A sports fan is hoping to boost two footballing charities as he takes a whistle-stop tour of sports grounds in the North East.
On the shortest day of the year - December 21 - Durham man Paul Smith will run 65 miles around all the Premiership and Football League grounds in the North East to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Finlay Cooper Fund.
He will be starting around midnight at Newcastle’s St James’ Park, heading first for the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, then to Victoria Park at Hartlepool and then Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
Finally, he will run back from Middlesbrough to Victoria Park to watch his team Hartlepool United take on Burton Albion.
Yesterday Paul - who is in the middle of a “running streak”, having run every day since January 1, 2007 - was backed by the late Sir Bobby Robson’s son Andrew, and Hartlepool manager Colin Cooper, who formed the Finlay Cooper Fund with his wife Julie after they lost their son Finlay in January 2002 in a tragic choking accident.
Yesterday Paul said: “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.”
Paul’s latest charity run will raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which funds cancer care and research at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, and the Finlay Cooper Fund, which has given donations to a number of local children’s causes, including hospices, a diabetes trust and a cancer ward.
Colin Cooper said: “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.”
Andrew Robson said: “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, the Foundation has been able to fund equipment costing nearly £500,000, which allows scientists to see cancer cells that may be circulating in a patient’s blood.
It has also part-funded a complementary therapy programme which provides relief from the symptoms of cancer.
To sponsor Paul, people can go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/LordSmythe1908 .