On the shortest day of the year, 21st December, Paul Smith will be attempting his longest run to raise funds for two local charities.
The 50-year-old from Sherburn Hill, Durham, has challenged himself to run 65 football-themed miles to raise money for The Finlay Cooper Fund and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
He will be starting around midnight at St James’ Park, Newcastle, heading first for the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, then on to Victoria Park, Hartlepool and then to Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
He will then run from Middlesbrough, back to Victoria Park, again, in time to watch Hartlepool United v Burton Albion.
Paul is in the middle of what is termed a ‘running streak’ and has run every day since 1st January 2007. One of his heroes is Olympian, Ron Hill, who has not missed a day’s running since 1964.
Paul explains: “Running is just what I do. And if I can perhaps inspire or help others along the way then that’s more than an added bonus.
“I’ve been lucky not to get seriously injured or ill but it’s as much about mind-set as anything. It’s important to keep things fresh and I’m always thinking of new ways or reasons to run.
“I come up with all sorts of things, some daft, some more serious. I’ve done all the region’s Park Runs in one day, I’ve run in fancy dress and on Remembrance Sunday I ran 11.1 miles to mark the occasion in my own way.”
Hartlepool manager, Colin Cooper, and his wife, Julie, formed The Finlay Cooper Fund in August 2006. They lost their son Finlay in January 2002 in a tragic choking accident and wanted to do something positive in his name.
Donations have been given through the charity to a large number of local children’s causes including hospices, a diabetes trust and a cancer ward.
Colin Cooper says: “Since I came to Hartlepool I’ve heard lots about Paul and met him quite a few times.
“I know he’s been for a run every day for the last seven years which is incredible, and during that time he’s come up with themes for different dates along the way as well as challenges to keep it interesting.
“However, I think that this particular run he’s planning is epic even by his standards and I’m absolutely delighted he’s chosen to help raise funds for The Finlay Cooper Fund as well as the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
“It’s been a brilliant 2013 for the Finlay Cooper Fund; we’ve raised a lot of money and raised the profile of the charity so I’m thankful to Paul for helping us end the year on another high.”
Paul adds: “I’ve never run as far as 65 miles before and I knew I had to have some strong motivation to push me to up my training so decided to raise money for charity.
“I’m a huge Hartlepool fan and I really wanted to do something to help Colin Cooper raise funds for children’s charities through The Finlay Cooper Fund.
“I also picked the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation because, sadly, cancer affects us all one way or another. And Sir Bobby’s name unites the North East and its football clubs like no other so his charity seemed an apt choice given my challenge.”
Sir Bobby and Lady Elsie launched the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer – including the clinical trials of new drugs.
Sir Bobby’s son, Andrew Robson, says: “The run that Paul’s undertaking really is a big ask. When you think about people running a marathon, which is 26 miles and you think that’s such a long way, but Paul’s running 65 miles. It’s incredible really.
“This Foundation is my father’s legacy and, thanks to people like Paul fundraising for it, it continues to go from strength to strength.
“It’s a very innovative idea to run to each of the football clubs on the same day and we wish him the very best of luck.”
This year, thanks to tremendous ongoing support, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has been able to fund an Imaging Flow Cytometer for £438,000, which allows scientists to see cancer cells that may be circulating in a patient’s blood.
It has also part-funded the complementary therapy programme, which provides relief from the symptoms of cancer and its treatment for patients at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care and jointly funded a cancer patient ambulance.
Early next year, thanks to the Foundation’s largest funding contribution to date, £850,000, the latest generation in stereotactic radiotherapy surgery will become available to cancer patients from across the North East and Cumbria. It will be used to treat tumours which are currently inoperable and delivers extremely high doses of radiation with pin-point accuracy.
To sponsor Paul, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/LordSmythe1908 and you can follow his progress on Twitter via @LordSmythe