Tony ‘the Fridge’ Phoenix-Morrison, from Hebburn, is part-way through an incredible 40 day fundraising challenge to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
The 49-year-old granddad returned to his native north east this weekend, 15 days into his Smeg John O’Groats to Land’s End Endurance Challenge in which he is attempting to run 40 marathons, in 40 consecutive days, and carrying a 42.5kg fridge every step of the way.
Tony has undertaken some incredibly punishing running challenges for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation – including running 30 half marathons over 30 consecutive days and running for 24 hours – all carrying an enormous fridge. His ‘fridge-running’ has captured the imagination of thousands but this challenge, which is his last in the UK, is pushing him to the edge of his endurance.
He was visibly moved by the cheers of family, friends and supporters as he approached St James’ Park today (Saturday) before posing for photos with the statue of Sir Bobby.
Tony says he has been “repaired a bit” and is struggling with the camber of the roads and slightly uneven weight of the fridge, which is combining to cause problems with his left leg.
He says: “My left leg has just been dead at times. I could swing it in a forward direction but no side to side movement. I couldn’t salsa but I move forward.
“We couldn’t quite rectify it but going down the road in Ponteland a lovely lady offered us some water and we said no thanks but we’d love a physio if you got one. She said, oh yeah, there’s one next door!
“He was great. Got me straight on the bed and popped my pelvis back in place. You could hear the pop. It was brilliant. I limped in and walked out. Gavin Cree he was called and he was a miracle worker.
“Next year I’m going to be Tony ‘the Fridge-less.’ I’m putting a for sale sign on this fridge when I get to Land’s End. It’ll be available for purchase with only 1,053miles on the clock and money going to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
“But when you see people on the road, and they come up and say they have a loved one with cancer and you’re running for them, that’s when it really hits home. We lost Auntie Pam to cancer just a couple of weeks ago and many more family members too so we know exactly what they’re going through.”
Fittingly, the finishing point for Day 15 and the starting point for Day 16 (Sunday 18th August) of Tony’s run was Sir Bobby Robson’s statue at St James’ Park in Newcastle. From here, he faces a further 25 days running, and another 660miles, to reach Land’s End on 11 September.
Tony adds: “It’s been great running home to Newcastle and, I’m thinking, well what have I got to look forward to next. And that’s a lot of days of pain, there’s an arduous task ahead of me. But no doubt I’ll meet many more people and have more adventures.
“We’re on this crazy adventure. I’ve my feet blessed, people cooking for me, all sorts. We call this phenomenon ‘fridge love.’
“Sir Bobby Robson, now he really is a legend. There was a time when I was up in the mountains and it was getting late. I was running in the dark and I really did feel low and wondering how stupid this whole thing is and looking at the enormity of the task ahead of us. And I had this dark moment, I’m only human.
“So I started shuffling through my iPod to see if I could come up with a song or whatever and I’m clicking through and Nessun Dorma came on. And I could see Sir Bobby with a tear in his eye at the end of the World Cup semi final when we hadn’t got through and I could just hear him saying go on the Fridge. It was amazing.
“So if I ever need a lift, going up a hill or whatever, I know that song is there.
“Doing this, it’s the greatest honour of my life. And if I can help or cheer up people fighting cancer even for a moment during the 40 days I’m doing this, then that’s something I’ll hold dear forever.”
Tony is running for around seven hours each day. His route through Scotland took him from John O’Groats to Inverness and over the Cairngorms, tackling ascents of 1,500 ft, into Edinburgh.
His route on Sunday will take him over the Tyne Bridge and past the Angel of the North finishing just outside Durham. Then on Monday he will continue on through Darlington and Northallerton.
As he leaves the north east, he will run through York and on to Nottingham. After Leicester, he will hit Milton Keynes before arriving in London. He will then run south west for the final leg of the journey, reaching the south coast at Southampton, before following the coast line westerly past Exeter and on to Land’s End.
In total, Tony will be running 1,053 miles and is receiving tremendous support from the public. He also has a generous headline sponsor in Smeg, the premium domestic appliance brand, who have made this challenge possible.
In addition, Smeg is the supplier of Tony’s bright orange FAB10 fridge, which weighs in at a staggering 42.5kg (equivalent to combined weight of 40 litres of water or 40 house bricks).
The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation funds projects within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that directly benefit cancer patients from across the north east and Cumbria, and which contribute significantly to international research into the disease.
Please follow Tony’s progress live via via www.tonythefridge.com and on Twitter through @tony_the_fridge