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He’s been an unmistakable sight on the terraces of football grounds up and down the country for the past five years, raising money for charity in nothing but a pair of Everton blue swimming trunks.
But now Mick Cullen, or Speedo Mick as he’s known to thousands of supporters, is taking on his most punishing challenge to date.
Kitted out in just his trademark trunks, and with only a Blues scarf between him and the elements, he’s on a solo 1,000-mile trek from John O’Groats in the far north of Scotland to Land’s End in Cornwall.
Mick, who turned 55 on Tuesday while he was trudging through snow on the roadsides just past Inverness, will be walking for seven weeks, aiming to raise £50,000 for his own newly-launched charity.
That means clocking up almost a marathon distance every day as he winds his way down Britain, collecting every step of the way.
So far, he’s one week in to the challenge and admits he’s feeling a bit on the chilly side. “It’s absolutely freezing,” he laughs, when he manages to catch his breath in between shivering. “It was minus 4 degrees when I set off this morning, but it will warm up hopefully. It’ll get to about minus 2 soon if I’m lucky!”
It was the punishing below-zero temperatures which made Mick plan his walk from top to bottom, rather than south to north which is the usual route.
“If I’d done it the other way, arriving in Scotland in January, I wouldn’t have had a chance. I’d have been frozen. I’m just about coping with it now, although I’ve honestly got no idea what I’m doing to my body or my mind.”
After raising £160,000 for charities since 2014, when he did his first English Channel swim and debuted those now-famous trunks, Mick isn’t one to back away when the going gets tough. He’s stood on footy terraces, shaking his collecting bucket, in the height of winter, so he’s used to the cold.
“Although on this walk I can’t even take my gloves off for a minute because it feels like you’ve had the cane at school across your hands, it’s that painful,” he says.
Now the Scouse super-fundraiser’s got his own charity, Leave the Light On, as a target – supporting community projects and creating opportunities for disadvantaged young people.
And he’s keen to be a positive role model in bringing people together to share their experiences and strengths.
“I want to show that you can change your behaviour and your ways, no matter the dark times you’ve been through,” explains the self-employed lighting rigger.
“I had it bad for a long time, for 18 years, I was basically harming myself by making the wrong decisions. There was a time when I thought things would never turn around for me, but they have and that’s why I’m trying to inspire other people.”
He’s certainly been getting an overwhelmingly positive reaction on his latest walk. Although he’s doing it solo – carrying his bags on his back – he’s never really alone. Twitter messages of good luck come in a steady flow as he ploughs on, and there’s no shortage of people willing to join him for stretches of the route.
“The kindness has been absolutely incredible. I’ve had so much support along the way when people have found out what I’m doing. I had one Everton fan come up to me with a cup of hot tea yesterday and he walked about a mile and a half alongside me.
“It’s been brilliant, I’ve only had to pay for one hotel up to now because people have given me somewhere to stay and made me food. One lady in Tain invited me into her house for a coffee and then ran me a hot bubble bath while her husband put the kettle on!
“I had a soak for half an hour then got back out for another three hours’ walking.”
Mick has created a route map which shows where he intends to go. On Christmas Day, he aims to arrive in Glasgow, although there’s unlikely to be time for a turkey dinner.
“I’ll probably just stomp on,” he laughs. “The only day off I might take is if I get to Liverpool and there’s a match on. Then I might have a bit of a break. Not from the Speedos, though. I’ll still be in my pants!”
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