During my run across America, I had some tremendous support from people all over the world. The most surprising of which was from the football club I grew up supporting, Sunderland AFC.
When they published an article about the run that was seen by all of their supporters, it was such an exciting moment. To open their website and see my grinning mug of the home page, and then again in the matchday program was unforgettable. But that all paled in comparison to what they had in store for me when I visited the stadium last Tuesday.
After a nice evening drive through the Peak District on damp Tuesday evening I found out that their plans for me would be in front of the 28,500 supporters who would be at the match that evening. I was to be taking part in the half time show. I'd be the "entertainment". It was a new supporter event where a fan from the home and away team would have to run around half of the pitch, before breaking on at the halfway line and chase the ball before scoring in the goal at the other end of the pitch.
Now bear in mind that I've hardly run since returning back to the UK I was a little nervous. Then to find out that the Gillingham fan would get a head start, well, my work was definitely cut out for me!
So as the halftime whistle blew, I made my way down to the pitchside and the countdown was on. The opposition fan had about a 50-meter head start before I was shouted at to follow. Sprinting past 30,000 home fans who are all cheering you on to go faster is a surreal experience and might have been the only thing that kept me going. Running in jeans is not the easiest, and trying to navigate the corners of the pitch on a rainy night was almost impossible.
My Legs were burning more than on my America run!
But as I made it onto the field I managed to catch my opponent. Legs on fire I knew that if I managed to catch up with him I would have had to just keep on running, any change in direction would most likely have caused me to fall over. As I gained on him he took a shot and I sprinted after the ball with the hopes of catching it and knocking it in myself. Alas, that didn't happen. I was still a good 10 meters away from the ball as it crossed the line.
Despite not scoring it was still an amazing experience that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. To top it all off, after the match we were led to meet the players and then up to the "fancy bar" upstairs where I had the chance to meet the club owner, Stewart Donald. After chatting for a good fifteen minutes about the run across America and the charity we came up with a lot of ideas for a future charity fundraiser at the club. I'll let you guess what it may be but the clue is that it'll be a lot of ups and downs!
If you enjoyed this post then please could you spare a minute! Most of you know I have been shortlisted again at the Running Awards in the Blogs category for next year and the voting is only open until this Friday! I would love it if you could go to vote for this personal blog, "Corner To Corner USA".