It’s gonna be a fair old schlep for Doctor Mark!

Mark's running for a very worthy cause.
Mark's running for a very worthy cause.

A charity worker from Insch is setting out to run 340 miles from Carlisle to Edinburgh on the St. Ninian’s Way in a bid to help rebuild war-torn areas of Iraq.

Throughout the year, Dr Mark Calder (37) is covering a total of 1,725 miles spread across 14 ultramarathons, all of which retrace the ancient pilgrim routes of Scotland and Northern England.

The distances range in length from 45 miles to 200 miles, but the St Ninian’s Way via Whithorn and Glasgow is by far the longest and will take seven days.

Reflecting on the challenges he has faced over the 1,200 miles already completed, Dr Calder described the experience as “intense on an emotional and mental level”.

“Major delays, kit that’s failing, getting lost, or if it starts raining, can all take you to a dark place”, he said. “I hadn’t realised how much more of a mental rather than a physical challenge it would be.”

Money raised will go towards a project run by Embrace the Middle East, where Dr Calder is the regional manager for Scotland and the North of England.

Starting in January, his first challenge was running from Dunfermline Abbey via Culross, where St Mungo was born, to Glasgow Cathedral, where the saint is buried.

The academic, who has taught at Stirling and Durham universities, explained that the length of the overall challenge “is the distance from Baghdad to Damascus toBeirut to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Cairo and back to Baghdad - the capitals of the countries in which Embrace the Middle East works”.

Having lived, worked and travelled widely in the Middle East, he is passionate about his reasons for the ambitious undertaking, stating: “Our focus is enabling people to rebuild their livelihoods and offer skills training in computers and even bee keeping. It will also support inter-communal peace building,” he added.

The father of two and Arabic speaker has a lifelong interest in the Middle East, which has included completing a PhD specialising on the region with 18 months living in Palestine, and proposing to his wife Karen in Egypt.

Including the St Ninian’s Way, which he started on Saturday, September 14, Dr Calder has a further three runs to complete.

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