My friends knew I was an ultra-runner, so trying to raise money by just running the Great North Run wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I thought about something different. I wanted an extreme challenge, something that would push me to my limits. In 2011, I told everyone I was running with a fridge and the world went made for it! I ended up on the news in 17 different countries over night.
How has it changed your training?
Running with that fridge is something different altogether. It starts off tough, then gets impossible. I hate the fridge. I don’t put it on for show. I should have never ran with the fridge because I was injured when I began. I went running with kettlebells in a rucksack and it swung everywhere, damaging my lower back. There’s no way to prepare for it, other than being strong mentally.
How was that first GNR with the fridge?
By the 11th mile both of my calves had gone and I was in a bad state. Just completing it was a great relief. I’m passionate for raising money for cancer and thought that the fridge was a real heavy burden to bear. I wanted to use the fridge to get people’s attention and think about what cancer is like, carrying this heavy load every day, down the same road. I couldn’t give myself cancer for charity, but I could give myself a burden like this, experiencing pure toil and struggle. That’s how I raised £24,000 in one day for the Appliances 24hour challenge. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation is all about finding the cancer early and beating it, that’s what fuels my passion for fighting this plague.
“We all have it in us to test ourselves in different ways. We were designed to run; it’s what we were born to do.”
How do you feel the 24 hour Challenge went?
It was nothing short of a nightmare. It was a real test of my will to get through it. I hadn’t slept the night before or ate properly; it was the worst possible start. It’s a case of having the mental strength to stay focused on the moment. I couldn’t allow myself the time to think about finishing. The times I did were terrifying. I still have no feeling in six of my toes. The doctors said if I’d ran another five miles I would have broke both my feet because of the weight of the fridge.
When did you first realise you had this passion to run?
My dad died, when I was 12-years-old and I used to hide under my bed. One day my brother found me my secret world away from reality was lost. The next time I got stressed, I had nowhere to hide, so I just ran and ran. I stood up from my chair in school and the teachers were begging “don’t run Tony, please.” They thought once I started I wouldn’t stop. I was like Forrest Gump. I was running away from my problems. It was an escape for me at the time, a medicine to my problems. You always feel better after a run. I’m a football coach and lifelong fan and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve regretted going to the football. Every game I go to watch Newcastle I regret going to really! But I’ve never regretted going for a run. It’s extraordinarily rewarding.
What’s next for you and the fridge?
The next challenge is running John O’Groats to Lands End with the fridge in 60 days. If I make that then I’ll run across America. That’s a real test. Then, hopefully, the council will give me permission to throw it off the Tyne Bridge.
What makes the North East so passionate about running?
I think it has a lot to do with the perfect weather conditions. But, in the past 30 years, there’s only one reason why we all love to run and that’s the Great North Run. Brendan Foster should be knighted for what he’s done. He’s been responsible for keeping generations fit and interested in running. It’s on everybody’s bucket list.