Charity worker embarks on 340 mile pilgrimage

Embrace the middle east

Mark Calder is raising funds to rebuild communities in the Middle East

9th September 2019 by Yasmin Hackett 0 Comments

A charity worker is setting out to run 340 miles from Carlisle to Edinburgh on the St Ninian’s Way in a bid to help rebuild war-torn areas of Iraq.

Money raised during the pilgrimage will go towards a project run by Embrace the Middle East, where Dr Mark Calder, 37, is the regional manager for Scotland and the North of England.

He has lived, worked and travelled widely in the Middle East, and is passionate about his reasons for the ambitious undertaking.

"The goal is to raise money for our new project for refugees returning to cities previously occupied by the Islamic State particularly in Iraq," he said.

"Our focus is enabling people to rebuild their livelihoods and offer skills training in computers and even bee keeping.

"It will also support inter-communal peace building.

"Embrace the Middle East is led by local partners and shows how changes big and small can make a difference," he added.

Calder started his pilgrimage back in January, which will take a year covering a total of 1,725 miles spread across 14 ultramarathons, all of which retrace the ancient pilgrim routes of Scotland and Northern England.

The distances range in length from 45 miles to 200 miles, but the St Ninian’s Way via Whithorn and Glasgow is by far the longest and will taken seven days.

Reflecting on the challenges he has faced so far, Dr Calder described the experience as “intense on an emotional and mental level”.

“Major delays, kit that’s failing, getting lost, or if it starts raining, can all take you to a dark place”, he said.

The academic, who has taught at Stirling and Durham universities, explained that the length of the overall challenge "is the distance from Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Cairo and back to Baghdad - the capitals of the countries in which Embrace the Middle East works".

He added: “It’s a gift to live in a country where I am free to run from one coast to the next without fear of encountering checkpoints or minefields or similar, which has been an incredibly profound experience.”