Charity fundraiser ‘Run Geordie Run’ was given a hero’s welcome has he returned to the UK today (Monday) after running across Australia.
Mark Allison, from Blyth, completed his epic challenge on January 4 – 82 days after leaving Perth – and covering a distance of more than 2,300 miles.
And he has raised more than £50,000 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children’s Foundation, with donations still flooding in.
Greeted by friends, sponsors and supporters, Mark was delighted to be back in England and the cold weather after battling extreme temperatures, incessant flies, brutal running surfaces, terrifying storms and dangerous roads.
Mark, who lost four stone in weight during the challenge, said: “It was such a difficult run, so many complicated aspects. It really took me by surprise how difficult it was.
“I’m loving this cooler weather, it’s ideal running weather not like the 45C of a week ago. It’s great to be back in the UK.
“It was a really tough final day. It’s such a relief that I’ve not let the two charities down.”
Mark did quit the run on safety and medical grounds just after Christmas after the pain in his feet became too much but within 12 hours reversed his decision as he did not want to let the two charities down, finding an alternative route to the Pacific coast to finish in Shellharbour rather than at Bondi Beach as planned.
He also received help from the British Consulate General in Sydney, Nick McInnes, who helped change his flights home to Newcastle, giving him an additional 24 hours to complete the challenge.
Mark, who had previously run across America for charity, said: “My feet are in a bad state, far worse than when I ran across America.
“I will have to get them professionally seen to. I’ve lost about 80 per cent feeling in them, so have to be careful when walking. They are just two clubs of meat at the minute.
“It was a physical and emotional rollercoaster, I nearly lost my mind out there. Physically it was an absolute nightmare, mentally it was very tough.”
He added: “I’m looking forward to siting down at work on Wednesday for six to seven hours. I originally had 13 days of recovery planned but I’ll only get two days now.”
Mark, who was running in memory of his parents who both died of cancer, thanked all the people who donated and also the messages of support and encouragement he received on social networking site Twitter.
“When I had a phone signal I’d treat myself to look at the messages of support. That was crucial. When I became fatigued I’d see one or two messages of support and it would spur me on.
“A key aspect of the run was social media.
“I’d also like to thank all those people who have sponsored me.”
Mark said he would sit down in the summer to plan his next fundraising activity but added that in the short term he would have to keep exercising as it would be dangerous on his body if he suddenly stopped.
Sir Bobby Robson’s family has been keep in contact with Mark during the run.
Lady Elsie said: “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.
“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.”
Former Newcastle United and England striker Alan Shearer, a patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, said: “Mark deserves every bit of praise which I’m sure will be coming his way. I’m blown away by what he’s achieved.
“We met up before he left for Australia and he described the run, the distance and all the likely difficulties he’d encounter.
“To have overcome the heat and the awful problems he’s had with his feet, that really makes him stand out as a man with incredible grit and determination.”
Libby Nolan, fundraising manager for the Children’s Foundation, which Mark is an ambassador, added: “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.”
To make a donation, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.