Mark’s staying sober but remains in good spirits

Mark Connelly held a whisky auction
Mark Connelly held a whisky auction

The organiser of a whisky festival is taking on a year of charity challenges but he’ll not have a tipple to celebrate – as he’s staying sober in 2017.

Mark Connelly, from Bishopbriggs, is taking on four separate challenges – with others in the pipeline – to raise money for good causes.

They include running a marathon and pushing himself to the limit with a month of 10k runs.

The 41-year-old co-founder of the Glasgow Whisky Festival said: “They’re all things on my bucket list.

“I thought I might as well do them all in the same year as I’m not going to get any younger.”

The former Turnbull High School pupil and keen runner is tackling a 10k every day throughout February to raise money for The ME Association, which supports patients and funds research into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

He has already raised £2,000 for the charity by auctioning off a limited edition bottle of Big Peat whisky, after being inspired to fundraise when a friend was diagnosed with the illness, which causes extreme exhaustion.

He said: “Before I met her, I suppose I thought that ME made you a wee bit tired. Now I know it’s a lot more than that.

“It’s been an eye opener how much pain she is in and how she deals with it every day. That’s the inspiration for me to take all this on.”

His biggest challenge will be in September, when he tackles the Berlin Marathon to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Mark explained: “It will be the longest distance I’ve ever run and I know how punishing it’s going to be, mentally and physically.”

But when he gets past the Brandenburg Gate and over the line he won’t be toasting his success because he’s pledged to quit alcohol for the whole of 2017 in aid of Diabetes UK.

He said: “I was diagnosed with diabetes three years ago and I manage it through diet and exercise. A lot of people did Dry January and I thought: ‘Let’s make it more of a challenge – let’s do the whole year!’.

“My job doesn’t help - you get lots of people having a drink and saying ‘ooo, this is great – you’d love this!’ But it’s for a good cause so I know I’ll be able to resist.”

Helen Hyland, from the ME Association, said: “Many people, like Mark, are shocked when someone close to them is diagnosed with ME. As he says, the symptoms are more than a little tiredness – they are life changing and devastating.

“We’re grateful to him for all his fundraising efforts. And we hope that when it gets to 2018 he’ll enjoy a very well earned dram!”

Follow Mark’s progress through his blog www.dry2017.org or donate to his JustGiving page www.justgiving.com/teams/whiskymark.