This morning, I got up before 6am to go for a run in the rain. With a man with a fridge on his back.
As you do.
Tony Phoenix-Morrison, aka Tony the Fridge, is doing 30 Great North Runs in 30 days carrying a 40kg fridge on his back. He’s not entirely new to fridge running, having carried it on last year’s Great North Run at the Blaydon Race and on the Marathon of the North in Sunderland.
He gets up early every morning, drives to near the start line on Claremont Road, hooks up his fridge on his back, takes a picture at the start line, kisses his wife, and off he goes, following the route of the Great North Run as closely as possible. Most days it’s just him running, with Matty on the bike carrying bottles of water and the phone with which he tweets pictures of the supporters who he meets along the way.
Sometimes people run along part of the route with him. Today it was my privilege to be one of them.
Me, my PT Ian, and another of his clients Lee met up on a dark and rainy morning to run with Tony from the start as far as the Heworth Metro. We sploshed through the puddles on a deserted Northumberland Street, and on down towards the Tyne Bridge.
That’s always a good moment, crossing the Tyne Bridge, but today, as well as the toots from vans and cars, we were drenched by the spray from passing buses and conversation was drowned out by the sound of the traffic.
The pace is slow, steady. But make no mistake, this is still running, and Tony can put on a surprising turn of pace up an incline. We only stop stop to cross the roads, treacherous in parts, especially as we negotiate the busy traffic interchange by the Gateshead bypass. This is not pedestrian friendly.
Carrying a fridge isn’t just about carrying an extra 40kgs of weight. It’s hard, metal weight that bumps and bruises and rubs and chafes at every step, no matter how well it’s padded. And every day Tony picks it up, puts it on his back and starts running.
Lee asked him what hurts the most. I think the short answer to that is everything. Tony runs hunched over, the weight of the fridge bending him down. He talks of his knees burning, his back covered in sores and friction burns, the blisters on his feet. And he knows, no matter how much it hurts today, he has to get up and do the same thing again tomorrow. It is a Sisyphean task.
But his burden does not break him. He laughs at the rain. He shares advice on running style and minimal shoes when I mention I’m interested in trying to change how I run. He points out landmarks that have meaning along the way.
Why does he do it? Because he can. Because he has a will of iron and a mental attitude that only sees the positive and will not give up. Because maybe he’s a bit crazy. And because he wants to support the cancer charities that will, he believes, one day find the cure for this disease that has taken people he loves. He’s raising funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
He takes heart from the toots of support along the way. And people stop him to donate money through the slots in the fridge. Oh yes, it jingles with coins and gets heavier by the day.
As we approach our turn off point, I am sorry I cannot go further and I have to turn back to get to work. I am sodden wet, and have done about 4 miles in an hour, but it’s one of the most inspirational runs I’ve ever done. And one I will never forget. Tony is a master of mental toughness and positive attitude, determination and endurance.