Saturday, 11 November 2017

The Road to Astana gets the green light

After spending the last 12 months looking at the many aspects of segment five of the run around the world we (Donna and I) have decided that it will go ahead as planned, starting on the 1st May 2018. 

The original route that I proposed back in 2014 via Turkey and Georgia into Russia is an absolute non starter for safety reasons. The advice from the UK government regarding the route into Russia between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea is either "advise against all travel" or "advise against all but essential travel". 

It seems that the the decision made last year, to finish segment four early in Belgrade rather than Istanbul, was a very wise one. As planned, this has given us a chance to get back home, regroup and come up with the safest plan possible for the remaining 11,000 miles around the world. That plan now involves taking a more northerly route.

It will take 100 days (91 days x 31 miles and 9 rest days) to run the unsupported 2821 mile route from Belgrade, Serbia through Romania, Ukraine, Russia to Astana Kazakhstan. It doesn't look that far in the images below but it's almost the same width as my route across the USA.

We are under no illusions that running and pulling Chappie, aka the Chapman Ventilation Around The World Buggy for such a considerable distance is going to be easy. I'm looking at the positives though, as having a support team isn't always the easiest and happiest experience for me. Also, not having an RV is a relief after the damage that was inflicted on the one we had last year as a result of an unfortunate accident. This time, I'm in full control of the outcome. I'm very excited and in many ways relieved about that. I'll restate, though, that it's going to be very very difficult.

I'm also genuinely excited about what I call the "adventure" aspect of the Road to Astana. Cooking for myself, ensuring that I have enough food and water, tending to my feet, finding safe places to "park up" and sleep etc etc. Now let's have this conversation again after 1,500 miles when I'm in the middle of Russia! Let's see just how much I'm "excited" then!  

I will be sending my plans to my chosen charity next week and will seek the official sign off from them before the end of November. Following that there are two further obstacles to overcome. The first is getting a Russian visa. The second is coming up with a plan to transport Chappie safely to the start line in Serbia to and back from the finish line in Kazakhstan. To say that segment five of the run around the world is going to be the trickiest to complete is an absolute understatement. Just getting to the start line is taking a huge amount of planning.

I must thank those kind people who have helped keep my dream of raising at least another £50,000 for local causes alive. Thank you to my main sponsor SOS Group Ltd, Chapman Ventilation who have paid for the construction of Chappie and also FFG Logistics, Active Edge, D-Line Cable Management, Brooks, Virgin Money UK, Primal Fitness and Performance and Northumberland Tea for their amazing support.

Thanks also to James "Jimmy" Childs who is continuing his task of looking at my route in great detail.

Thanks also to the many supporters who have made a donation to The Children's Foundation and Useful Vision in 2017. The current fundraising total for 2017 stands at £23,913.70 with an overall total of 291,539.35. Watch this space in the next few weeks for news of the 2018 charity upon successful sign off.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Goodbye to The Children's Foundation

During the summer I took the opportunity to take a really good look at what I've been able to achieve from a fundraising point of view so far and what I want to do in the future. I use the term "I" loosely because of the incredible generosity and support that I've received from so many people to be able to raise (at the time of writing) £290,669.12. 

So far, £23,043.47 from the grand total of £290,669.12 has been raised in 2017. I'm on target to smash my personal fundraising target of £50,000 for this current fundraising campaign which, of course, concludes with segment five of the run around the world; a 2,900 mile run from Belgrade to Astana next year. The funds raised to date can be seen below by charity and by fundraising campaign.

So that is what has gone on in the past. What about the future? 

Firstly, during the summer I made the difficult decision to cease fundraising for The Children's Foundation at the end of 2017. It was a decision that wasn't taken lightly but with £141,475.79 raised over the last eight years I think I can depart after a job well done. I've really enjoyed fundraising for the charity and I'd like to thank their staff and Libby Nolan and Peregrine Solly in particular for the advice and support they gave me. 

I was very proud to receive the following reply to my "resignation" from The Children's Foundation this month. 

So that brings a successful end to one particular era of my fundraising. The next very important step is to approach a charity and seek permission to fundraise in respect of stage 5 of the Run Around The World. That will only be done when Donna and I have signed off the run to Astana in a few weeks time. Watch this space during November for news on how that all goes.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

November is make or break

Planning, research and preparation for stage five of the run around the world is going very well. A great deal of work has been done this year. We are now in the final stages of making sure that we have a plan to make the 2,900 mile run from Belgrade, Serbia through Romania, Ukraine, Russia to Astana in Kazakhstan as safe as it possibly can be.

