Mark ‘Run Geordie Run’ Allison today completed the latest stage of his around-the-world run, overcoming challenges from an attempted coup to stifiling heat.
It took the software developer from Bedlington 83 days and 2,650 miles to complete his charity run from Lisbon to Belgrade – and today he can not only say he has run across Europe, but halfway around the world.
The dad-of-one has now run more than 9,000 miles for charity, including the length of the UK, the width of the USA, Australia and Europe, and raised more than £250,000 in the process.
His European run, sponsored by SOS Group Ltd., was in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Children’s Foundation and has already raised £40,900 for the two charities.
It was the latest leg in Mark’s Around the World running plans and proved far more challenging than even he was expecting.
Mark said: "I can honestly say, this has been the hardest run I’ve done so far. It was nearly 300 miles further than my Australia run and every day there’s been a new challenge to overcome.
"I knew it would be tough but it’s also been incredibly rewarding. The encouragement I’ve had in terms of messages and donations to the charities has been amazing. That’s what’s really kept me going.
"And I couldn’t have done any of this without help from my sponsors and wonderful support team who gave up so much to come out here. There’s been so much work going on behind-the-scenes to make this run a success for the charities and I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped.
“I’ll also treasure memories of the different countries we’ve been though. The exhausting climbs were offset a little bit by the truly breathtaking scenery and we’ve met some really lovely people.
“I’m pretty much completely exhausted now. There’s a long drive home but at least I can put my feet up this time. I can’t wait to get back to the North East and see my son.”
Mark’s route took him through Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. The end was originally planned to be Istanbul but, because of the situation in Turkey, the new end point was agreed as Belgrade.
This gives Mark the option to run north or south of the Black Sea when he starts the next stage of his Around the World Run, hopefully in 2018, which will go through through Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan.
While Mark is a little frustrated not to have finished as planned in Turkey, and to miss out on running through Bulgaria and Greece, he was thrilled by the reception he received as he completed the run at the Pobednik Monument in Belgrade.
The 14metre high monument, whose name literally translates as ‘victor,’ was a very fitting end point to a run that has challenged Mark at every turn.
Mark was greeted at the finish by enthusiastic cheers and ran the last few miles with his support team members, Donna Allison (who is also Mark’s wife) and Richard Conder.
He was also accompanied running through Belgrade by Jeremy Lang from the British Embassy in Serbia and the British Ambassador, Denis Keefe, was among supporters waiting at the Victor Monument.
In addition, James May, formerly of Tynedale and now living in Belgrade, was there to cheer Mark over the line.
The Newcastle United fan heard about Mark’s run through social media and, along with the British Embassy in the city, has been helping spread the word about Mark’s challenge.
James works with a charity that helps street children in Belgrade (http://www.cim.org.rs/) and a group of them were there to welcome Mark at the Victor Monument.
Mark said: "What an amazing way to finish this run. Being greeted by these beautiful children. I’ve done what I can to help North East children through The Children’s Foundation for years so this just felt wonderful.
"I’m very glad we finished the run here. The Pobednik is probably the most well-known landmark in Belgrade so it seemed a good place to finish things. When we left the North East, the last place I visited was Collingwood’s Monument, which overlooks the Tyne.
"The history of this Serbian monument is very different but it felt appropriate. All being well with my family and financial situation, I look forward to seeing it again in 2018 for the start of the next stage of the Around the World run."
Mark’s challenge began, although he didn’t know it at that time, with his John O’Groats to Land’s End 874-mile run in 2007. He has also already ‘ticked off’ the USA (2011) and Australia (2013), 3,100 miles and 2,384 miles respectively, but still has approximately 13,000 miles to go.
The European leg brought its own set of challenges, not least running through 11 different countries.
The chosen route passed through Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Austria, Croatia and Serbia.
It included both the Pyrenees and the Alps and took in many huge climbs (15 Tour de France and one Giro d'Italia climbs) including the Stelvio Pass (9,045 feet) in the Italian Alps.