An experience to draw on for runner

TODAY The Journal is launching a series of cartoons based on marathon man Mark Allison’s bid to conquer America.

TODAY The Journal is launching a series of cartoons based on marathon man Mark Allison’s bid to conquer America.

The 38-year-old is currently at the halfway point of a two-year training regime to run 3,100 miles cross the USA in 100 days.

The run, which Mark is doing in a bid to raise £50,000 for St Benedict’s Hospice in Sunderland, will take him through 14 states, including California, Nevada and Utah – and will see him complete the equivalent of 236 Great North Runs in just three months. His mammoth challenge caught the eye of cartoonist Gary Hogg who decided to support the dad-of-one’s fundraising after spotting a message on internet site Twitter.

Mr Hogg, 57, of Blyth, said: “I was on Twitter when I saw a message from Mark looking for an illustrator to work for free to help him with his America challenge.

Mark Allison, coast to coast run

“He was looking for someone that could help him do a cartoon character for his T-shirts on the run. I contacted him a few weeks ago and it went from there. The T-shirt idea developed into cartoon strips and the whole thing just snowballed.

“It’s turned into quite a big job. The hard part is thinking up the gags, the actual drawing of the cartoons doesn’t take that long.

“I admire Mark for what he’s doing. I admire people who do things for charity, rather than just set up a standing order or put money in a tin. I also like the charities he’s running for.

“Mark has had a lot of input into the cartoons as well. He gives me an idea and I exaggerate them and make them funny.

“It’s got to the point now that whenever I’m doing my normal job, I’m constantly thinking of new ideas and gags for the cartoons.

“I’m happy to be part of Mark’s challenge in helping him raise the profile of his run.”

The first of the cartoons will be part of a series that we will run in The Journal and on our website.

In May, Mr Allison’s gruelling training regime suffered a major set-back when he broke an ankle during a bike ride. The freak accident, which left him in hospital for two days needing surgery to his ankle, happened during a coast-to-coast trip after a puncture sent him flying from his bike near his home in Shotley Bridge.

But, two months later, Mr Allison is making a speedy recovery and is down to one crutch after having his cast removed.

He said: “My ankle and cast have actually been sponsored by Paddy Power after they donated £200 to two charities. So my ankle is now called the Paddy Power Bionic Ankle.

“It was frustrating when I had my accident but I’ve had so much tremendous support that it’s not been too bad.

“The cast is now off and I’m able to do some training in the swimming pool.”

Mark’s challenge starts on May 1 next year.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer