200 Marathons in Five Months

A graduate has joined a small troupe of distance runners who aim to become the first team to travel the entire length of the Ancient Silk Route from Turkey to China on foot - a distance that equates to over 200 marathons in five months. Their goal is to raise money and awareness for water shortages in the region.

Stephen McNally 2Physiotherapy MSc graduate, Dr Stephen McNally, is supporting the team in their mammoth expedition by helping maintain their wellbeing for the duration of the five month challenge, which set off from Istanbul, Turkey, on Wednesday 20 April.

The challenge has been organised by The Home Expedition (THE) – a Taiwan-based institute devoted to promoting a sustainable earth and long term solutions for deprived peoples.

The team of runners Dr McNally is supporting will undertake an average of 70km per day through Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China. After 150 days of running, and with approximately 10,000 kilometres behind them, they will finish in Xi’an – the capital of Shaanxi province, China - on September 16/17, with a gala event.

The lead runner on the expedition, Kevin Lin Yi Jie - the former ‘4 Deserts Champion’ who ran across the continent of Africa in 2006/7 – has been joined by Chinese runners Chen Jun and Bai Bin and Canadian runner, Jodi Bloomer. They are accompanied by a support team of five experts in the fields of logistics, physiotherapy and wilderness medicine.

Originally from Meath, Republic of Ireland and now currently living and working in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Dr McNally graduated from Robert Gordon University’s MSc Physiotherapy (Pre-Reg) course in February 2009.  Prior to this he completed a PhD and BSc (Hons) elsewhere in the UK in physiology-related subjects including sports rehabilitation. He was selected for this exciting position by THE ahead of a high number of applicants from across the globe – a considerable achievement as he has only been a qualified physiotherapist for a few years.

Commenting on his main responsibilities on the trek, he said: “My role is quite holistic as it incorporates the injury management and prevention of the athletes, nutrition and hydration as well as trying to keep the athletes motivated throughout the journey.

“As a physiotherapist, the physiological and psychological challenges likely to be encountered while facilitating these athletes to complete this extraordinary feat, requires intensive communication, motivation and encouragement while adhering to the physio-therapeutic management of the athletes throughout the expedition. To do this all for 150 consecutive days will be a real challenge for both the athletes and me.”  

Clinical Tutor at the School of Health Sciences at Robert Gordon University, Kath Spink, worked closely with Stephen during his Physiotherapy Masters. She commented: “It is gratifying that, in addition to his previous experience, the skills and knowledge Stephen developed through our course are allowing him to take part in such a worthwhile endeavour.  The teaching team here is all very proud of his achievement.  We wish him, the runners and support team all the very best for their challenge and look forward to hearing news updates.”

Richard Chang, CEO of The Home Expedition who has created and organised Running the Silk Road stated: “This is a breakthrough expedition for humankind and the development of water projects. We have assembled a truly international team from Taiwan, China, UK, Russia, Australia, Canada, Ireland and the USA”.  

Kevin Lin, who has previously raced to the North Pole says, “Having been to the toughest lands and survived the extreme challenges with my body and mind, I have learned tremendous lessons from the Earth”. This will be a crowning achievement for Kevin who developed a love of running whilst a schoolboy in Taiwan.

Proceeds raised from the Running the Silk Road expedition will be donated to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Silk Road region.


Photo caption: Steven McNally (background) treats one of the running team members of the charity expedition.

Photographs of Stephen with the team are available from the Communications Office on request.

Steven has daily internet access and so email interviews can be arranged through the Communications Office.

Notes to editor
Running the Silk Road, is organised by The Home Expedition (THE), based in Taipei. The goal of the project is to raise money or partner NGOs to raise awareness of environmental issues, in particular, the chronic water shortages and desertification in the Silk Road region.

In partnership with the China Mountaineering Association (CMA), Running the Silk Road will mark the first time that China and Taiwan have worked together on a sporting event of this scale. It will be one of the greatest events in the region in 2011.

The Home Expedition (THE) is an institute devoted to promoting a sustainable earth, long term solutions for deprived peoples and regions, and a sense of responsibility by way of an ultra expedition into our earth home. THE hopes to inspire everyone to start taking action.

Andrew Youngson
Communications Officer

Directorate of Marketing, Communications and Student Recruitment
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262389