Wednesday, 24 October 2012


The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation's writer-in-residence, Tom Chaplin, meets Tony 'the Fridge' Phoenix-Morrison:

A few hours in the company of Tony ‘the fridge’ Phoenix-Morrison left me completely exhausted. Yes, I tried on the fridge but it wasn’t that - though the thing IS very definitely heavy. Nor was it the time spent on the treadmill, at Tony’s insistence, with the fridge on my back learning the ‘fridge man shuffle’. What left me fatigued was Tony’s sheer strength, his determination to succeed and his passion for fund-raising.

Just last month Tony ran the Great North Run course on thirty consecutive days - including during the race itself - with a six stone fridge on his back. If you haven’t heard of his efforts, a) where have you been?! and b) you can see more about it by clicking here

Tony is a successful businessperson and a really keen, experienced endurance runner so it’s easy to see where he got the drive and determination from to complete such a feat. But perhaps more amazing to contemplate is the story behind the run. Losing a family member to cancer was the inspiration for the run, allied to his motto “if I can’t, I must”. It became, Tony told me, something he just had to do despite the challenge, the doubts and the pain.

Having tried the fridge out over several distances - including last year’s Great North Run - Tony came up with this year’s challenge as a way of fund-raising for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in memory of beloved family member Sheila who sadly passed away following a battle with cervical cancer. He wanted to support the staff of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre in their search for the improved diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

It was fascinating to hear how Tony dealt with the personal discomfort of so much running with the fridge on his back. The sores, the exploding pain in his feet and the way the fridge scraped at his back and forced his shorts to fall down every few hundred steps. It was great to hear too how, though he knew of other fridge/kitchen appliance runners, he had developed his own technique of running on his heels to combat the pain.

Perhaps what was most enlightening though were the stories of ordinary people – strangers – who as a result of Tony’s days and days on the Great North Run route became friends. The commuters, school children and shop keepers stuffing money into the fridge as he passed, the incessant tooting of horns from passing motorists, and perhaps most poignantly – the family of a man who sadly died from cancer during Tony’s month on the roads between Newcastle and South Shields.

He had wanted no flowers at his funeral, just donations to “that lad with the fridge,” Tony had proudly told me. At the finish one day, waiting for Tony, was this man’s family with £700 to put in the fridge.

Tony’s fundraising efforts have recently surpassed £13,000 and it won’t stop there. Tony and his fridge recently completed the Kielder Marathon, England’s hilliest – and you would think most un-fridge-friendly - marathon. And now he’s due to attempt a crazy 100 miles in 24 hours with the fridge and has plans for Land’s End to John O’Groats.

See, I told you it was exhausting.
Of course, you don’t have to run with a fridge on your back, or do 30 consecutive Great North Runs or both to fund-raise for the Sir Bobby Robson foundation. You perhaps just need a reason or some inspiration, or a goal however big or small. Please don’t stop what you are doing. Every penny raised in Sir Bobby’s name goes towards something truly remarkable. Good luck and thank you.    

If you would like to support Tony you can sponsor him here:

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