The European segment is 3,400 miles long and follows on from his previous runs down the UK and across the USA and Australia.
Mark’s personal dedication to raising funds for his two chosen charities, The Children’s Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, is staggering but his fundraising efforts are very much a team effort. Something he was keen to underline this week with a support team and sponsor get together at the Jury’s Inn, Gateshead.
Generous commercial sponsors, including headline sponsor SOS Group Ltd, are enabling Mark to raise additional charity funds through t-shirt sales and events, while sports therapists, fitness instructors and training partners are helping ensure he is preparing himself correctly for the tough challenge that lies ahead.
Sponsors are also helping kit Mark out with the specialist equipment, dietary supplements and footwear required and, on the route itself, he will be accompanied by a extremely dedicated support team.
Like Mark, the support team consists entirely of unpaid volunteers who are taking time off work to join the challenge. Paying for their own travel expenses, they will accompany and support Mark each day, helping him cope with the physical and mental pressures and providing vital encouragement as the miles take their toll.
Mark, from Bedlington, explains: “There are so many people behind-the-scenes who have become part of our team and I couldn’t do any of this without them.
“We have relationships that have developed over many years and I treasure that support.
“It’s personal. I need to know I can rely on my support team and they need to know they are working with someone who will give everything for the two charities.
“I’m very proud to have so many wonderful people backing my efforts. They, along with the thousands of people who have been kind enough to donate money over the years, are really what keep me going.”
Mark’s support team and sponsors came together at Jury’s Inn, Gateshead, to meet with representatives of The Children’s Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, including Lady Elsie.
It was an opportunity for Mark to ‘unveil’ his new SOS Group-branded running kit, while Professor Ruth Plummer, from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, and Peregrine Solly, chief executive of The Children’s Foundation, spoke to the group about the work funded through both charities.
Mark adds: “It’s been quite emotional for me to have everyone together like this. Every person in the room tonight is key to my Around the World challenge and Ruth and Peregrine’s speeches were inspiring.
“It’s just great, for me and the charities, to have had the opportunity to say thank you and let everyone know how much we appreciate their support.”
In addition to headline sponsor SOS Group Ltd, Mark is receiving support from Fresh Freight Group, Chapman Ventilation, Cherry Active, Virgin Money and Sport Newcastle.
There are currently 13 on the support team and Mark is hoping to recruit three more people before his next challenge begins.
They are already working hard finding most cost-effective nutrition products, helping plan the route, collating sunrise and sunset times for each country and much more besides.
It will take Mark until at least 2024 to finish the Round the World challenge and he will have to do it in eight segments as family life, work and finances permit.
He will need to cover a total of 20,000 miles, over four continents and through 23 countries and it will take him approximately 608 days (1 year and 243 days) to complete.
His 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 13,642 miles to go.
The European leg brings its own set of challenges, not least running through 13 different countries. Mark will begin on 1 May in Lisbon, Portugal, and will finish 100 days and 3,400 miles later in Istanbul, Turkey, on 9 August. The run is 500 miles longer than the USA and will be completed in the same number of days.
The chosen route passes through Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.
It includes both the Pyrenees and the Alps and will take in many huge climbs including the Stelvio Pass (9,045 feet) in the Italian Alps. It is a huge step up from his previous runs in terms of distance and elevation and, as well as mental, physical and logistical difficulties, there will be language and cultural barriers to overcome.
After Europe, Mark will tackle the Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Kazakhstan leg (2018), then China (2020), Japan (2022) and New Zealand (2024) – all timings are approximate and dependent on Mark’s circumstances.
For more information about Run Geordie Run Around the World please visit www.rungeordierun.com and follow Mark on Twitter @RunGeordieRun.
If you would like to donate to the two charities, The Children’s Foundation and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/rungeordierun.