Donna and I will make the decision on whether or not to proceed by the 10th November 2017. We will then look to gain charity endorsement by the 24th November 2017. After that, it's all systems go with just over 150 days until the start in Belgrade.

So November is a "make or break" month for the run around the world. We are doing everything that we possibly can. We are talking to the right people, devising the best plans and, as has been the case for the previous 9,000 miles, leaving no stone unturned in terms of planning and preparation.

As per usual, I'll keep Twitter, Facebook and this blog updated with any news.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Fundraising landmark

As a result of Chapman Ventilation's £1070 donation to Useful Vision, the £20,000 and £21,000 barriers for the current campaign have been broken this week. That's an incredible amount of continued generosity from so many people. Thank you!

See the image below to see the exact amounts raised for each charity. 

I reckon about *cough* £20 *cough* of the current campaign's amount is from me at the Tuck Shop!

I've got a lot of scheming and plotting going on behind the scenes and, with a lot of further good luck and generosity, I'm confident of hitting and smashing my own personal target of £50,000 for the current campaign and £317,000 overall by the time I reach Astana in Kazakhstan with #Chappie. 

The realisation of my fundraising ambitions would not be possible without the incredible support of the general public and the set of sponsors who help to make running around the world possible. None of this would be worthwhile without the charities doing their amazing work. 

Chappie - My new home

A year ago I decided that the final 11,000 miles around the world would be run unsupported. To take a motorhome and a support team through the remaining countries would be far too expensive. As a charitable venture it just wouldn't have the financial rewards that such an effort warrants. The cost of fuel, insurance and RV hire not to mention the personal cost to the support team to get to the remaining remote locations would be huge. 

So how do you run 11,000 miles unsupported?

I had an initial idea of pulling a cart with all of my supplies inside. It was Jimmy who then discovered a company, SJH Projects, that had made such a thing for an arctic marathon. I made contact with them and, after a visit to the factory in Nottingham to see a prototype, I decided that they were the right people for the job. 

The only stumbling block to getting the buggy project off the ground was money. That wasn't the case for very long at all and long term supporter, Chapman Ventilation, offered to pay in full for its production. The budget for the project was £20,000 and we agreed that any surplus money from that budget would go to my chosen charity for 2017, Useful Vision. As it turned out, £1070 has ended up being paid to the charity which is fantastic! A huge thank you goes to Chapman Ventilation for their continued support.

I announced my intentions to go unsupported using a buggy at the Around The World Ball in October 2016. To the amazement/disbelief of those in attendance I showed an image of the prototype buggy on the big screen. I'm not sure how many people took me seriously but I'm glad to report that 12 months later the Chapman Ventilation Around The World Buggy, or "Chappie" for short, is now a reality.

Another of my amazing sponsors, Fresh Freight Group (FFG), kindly transported the finished buggy from Nottingham back to the North East last week. By the way, the t-shirts designed by the children at Useful Vision and paid for by FFG have almost sold out. This is a classic example of making the sponsor's money work hard for the charities. a £645 spend has returned double that amount for Useful Vision. FFG also kindly packaged and posted all t-shirts which has also saved a lot of time and money.  Another massive thank you goes to FFG for their brilliant support.

Back to the buggy. With a carbon fibre body, steel chassis and 16 inch BMX wheels, Chappie weighs 70kg when empty. The solar panel on the roof of the buggy is connected to an internal battery which means that I'll be able to power equipment such as my GPS watch, a GPS tracking device, laptop and photographic equipment.

I'll sleep in the buggy for the remaining 11,000 miles through Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Japan and New Zealand.

All of the supplies that I need will be inside Chappie including this collapsable set of pans. The first image below is a pot, frying pan and kettle all squashed down. The second image is all three in their full form. I can't wait to see what I can rustle up in those things after a hard day of running. It'll probably mostly be porridge but I reckon I might surprise myself a few times.

You'll be hearing a lot more about Chappie in the coming months and also the kit inside that I'll be relying on to help get me from Serbia to Kazakhstan in 2018.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Jimmy is back

In Sunday's blog I mentioned that I'd had a lot of positive discussions with various people recently. The following details the outcome of one of them.

Stage five of the run around the world through Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russian and Kazakhstan will, of course, be unsupported. That said, there is still need of a support team back in the UK to undertake a variety of roles. I'm slowly finding the right quality of people and the first person to welcome on the team, or rather back to the team, is James Childs.

James, or "Jimmy" as he is known on the team, is once again responsible for route planning. He did an absolutely outstanding job with the route across Europe last year (as well as driving the RV from Newcastle to the start line in Lisbon and being on support duty for the first seven days). 

