the pace that would get me 35 miles in total. 

Joining me next was my old friend and work colleague Mike Lewis. We have ran many miles together in the past and it was great to catch up. Mike recently turned 60 and to celebrate ran 60 miles on his birthday! Quite remarkable. Joining us after 2 laps was Dan the winner from the Fit Factor. Soon after Dan joined I saw Rob from Tyne Bridge Harriers together with Sumanth, Isao and Robert from Claremont Road Runners and someone who I only know as "Jiving K Boots". These lads had ran 6 of the North East Park runs earlier that day (Sunderland, Durham, Chester-le-Street, Gateshead, Whitley Bay and Newcastle). They finished off their running day by joining me for a mile. 

After 33 miles the Millennium Bridge stayed up for 15 minutes after I reached it. Ironically, the delay was caused by 2 party boats. One of which had David Fairlamb on board celebrating a friends 70th Birthday.

With 57 minutes remaining Mike and I decided that a further 4 miles to give an overall 37 miles was a very realistic possibility. The conversation soon switched to favourite dishes as the amazing smell of curry started wafting our way from the nearby Quayside restaurants. "I'm definitely getting a King Prawn Madras" was a sentence I used many times during those last 4 miles!

The final mile was the 5th quickest out of the 37 and I felt like I had so much energy left at the end. The church clock in the distance struck 9 and Mike and I reached the finish line at Baltic Square right on time. One quick photo later and I thanked Mike (pictured below) for his 3 hours of great company. If I can run as well as he does at 60 then something will have gone incredibly right in my life! He's a machine!

I was very pleased with 37 miles in 9 hours. There had been some minor delays during the day. I had accepted that the opening and closing of the Millennium Bridge was part of the charm of this particular route and I stopped briefly to chat to a few people. I'll definitely be back to have another crack at beating 37 laps sometime in the future.

Running the same 1 mile lap so many times was surprisingly never monotonous. There were so many things to keep me entertained such as the many passing stag and hen groups. The amount of folk who joined me during the day added a lot of variety and they all had something new to talk about. It was very easy for people to find me and having people dip in and out of the run worked very well indeed.

The route itself was very easy to run. There were only 3 small climbs and the feeling of always being close to the finish line gave me a huge psychological edge. 

The good condition I found myself in at the end of the run and the excellent recovery the following day bodes really well for the 78 mile run across Death Valley next week. I've lost a stone and a half over the last 6 weeks and I feel that good progress towards Australia is being made each week. 

I'm far from the finished article that will see a successful run across the Australia next year. However, I genuinely feel that I'm right on target to be ready come October 16th 2013. My mentor Dave Fairlamb was very concerned 6 weeks ago but given the progress made recently I know that he is now less so.

The run through Death Valley is going to be incredibly difficult. Saturday's 37 laps around the Quayside has given me the necessary confidence boost that I'd hoped it would. 

Finally, I did have that King Prawn Madras if you were wondering (along with a nut Pilau rice and a Peshwari Naan). Just what you need after running 37 miles!