Sunday, 5 January 2014
The run is in partnership with the North East’s largest Motor Group, Benfield, and, to date, has raised over £50,000 for the two charities.
For 82 days, Mark has endured everything Australia could throw at him including extremes of temperature, incessant flies, brutal running surfaces, terrifying storms and dangerous roads.
At one point it became too much to handle and he was forced to stop the run completely because of safety issues and the awful condition of his feet. But his determination to succeed for the two charities, and to justify the incredible support he has received, brought about a change of mind.
Showing great courage, Mark rested his feet, changed his route to end at Shellharbour, not Bondi Beach as previously planned, and continued his coast to coast run.
Even then he would not have succeeded if the British Consulate General in Sydney, Nick McInnes, had not assisted in helping him change flights home to Newcastle and giving him an additional 24 hours to complete the challenge.
The last 23 miles of the run, including running along the beautiful but dangerous roads through the Macquarie Pass National Park, were completed just hours before his flight back to the UK.
Often sleeping in a baking hot RV, occasionally in a car, and frequently without amenities like shower facilities, Mark has kept going, running up to and over 40 miles in a day – he has covered a staggering 2,383 miles in total.
He trained hard, and prepared for heat, but the weather in Australia was so hot it was the subject of a Severe Weather Warning and melted the roads. The melted tarmac caused gravel to stick in his trainers, creating a new problem for his ravaged feet.
Mark has previously run across America to raise money for charity but says nothing could have prepared him for this challenge. The run has taken him to the edge physically, mentally and emotionally.
Mark ran straight into the Pacific Ocean when he reached Warilla Beach, Shellharbour and said: “I’m exhausted. My feet are in bits but this ocean feels fantastic. I’m going to enjoy a nice rest now.
“Again, I finished this run with my mum and dad and my brother in mind. This one’s for them. It’s been incredibly tough. But I made it.
“That was a really tough final day. It’s such a great relief that I’ve not let the two charities down. The money’s coming in at an astonishing rate. I’m really grateful for that and I’m sure the two charities are as well.
“It was such a difficult run. Far more difficult than I could ever have imagined. The physical battle I just about coped with. The mental battle, however, was considerable.
“It was such a relief to get my feet into the Pacific Ocean having left the Indian Ocean in Perth some 82 days ago.
“And it’s been an incredible journey of immense difficulty. A journey which, many times, I didn’t want to complete. No amount of charity money coming in was worth the pain that I felt, especially on the Nullarbor (Plain). It was so difficult.
“But now, with the money rolling in for the two charities, and I’ve just reached the Pacific Ocean. Would I do it all again? Of course I would. At the drop of a hat. No doubt about it. I’m not going to however!
“I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned a lot about this incredible country. And it’s a beautiful country and one that you must respect. If you don’t respect an environment such as this, it’s going to do you massive harm. And I nearly came to that harm.
“But I can safely say now that I’ll take away the great bits, the victories that I had out here. The fast miles, the climbs, the sweltering heat at 50 degrees Celsius. Those are the memories that will live long.
“I’m just so relieved that I’m the first Geordie to ever run coast to coast across Australia, from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
“It won’t sink in, just like the run across America, for quite some time what I’ve achieved here. And thankfully, and most importantly, I haven’t let the two charities down.”
Mark lost both his parents to cancer when he was a young man and he has spent 20 years raising funds for good causes in the North East of England. This run, like his previous challenges, was in their memory and has greatly benefited two charities which mean a lot to Mark.
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation was launched in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer and Sir Bobby’s family have been keeping in close contact with Mark during the run.
Lady Elsie says: “We’re so proud of Mark and very pleased he’s safely completed this challenge. It must have taken every single ounce of his strength.
“To have that kind of determination is incredible really. It’s obviously been a real battle at times. It must have taken so much out of him physically and mentally and I expect it will take him months to recover.
“He’s raised a huge amount of money for the two charities and we know that’s what has been keeping him going.
“We’re grateful to everyone who has donated and helped raise so much money. It will be very well used helping people faced with the pain of cancer.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to Mark and everyone who has supported him on this run. We wish him and Donna a safe trip home to Newcastle.”
Mark is an Ambassador for The Children’s Foundation and Libby Nolan, Fundraising Manager for the charity, says: “We are so extremely proud of our Ambassador.
“He’s been through such a gruelling challenge which has seemed so much harder than anyone had expected.
“We want to thank everyone for their support and donations! We can't wait to hear all about Mark's journey and thank him by showing what a difference his fundraising will make to the children of the North East.”
For more information about Run Geordie Run Down Under with Benfield please visit www.rungeordierun.com and follow Mark on Twitter @RunGeordieRun.
If you would like to donate to the two charities, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.