It was no quick and easy feat making sure that my initial high level route from Lisbon to Istanbul was documented in great detail and checked again, again and again for safety. 

Jimmy has now been tasked with repeating the exercise for next year's 2,900 mile route from Belgrade to Kazakhstan.

Jimmy's previous experience, methodical approach and eye for detail makes him the perfect person for this task. A huge thank you must go to Jimmy for giving up so much of his time for this very important task.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Lots going on

The start of segment five of the run around the world, the 2,900 mile run from Belgrade to Astana, is only 225 days away. There's so much going on behind the scenes to make this particular campaign a success. The following blog are just a few of my thoughts.

Firstly, the workings out for Team Run Geordie Run's fundraising for The Children's Foundation at The Great North Run is ongoing. I say ongoing as the money is still coming in. At the time of writing, £14,534.62 has been raised. There's still money to collect and although I would say £16,000 is more than realistic, the final figure could be as high as £17,000 for The Children's Foundation. Watch this space over the coming weeks as we near the final figure. Whatever the total, we have blown last year's total of £10,000 out of the water. 

I know that the charity will put that money to very good use to benefit children in the north east and everyone on the team should be very proud indeed.

I've already started putting together the team for the 2018 Great North Run and the response so far has been brilliant. Please get in touch at if you'd like a place. 

Further hard work and charitable scheming continues in other areas and I think it's nailed on that at least £50,000 will be raised on the next leg of the run around the world. That figure is my own personal target and has been the same for each of the previous four segments. With continued good luck, generosity and support from the general public the amount raised could be a lot more. I'm taking nothing for granted however. I work hard for each pound raised for local causes and I appreciate every penny or pound donated. 

Speaking of donations, the sale of "Run the Race" t-shirts has raised £1200 for Useful Vision so far. There are a handful of cotton t-shirts left and I'm so proud that the design created by the children at Useful Vision has proved to be so popular. 

Last week, I had a couple of really good discussions with various folk which means that I'm more excited for the next leg of the run around the world as ever before. I'll be sharing news of those meetings over the coming weeks. 

Next week is a very important one as I will finally take delivery of the Chapman Ventilation Around The World Buggy or "Chappie" for short. 

I'm looking forward to finally being able to share images of it and I'm sure that people are going to be as captivated by it as I am. 

Chappie was just a pipe dream 12 months ago and, incredibly, it's now a reality. I'm very big on  always performing actions to backup my words and delivering on my promises and Chappie is testament to that. That said, a huge thank you must go to Chapman Ventilation who have paid for its production. Without them it just wouldn't have happened and the run around the world would have come to an end. Thanks also to FFG who will be transporting it safely to Newcastle from the factory in Nottingham. 

Chappie will be my home for the remaining 11,000 miles around the world. I will eat, sleep and shelter in it and, of course, everything I need to survive will be inside it. It will be strapped to my waist while running and I'm under no illusion that pulling it across the remaining countries of the world route is going to be extremely difficult. I'm really looking forward to my first training run with it next Saturday and Sunday. If you see me between Bedlington and Tynemouth Priory please give me a wave.

In other news I have started to put together a plan for taking people on the journey in a more engaging way than ever before. I feel that it's something that I got most right using social media and a blog during the run across the USA. The blog had over half a million hits and backed up with a successful social media campaign I won the Chartered Institute of Public Relations Communicator of the Year.

For a few reasons I feel that I never achieved that standard during the run across Australia and Europe. Running 30 - 40 miles per day while taking people virtually with you online is time consuming. Over the coming months, I'll be continuing to work on the plan that I believe will serve the fundraising, the running and the story of the journey best.

Despite all of the fundraising and planning, the next segment of the run around the world won't get the go ahead until Donna and I are happy that we have a plan in place that makes the event as safe as it possibly can be. We are on schedule to make that decision some time during November 2017. In the meantime, the research, the discussions with the relevant people and the planning will continue. 

We are working as hard as we possibly can on this. We are only unqualified volunteers at the end of the day. However, using the experience and knowledge gained during the first 9,000 miles, I'm confident of being able to reach the correct decision in terms of continuing the run around the world.

Despite the go ahead of decision being in the balance, planning has started on the fourth Around The World Ball next October. I'm confident of another sold out event. Watch out for details in early 2018 about how to secure your tickets.

The latest fundraising position makes for good reading and I'm continuing to work hard to raise at least £10,000 for Useful Vision in 2017. I always enjoy reading what the children at the charity are up to and you can too on their Facebook page

I could go on but I'll leave it there for now. Watch out for further news on the blog, Twitter, Youtube and the Facebook page over the coming weeks.