Remember Tony the Fridge? The guy who ran the Great North Run route 30 times with a fridge on his back? He was back with another crazy challenge, this time running for 24 hours with an even heavier fridge along Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
My best work buddy was leaving and having drinks in town. So I dashed out for a couple of hours in the bar, wishing her well and left just after 9pm, via a superhero costume change into my running gear and headed down to race HQ.
Tony’s run had started much earlier, live on local TV at 18:20. The hullabaloo of press attention had gone, and it was dark, but he was still supported by his faithful crew and other runners turning up to clock up a few miles.
I arrived just as he was coming in for a pitstop and shortly after set off to run a few laps. He didn’t seem quite his usual self, or not as I’ve known him when I ran with him before. He was still philosophising, still talking about being in the moment, but there was an effort of will to it. Tony never talks in negatives and has the strongest mental will I’ve ever encountered, and that was still there, but there was a subtle down beat note that seemed off key.
I was a bit worried that this was how things were early on in his run. I chatted a little with him and some of the other runners, but I sensed it was a good time for quiet focus.
It was a beautiful night. After gales and storms, it was perfectly still, dark, and peaceful. The backdrop of the Tyne, with the bridges and buildings, is a sight to gladden any heart and this night it put on its kindest face.
There’s a little bit of magic about Tony. Beautiful things happen when he’s around, like the sun coming up as we ran onto the Tyne bridge during his 30 day Great North Run challenge.
That night, the river – the great big heart of this amazing city – provided a scene of wonder. The river was still as glass. As we ran alongside, we stopped and looked over the railings to see a perfect reflection of the Tyne bridge. The world turned upside down, lights shining in the water. The ever moving river stilled in tribute to a man who just has to keep moving for 24 hours.
I ran a couple of very steady miles and then left him to plough on through the night, feeling the dull ache of the run in my hips and legs, not daring to imagine how much Tony would be hurting.
I woke early on Saturday morning and went to parkrun on the Town Moor where I had an unexpectedly fast run and took almost a minute off last week’s time, scoring a new season’s best and getting closer to my best ever pace time.
After parkrun I returned to the Quayside to run another three miles with Tony. The sun was shining, buckets were shaken, horns tooted and Tony was surrounded by runners he knows. He posed for pictures with supporters, passers by and even with a couple who were getting married at the Baltic. He was very much more himself and after my laps, I left knowing he was in great shape to complete his 24 hour run.