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Charity Ultra Run Along Pilgrim Routes

Wednesday December 12 2018


A charity manager is to undertake a series of gruelling ultra marathon runs along Scotland’s pilgrim routes during 2019.

Mark Calder (right), who works for Embrace the Middle East, is planning 14 runs totalling around 1500 miles on routes throughout Scotland and northern England, as far south as Cumbria and Durham and as far north as Orkney.

He is running in aid of a new project which will help returning Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people resettle in their home villages.

The first run is on Sunday January 13, following the 45-mile St Mungo Route from Dunfermline Abbey to Glasgow Cathedral.

Several of the routes total over 100 miles. The longest, the St Ninian’s Way from Carlisle to Edinburgh via Whithorn and Glasgow, is 330 miles and will take seven days in September.

Mark, who is the regional manager for Scotland and north England for Embrace the Middle East, has been running ultra marathons since 2016 and did his first 100-mile run this year.

He says: “I’ve often felt that my longer runs are a bit like pilgrimages. At their best I’m very attentive to the environment, aware of myself and where I’m at, and sometimes aware of God – at times like this, running becomes an opportunity to worship. But also they entail bleak spells, struggle, darkness, even fear when pushed to my limit. In either case, running becomes a kind of prayer and, like pilgrimage, the inner journey harmonises with the physical journey on land.

“Embrace’s work is led by Middle Eastern Christians who are committed to their localities, even when the going gets tough. There is no commitment more striking than that of these returnees who have endured and lost so much, and yet who dare to remain steadfast. When it became clear that Embrace would be working with these returnees in 2019, it just made sense to connect doing these pilgrimages with that new expression of our mission.

“I won’t be able to do this alone. I’m going to be relying on people to engage with the venture and there are many ways of doing so. I’d like people to run with me – for one mile or for 100. Hopefully this will give people a special sense of participation, both in the Iraq work and in their localities as a places of significance.

“I'd really like it if churches or community groups en route could make a token of their parish or church which I could take as I pass through, and I'll make a kind of pilgrim's 'credencial' online, an album of all of these tokens. And of course I need people to fundraise, either through sponsoring me directly or through holding events in conjunction with the pilgrimage runs.

“And I would of course value prayer, for myself as I put my body through the wringer, and that money raised would bear lasting fruit in Iraq.”

A dedicated website and fundraising page will be launched soon, but in the meantime you can follow Mark through Embrace’s website, Facebook and Twitter.


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