The walk will commemorate Royal Mail’s celebration of 500 years while also raising monry for the Lily Foundation.
Mark launched his massive walk from Edinburgh’s East Delivery Office and was cheered on by colleagues as he attempts to walk around 500 miles of what was the London to Edinburgh postal route.
The Lily Foundation is a charity close to Mark’s heart as his 18-month-old grandson suffers from the life-limiting Mitochondrial Disease - a genetic condition that prevents cells in the body from producing enough energy for the body to survive.
It can affect any part of the body, for example the heart, brain, muscles, eyes, hearing, stomach or kidneys and has no known cure.
The Lily Foundation funds research to improve diagnosis and increase treatment options for Mitochondrial Disease, and ultimately find a cure.
The charity also raises much needed awareness of the condition and support families affected by Mitochondrial Disease.
Mark, 50, will be supported by family, friends and colleagues throughout the walk.
Royal Mail and Communications Workers Union (CWU) will also be providing support and supplies.
All funds Mark raises, up to a maximum of £20,000, will also be matched by Royal Mail.
The Burnham on Sea postie will finish by crossing Tower Bridge on 18 June, en route to the Guild Hall in London, where he will join Royal Mail’s 500 year celebrations in the Capital.
Mark, who aims to walk around 20 miles a day, said: “I am privileged to be following in the footsteps of ancient postal carriers to mark 500 years of the postal service.
“I am also trying to raise money for a cause close to my heart.
“Thinking of Frankie will spur me on to the finish line in London on 18 June.
“I can’t thank Royal Mail, my colleagues and the CWU enough, for the first class help, support and organisation it has taken to get me to the start today.
“I am looking forward to seeing many other fellow postmen and women on my route, as well as Lily Foundation supporters.”
Royal Mail colleagues and Lily Foundation supporters will be out in force along the 500 mile route cheering Mark on in East Linton, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, Thirsk, York, Whitely, Doncaster, Carlton-on-Trent, Grantham, Stamford, Sawtry, Cambridgeshire, Buntingford and Waltham Abbey.
Sue Whalley, Royal Mail’s chief operating officer, said: “Mark has decided to take on this amazing challenge as we celebrate 500 years of the postal service.
“Our postmen and women across the UK go the extra mile for good causes.
“We are proud to support Mark. His commitment and dedication to raising money for Frankie is outstanding and we hope many of our colleagues help him along the route.
“We always knew our postman and woman were first class, but Mark is the only one with such a long delivery walk.”
Mark will be followed on the route by a Royal Mail branded vehicle with CWU helpers carrying supplies, 100 bananas, 125 litres of water, 25 Royal Mail teeshirts, two pairs of trainers, five tubs of Vaseline, 50 pairs of socks, 50 sports drinks, 30 bags of peanuts, 25 protein shakes, 10 tubes of deep heat and 30 packets of jelly babies.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said “Mark is taking on this challenge for a fantastic cause.
“I am sure colleagues across the UK will join me in wishing him the best of luck as he prepares to set off. Please consider donating to the fund - even the smallest of gestures goes such a long way.”
Liz Curtis, founder and chief executive of the Lily Foundation, added: “Mark has certainly set himself a huge challenge with this mammoth walk and we are delighted he is doing it in aid of The Lily Foundation.
“We will be there to see him off and to welcome him back and hope that our Lily families will come out and support him throughout.
“We would like thank Royal Mail and CWU for all their support with this walk. Good luck Mark.”
Anyone can donate or support mark at www.sponsorme.co.uk/markpenfold
Royal Mail has a series of events across the UK to mark its 500 year celebrations.
It has also launched a campaign to encourage customers to reveal the secrets of UK social history through customers’ old forgotten letters.
These can be viewed at: 500years.royalmailgroup.com
The Lily Foundation was founded after the daughter of founder Liz Curtis died in 2007.
The charity aims to give hope, answers and support to the many other children and families that face the challenges of this disease today.
Every twenty minutes a child is born who will develop Mitochondrial Disease by the age of 16!? There is no cure for this disease which is for many debilitating and life limiting.
When a person has Mitochondrial Disease the Mitochondria in the cells are not producing enough energy for the cell. Sometimes they do not work at all, and sometimes they are just not very efficient.
If a cell does not get enough energy (ATP) it cannot function properly.
There is a huge variety in the symptoms and severity of Mitochondrial Disease. It depends on how many cells are affected, and where they are in the body.
Every person with Mitochondrial Disease is affected differently. Each individual affected will have a different combination of Mitochondria that are working and not working within each cell.
The Lily Foundation is currently supporting research initiatives at Guy’s and St Thomas’/Evelina Children’s Hospital, Newcastle University and Great Ormond Street Hospital/ Institute of Child Health and Sir John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.
By funding this work, they hope to enable doctors to get a better understanding of how mitochondria function.
This will help identify new disease causing genes and improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis.
This will lead to the development of effective treatment options, techniques to prevent transmission and ultimately to find a cure.