Big-hearted Teessiders will head for the Riverside Stadium when they swap their safety hats and shopping trolleys for running shoes and sweat bands.
Entries are flooding in for the SABIC 5k Riverside Run and Asda 2k Fun Run, which both start and finish at Boro’s stadium on Sunday, May 13.
And representatives of sponsors SABIC, Asda and electrical engineering firm Intelect are getting into the Olympic spirit early by entering in their dozens for the two great runs.
Colleagues at Asda’s South Bank store aim to raise the profile of breast cancer awareness when they run the Asda 2k event in the name of Tickled Pink, a charity close to their hearts.
The run will be a poignant occasion for section leader Heather Johnston, a regular fundraiser who lost her sister-in-law Ann to breast cancer six years ago last week.
“Ann and I were very close, we did everything together,” said Heather, 46. “But then she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it spread to her bones. She died four days after her 40th birthday.
“My best friend is undergoing surgery now too so, although I always try to do something for Tickled Pink, it will be even more poignant this year, especially with Asda sponsoring the run. I did the fun run last year and the Race for Life in Ormesby Hall, but I’m not in the greatest shape so I might have to make do with a brisk walk!”
Colleague Lynda Bigham, a people service manager, also has personal reasons for taking part. “When I was 18 I discovered a lump in my breast,” she revealed. “I was young and frightened, so I didn’t dare tell anybody. I just kept ignoring it, which is the worst thing you can do.
“My step-dad’s wife had died of cancer and he was the one I eventually told. I was in so much pain and was having sleepless nights with worry. He took me straight to North Tees Hospital and they operated on me within hours. Having had a general anaesthetic, I have vivid memories of waking in the middle of the night and thinking they had removed my breast.
“It turned out to be a breast abscess, not cancer, but if they hadn’t operated on me quickly I could have died. So I want to raise awareness among other women: if you are worried, don’t keep it to yourself, don’t be frightened to share your concerns.”
Lynda, 51, has already taken part in various fitness fundraisers including the Great North Run, Race for Life, Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, the Tees Pride 10k and a walk from South Bank to Redcar with her Asda colleagues. This time, she will start the 2k soon after crossing the 5k’s finish line.
“I do keep myself fit but I have been told, because of my past, that I could be prone to breast cancer so it’s always at the back of my mind,” she added. “So many people in my life have been touched by cancer, so hopefully I can help raise awareness that bit more.”
For Shaun Wilson, a chemical production technician on SABIC’s LDPE plant at Wilton, the 5k event will be a warm-up to September’s Tees Pride 10k, when he’ll be raising funds for children’s charities via the Finlay Cooper Fund.
Reaching two landmarks late last year shook the self-confessed couch potato into action. “In October, I reached 40 years of age and 17 stone,” explained Boro’s official statistician. “I decided it was time I did something. I joined a gym for the first time, took up running and surprised myself by enjoying it. It’s addictive.
“My only previous experience of anything like this was when I took part in the local village carnival when I was about 12 or 13, but I’ve been pounding the streets for the last six months.
“My original aim was the 10k but I was inspired to enter the 5k too when I realised my employers were sponsoring it. The Riverside finish is something I’m really looking forward to. It will be like the Olympics!”
SABIC’s UK site director Mark Williams realised he would have to break the habit of a lifetime and put on his running shoes when he rubber-stamped the company’s sponsorship of the race.
He said: “I was delighted that SABIC are sponsoring the run but then realised I would need to take part too. I did some running when I was a university, though never seriously, and have done nothing since. I do plenty of gardening and some cycling but sport is something I’ve never given too much time or energy.”
Mark added: “I’ve been training four times a week on a treadmill but I’m about to convert to road running. I’m excited about the day, though there’ll be a bit of trepidation too because I want to achieve a decent time.”
Accounts assistant Helen Wilson will be joined on her first ever run by 15 colleagues of Intelect, who are backing both events. She said: “I haven’t really been active for a few years but the thought of finishing the run in front of my family and friends at the Riverside while raising money for Teesside Hospice has motivated me and my colleagues.
“The banter has already started and has created a real buzz around the office and on the shop floor.”
There’s no time to delay for those wanting to take part – because this year entry numbers for the 5k event will be strictly limited to an Olympics-themed 2,012. Former Boro stars Gaizka Mendieta and Colin Cooper are among those who have agreed to take part.
Thanks to the backing of Middlesbrough FC, the event’s warm-up will take place on the Riverside’s hallowed turf.
To sign up for the 2012 SABIC Riverside Run, visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com. Entry for the 5k is £10 or £8 for affiliated runners. Entry for the 2k fun run is £5.