Steff has asked me to outline what has been happening in the background in terms of organising and preparing for Jo's run.
If you ever watched Blue Peter as a kid you'll have seen the presenter faffing about with an empty toilet roll holder and some tape before pulling out an amazing knights castle from under the table and saying "Here's one we made earlier!"
And we're all hoping that this event will be a bit like that - we want Jo to turn up on the 21st and start running with seamless support all along the route, great media coverage and lots of money raised for a great cause.
But there is a huge amount of spade work that goes into simply getting into position to run those first few steps of the 350 miles. This all started out as a nagging idea with Jo that wouldn't go away. Several months ago she asked a few friends if they thought it was a totally ridiculous idea. She selected the friends carefully because instead of recommending a long lie down in a darkened room they took the idea seriously, made some suggestions and the idea slowly took root.
Next Jo sought advice on the route from the cycling guys on Boards, who have a lot of experience of Malin to Mizen and back again routing. So now it was starting to get a bit more real...
Next thing you know Steff, Jo, Niall (Jo's husband) and I are having a general conversation and Steff was talking about fund-raising and before you knew it provisional plans were made. Jo would run Malin to Mizen before the summer to raise money for the Carers Association.
And that is when Steff's organising brain went into overdrive. We brainstormed out the requirements for pre-event, during the event and post-event. We tried to visualise what Jo would be doing each day and what she would need to do it. From that we generated a list of support items, this was reviewed and added to by Jo.
Since the beginning of April, Steff has sent out almost 400 emails and made hundreds of phone calls. Transport (bikes and a camper van) had to be found. Hotels along the route had to be persuaded to let Jo stay for free. Massage therapists have been lined up for overnight stops. Sports nutrition companies had to be persuaded to hand over product for free, bottles of water had to be found and boxes of fresh fruit and pasta are still being looked for. Medical supplies and first aid equipment had to be sourced and a sponsors for the diesel are still being looked for. Permits for street collection had to applied for and a celebration night and fundraiser planned for Nenagh thanks to a Respite Worker called Anna. Magnetic signs to stick to the van to promote and thank the sponsors were needed. And media contacts had to be primed and pumped - local and national print and broadcast media have all been approached and we have been doing well on getting coverage so far. And of course blogs and charity donation webpages needed to be set up and maintained! Emma J (National Fundraising Manager) in the Carers Association HQ and Catherine (Steff's line manager) have been roped in, as have their PR company. The whole point of course being to ensure that as much as possible is provided to us for free so that every single penny raised can go towards helping provide much needed services for family Carers, like training and in-house respite.
And it's been a resounding success - socks have been worked off and all the indications are that this will be a really successful event, both from a fundraising point of view and in terms of raising the charity's profile.
Of course all that hard work is just a framework for Jo's efforts come the 21st (and all the training miles she's been logging up till now). And in a very real sense the work will only begin then - there is a vast amount of verification required for an official Guinness World Record. We need to photograph and videotape Jo at key points on the journey. We need to provide a GPS record and have independent witnesses signing off that she was in location X at day Y.
And that is where you might be able to help!
A huge number of people have stepped up and offered to run some of the route with Jo. For safety reasons we have to limit it to one or two at a time but it will be a great boost to her and their sign-off is vital for the record. Even if you can't run it with us your presence and sign off could well be useful. Or maybe you have something else you could help with? For example we have had an offer today from someone who will use the GPS data to update a map frequently through the day so that people can keep an eye on Jo's progress. Do you have a skill you think we could use? Or contacts who could help? Do you have any creative ideas on fundraising? Anything you can think of that will help please drop a note in the comments or email us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org. And if all else fails you know where the donation page is!
9 days to go, the countdown starts here...!