Tony Phoenix-Morrison runs for miles with a fridge on his back, all in the name of charity. SPIKES speaks to the British eccentric to find out about his latest adventure.
One Saturday morning at the start of June, Tony Morrison got dropped off at the Great North Run start line in Newcastle city centre, from where he ran the 13.1 mile route to the finish line on the South Shields coast. He repeated the ritual for 100 mornings, culminating on the day of the 2016 race, when he completed his century along with 57,000 fun runners.
1310 miles in 100 days. Sounds mad, doesn’t it? Get this: he carried a 42kg (92lb) refrigerator on his back every step of the way.
“If you didn’t see it yourself you wouldn’t believe it,” Phoenix-Morrison – better known as Tony The Fridge – chuckles.
Just lifting a fridge up is enough to put most people’s backs out. Although he is the first to concede that it was a “daft challenge”, Tony insists that as the miles went by he only felt stronger.
“The first 50 days were quite horrendous,” he says. “But my legs just got stronger, stronger and stronger. My endurance levels went up.”
Competitors in the 2016 Great North Run ran in unusually warm late summer sun. It was a good day to chase personal bests, not so to cart a fridge around.
“It was red hot. It absolutely annihilated me,” says Tony, who reckons he “high fived around 12,000 people” on the start line as he waited for his support team to join him. Once he got going, his speed was impressive.
“My pace was probably at about ten-minute mile pace,” he says. That’s a little over four-hour marathon pace. With a fridge. He’s not always so spritely.
“When you’re smashed up with the fridge there are times that I’ve run 16, 17 minute miles because I’ve been so ruined,” Tony says.
“[During the 100 days] I had to pace myself knowing that I had to run again tomorrow. But my conditioning got to such a level that I was able just to stretch my legs and hit it hard.
“I’m efficient with my impact on the ground. I’m very gentle on my feet, it doesn’t leave me in any bad shape at all.”
Day 101... I just want to say one thing! "Hey Janita!" We Did It!" pic.twitter.com/yA0ViVEKQD— Tony the Fridge (@tony_the_fridge) September 12, 2016
Tony became The Fridge back in 2011. Why? “She wouldn’t let me have the cooker!” he laughs (he laughs a lot). The truth is that a rival football coach challenged him to race in the Great North Run.
“I’d beat you carrying a fridge, mate,” Tony scoffed. Drink had been taken and a gauntlet was laid down. Tony completed his first fridged half marathon in 2hrs 11mins – his rival had dropped out when he saw the Smeg disappear in the horizon.
“He feigned injury and dropped out when he saw I was so far ahead! Hehehehe.”
Since then he has run non-stop for 12 hours on a running machine; run non-stop for 24 hours around Newcastle’s quayside; run 30 Great North Runs in 30 days; and run 40 marathons in 40 days, from one end of the UK to the other. All with his fridge. On the lattermost of those challenges he fractured his leg on day five.
“I ran 35 marathons carrying a fridge with a fractured femur. It’s definitely not something you should try at home,” he cautions.
There is a reason for all this. Tony’s life has been punctuated by tragedy – his father was killed in a car crash when he was 12-years-old, many of his closest friends and family have suffered with cancer.
“Demons had been coming in my family and taking people I loved,” he says. “I needed to create a nemesis, a demon, and take the f***** on.”
The fridge is the demon. Tony is the demon slayer. After he completed his first fridge run in 2011, “all these sponsors came in from around the world”. He saw an opportunity to do good.
Tony, who can run a 1:30 half marathon when he hasn’t brought his white goods, calls himself a “trouble maker” who simply wants to raise money for charity. The 100 days challenge was in aid of Sara’s Hope Foundation.
“It’s all about the donations,” he says. “People have had to go out to work to raise that money. I didn’t raise their money, but I did raise their attention.”
Running has always been Tony’s go-to solution.
“Since I was 12, 13 years old, when I got upset or distressed I’d just go for a run,” he says. “Sometimes that run was 30 miles. If I was tired I’d sleep by the road. If I was hungry I’d stop and get something to eat somewhere, then I’d just start running again.”
That’s quite the aerobic base, yet he claims anyone could achieve what he has.
“If you started running, from being a non-runner, for 14 weeks, by the end of the 14 weeks, if you’d run every day, you’d find that you’re able to do it without any worries,” he says.
“I didn’t even think about the pains. I didn’t even have to psych myself up to do it. I got to the point where I just accepted it.”
This claim is echoed by other endurance fund raisers. Rob Young, the man who ran 370 marathons in 365 days, says after running every day for four weeks, “your legs and body fall into place” and you can run forever.
But Tony won’t be running forever. The fridge has been a part of him for five years, and now he’s looking towards the end. Next year he plans to run across America in honour of his late Uncle Bumps'y, who lived in California.
“I’m gonna set off in New York and run to California,” Tony says. “Once I’ve dipped my toe in the sea at the other end, I’m gonna go back to Lake Zaca, with the fridge, I’m gonna put it in a rowing boat, I’m going to row into the middle, and I’m going to sink the f*****.
“Then I’m gonna come home. I’ll never have to see it again. Hehehehehe.”
Cover image courtesy of Great Run