Wednesday, 24 August 2011


In preparation for my entry to this Great North Run in aid of the Foundation, I found myself running the streets of Newcastle this week, squeezing in some training between work commitments.

I had my route mapped out that included, naturally a trip past St James’ Park (avoiding The Strawberry pub on this occasion for obvious reasons) when I chanced upon the Sir Bobby Robson Memorial Garden.

I must confess I was on holiday when the garden was unveiled earlier in the year so although I've visited it since with my son I missed the fanfare of the launch.

Well, trust Sir Bobby to provide a place for a sit down when I needed it most and a suitable spot for quiet contemplation (“13 miles? 13 miles? How am I going to make 13 miles?”). The garden, if you haven’t been, is nestled almost under the eves of the football ground, and even thought it’s hemmed in by the Metro station, busy Gallowgate and bustling Chinatown it manages to provide a place to rest a while and a chance to escape the daily grind.

As I was sat there exhausted (all I needed was a sweat-less vest and a tab to complete the image of “useless runner”) one crystal clear thought entered my mind. For all the talk of jovial Sir Bobby, of the glint in his eye, of clich├ęs gone wrong, of mispronounced young footballer’s names, of the amiable, affable man from County Durham done good, for all that talk… one thing stands out at the garden. Sir Bobby Robson was an out and out winner.

As player with twenty England caps. In management at FC Barcelona, the greatest, most prestigious club in football. In Holland, the home of total football, and in Portugal where they mass-produce flair players (as he might have said) “for fun”. In England as well, with unfancied underdogs Ipswich Town.

And in life too – with a family to be proud of, a charity bearing his name that continues to do wonderful things and a scoreline against cancer that read Robson 4 v Cancer 0, prior to his final battle with the disease in 2009. Winning, quite simply, was what he was all about.

So I kept that with me as departed to complete my training circuit of the city and although I didn’t count the miles I did, I felt stronger for the experience and just a little bit more determined. I’m not going to win the Great North Run clearly, but I will like the thousands of runners alongside me on the day gain something on completing it, and that’s the knowledge that I can achieve something that I previously thought impossible. I guess too, that’s what Sir Bobby was striving for with the Foundation. Take on cancer… and do whatever it takes to win.

If you would like to support my run, your donation would be very gratefully received at: