Finish line for ultramarathon man

Dr Mark Calder at Fowlis Wester Parish Church
Dr Mark Calder at Fowlis Wester Parish Church

An Insch man has completed his epic ‘Running Home 2019’ adventure of running 14 ultramarathons throughout this year.

Dr Mark Calder has covered 1,725 miles, tracing pilgrim routes across Scotland and Northern England.

His tremendous effort is to raise money for a project run by Embrace the Middle East, which supports refugees to return home and rebuild their lives in war-torn Iraq.

Dr Calder’s final run took place on Saturday, November 16.

Covering 70 miles he ran from South Queensferry, Edinburgh to St Andrews via the Fife Pilgrim Way.

The run also marked the feast day of the 11th Century Queen who opened up the ferry route for pilgrims to St Andrews between South and North Queensferry.

The distances of the runs have ranged in length from 45 miles to 340 miles, with some spanning over a number of days.

This has been a gruelling challenge for Dr Calder; who usually divides his time between working for Embrace the Middle East and teaching at Durham universities.

He said: “There have been some real struggles this year, running ultramarathons teaches you a huge amount.

“Running through the day into the night against a headwind, the physical pain or when it’s rained for days can really sap your mood, it’s intense on an emotional and mental level; it’s during these times that make me reflect on what I’m doing and why.”

Based near Aberdeen, Dr Calder is a husband and father of two with a lifelong interest in the Middle East.

Having completed a PhD specialising on the region and spent 18 months living in Palestine, he now works for Embrace the Middle East.

He continued: “ I’ve learned a huge amount from the challenges I’ve faced and have felt encouraged by people’s support and engagement with the project.

“With their support, I’ve been running in pursuit of a happier ending to a long, unhappy story in Iraq. It’s now or never for the families returning home, seeking to rebuild their lives, and it’s an enormous privilege for me to play a small role in supporting them.

“My hope is that from my small effort to shine a light on this cause that more people will be inspired and donate to help make a real difference to people’s lives in Iraq.”

To find out more about Dr Calder’s challenge and how to donate to the Running Home 2019 project visit www.runninghome2019.co.uk.