BY TOBY PORTER
A sports commentator more accustomed to describing sporting feats than achieving them is running a 20 miles a day for cancer research.
Mark Church, who normally mutters into the mike at Surrey matches at The Oval for the BBC, has been slogging more than 100 miles a week to help the charity which helped his dying father.
The 44-year-old has been running from the historic Kennington cricket ground to Lord’s, the traditional home of cricket across the river, every day from 9am.
He then runs back. And then he does the return run there and back again, getting back to the Oval in the dark.
He wants to do that four-fold journey a total of 50 times over 50 days – totting up 1,000 miles and finishing on December 4.
Some of the Surrey players have been running by his side to encourage him along. And he may need it – to make the runs even more of an ordeal, Mark has done all his recent slogs with an injury to his left knee.
“My left knee isn’t great but we are working around it with ice packs,” he said. “I do a lot of hobbling. I believe and we have researched it that no one has done this before.
The Oval are letting me use their dressing room and facilities. I am staying with people around the Oval and spending most of the time at the ground.
“I got some money when my dad died and wanted do something in the off-season for research into pancreatic cancer.
The original idea was to run around all the county grounds in the country but it was a logistical nightmare.
“My mum suggested running between Lord’s and the Oval and it is five miles so it was ideal.” Mark is having one day a week off to give his legs a chance to recover.
He said: “Everyone has been very kind. After running the route so many times, people will have started to wonder why this bloke is doing it. “I had forgotten quite how busy London is.
No one looks – so my side-step has got really amazing. It was fun organising and I’ve been quite lucky with the weather so far. When it gets colder, it will be more interesting.
I feel about 90 years old at the moment even though I’ve got almost 700 miles and 140 laps to do. If I get an injury I just have to keep going. It would have to take a pretty dreadful disaster to stop me not getting over the line on December 4.
“My dad would have thought I was a bit of an idiot. But he loves cricket so it is the right thing to do.
The worst part is the last few miles every day – when you’ve done 15 miles and you are getting really slow and starting to hit more and more people coming home from work.
Vauxhall Bridge is a nightmare. I’m always very pleased to see the Oval and especially when I see the Alec Stewart Gate.”
Mark’s father, Tony, who until just before he became ill played golf five times a week, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October last year and died in May.
The doctor’s didn’t think he would last until Christmas last year,” said Mark. It was horrific to watch your dad go through something like that.
We had to carry him from the bed to the bathroom – I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
“Even when my knees hurt and the last one is horrific I remember what he went through and the runs seemed an absolute breeze.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support.” Mark has been commentating on Surrey matches for 17 years – the last time he watched them win a title was in 2002, before this year’s County Championship success.
“I thought I was the kiss of death,” he said. “They might have agreed. But it was great to see Surrey win the title this year.”
Mark hopes to raise at least £25,000 – which would be enough to fund a year of research – and is already past the £16,000 mark.
A dinner on December 7 should raise more cash.