A CHARITY fundraiser has undertaken an ultramarathon length pilgrimage to mark St Cuthbert’s Day.

Dr Mark Calder, who works at Durham University, is running 1,725 miles this year to raise money for Embrace the Middle East, a charity supporting Iraqi refugees to rebuild their homes in the aftermath of war.

He will be doing 14 ultramarathons this year to cover the distance, which is the same as that from Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv to Cairo and back to Baghdad – the capitals of the countries in which the charity works.

His third of the year saw him run from Melrose, in Scotland, to Durham Cathedral, via Lindisfarne to pay homage to St Cuthbert.

He said: “I love running and the sense of freedom I get from it. Late last year, I started to think about my journey and how this contrasts with the much more traumatic one taken by people in northern Iraq. The fact I am able to do these ultramarathons isn’t something I take for granted, however it’s motivating to think that my journey will go some way to create a better, happier ending to the desperately sad story of displacement and loss in Iraq.”

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said: ‘Mark’s ultramarathon pilgrimages are not just feats of endurance. They bear witness to the courage of the Iraqi’s that Embrace the Middle East are helping and to the legacy of Cuthbert and his fellow northern saints with their examples of sacrifice and self-giving.”

Meanwhile, as part of the cathedral’s celebrations to mark St Cuthbert’s Day, volunteers took it in turns to cycle 90 miles – the distance between Lindisfarne and Durham, on a static bike.

They carried out the “Tour de Cuthbert” on Saturday to raise money for the cathedral’s Foundation 2020 endowment fund, which goes towards maintenance of the 900-year-old edifice.