RUNNING an ultra-marathon is not everyone’s cup of tea, but one man is seeking to run 14 to raise money for the charity Embrace the Middle East.
The runner, Dr Mark Calder, began the challenge last month. He explained that his motivation came from the sense of freedom, of pilgrimage, that running gave him, and because of Embrace’s new project in Iraq, Running Home. He is the charity’s regional manager for Scotland and the North of England.
Dr Calder is hoping to run 14 ultra-marathons, which means any run longer than 26 miles, with distances ranging from 45 to 350 miles. They will take place across Scotland over the coming weeks.
“The idea began on a run late last year, when I had a sense of how much freedom and play I get from running. I started to think about this with our new project in Iraq — how the journey I’m taking contrasts with the much more traumatic one taken by people in northern Iraq.
“Like a pilgrimage, there are intense highs and lows during ultra-marathons, and a lot of nothing in between. . . Some will be one-day runs, and others will be drawn out over days. I am an experienced marathoner, but I only did my first 100-mile run in November.”
Embrace is to establish its first links in Iraq this year. The charity said: “Many displaced Iraqis are trying to return home now, only to find that everything they knew has been destroyed. Their towns and villages need infrastructure — roads need repairing, water and electricity supplies need restoring, and the schools need rebuilding.
“From building and running schools and health-care facilities to rebuilding homes and starting new businesses, with your support, Christian communities are aiming to rebuild their communities and economies, and create opportunities for the next generation.”
Dr Calder is hoping to raise upwards of £50,000. He said: “There is no limit to what we could do. It’s not just rebuilding infrastructure: it is rebuilding the resilience of communities, and rebuilding livelihoods.”
His faith, he said, helps him while running: “In the everyday running I do, it is the closest I get to a quiet, still mind — it is very easy to pray.
“I feel that running is almost prayer in itself, an enjoyment of the present. You feel seen and recognised by God.”