MARATHON man Mark Allison has launched a courageous bid to run 3,100 miles across the USA in just 100 days.
The 37-year-old from Shotley Bridge, County Durham, has just started a two-year training programme for the mammoth run which will take him through 14 states, including California, Nevada and Utah.
In crossing the USA, Mark will complete the equivalent of 236 Great North Runs in just three months.
He will leave the sun-kissed sands of California’s Huntington Beach in May 2011 and reach the metropolis of New York 100 days later in August.
And in that time he will cover an average daily mileage of 31 miles.
Mark, a Northern Rock employee, is undertaking the Herculean effort in a bid to raise £50,000 for St Benedict’s Hospice in Sunderland, which cared for his 67-year-old mother Margery.
He said: “Both my parents, Margery and Terry, died of lung cancer and that’s the primary reason for doing this.
“I’ve raised £50,000 since 1994 for the hospice, and the £50,000 I make from the America run will be split between the hospice and the Children’s Foundation.
“The hospice looked after my mam in her final days in 1994, and my father died seven years prior to that. I’ve always felt a need to repay this debt of gratitude.”
Last summer Mark ran from John O’Groats to Lands End in 37 days and raised £34,108 for the hospice.
But his latest feat will take him to the brink physically – only 184 people have successfully completed the American coast-to-coast since records began in 1909 and only 14 have been British.
The run will see Mark climb the 11,000ft Rocky Mountains in Colorado before joining the famous Route 66 for a straight 1,000-mile jog.
And to prepare his body for the run, he will start by undertaking 50 miles a week, with that figure gradually increasing to 110 miles a week by next July, before carrying out 80 miles a week in the months leading up to the run.
However, for Mark, who lives with wife Katy 35, a project manager at BT, and five-year-old son Jack, the biggest difficulties lie in the strict diet.
He said: “I’m doing short runs of five and six miles at the moment and then finishing in the gym, doing spinning classes and weight training.
“I’m also on a more structured diet, which is the hardest thing really. Lots of carbohydrates and cutting out the fats. The whole training plan is based on no rest and no recovery.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy and everybody says the same thing. That only makes it easier though, because people think you won’t make it so they sponsor you more. Everyone thinks I’m a bit mad.”
Sleeping by roadside to save money
MARK Allison aims to raise £50,000 for St Benedict’s Hospice and the Children’s Foundation but will fund the trip from his own pocket and save all he can along the way.
That means sleeping in tents on the roadside and pocketing petrol money before he leaves.
He said: "I’ve been cycling to work and putting the petrol money away for the trip so I’m hoping that will earn me around £3,000 by the time the run comes round."
Those wishing to keep up to date with Mark’s demanding exercise programme can read his online blog at www.rungeordierun.com.