Payback time - on the run


A north east water worker and local running coach has taken on a challenge to run 2,012 miles in 2012.

Graham Smith (41) from Whickham plans to raise funds for the local charity that re-ignited his passion for running last year.

Sweating it out for at least 5.5 miles every day this year, the Northumbrian Water employee hopes to net £2,012 for the Tony Blair Sports Foundation; money that will help to place an extra 20 sports coaches in local clubs across the region.

Graham qualified as a running coach last year thanks to a community venture run by his employer and the Tony Blair Sports Foundation and was eager to give something back.

He said: “I was always keen to organise a running club for non professionals to help encourage people to be active and healthy. On my own, I could not have afforded the course fees. The Foundation, together with Northumbrian Water, part-funded the qualifications and processes I needed and I’ve been looking for a way to thank them.

“I spotted a national challenge to cover 2012 miles in 2012 by ‘human power only’ and decided it was a perfect way to raise funds. It’s the equivalent of running 77 marathons, more than one a week for a full year, so it is incredibly daunting but I’m determined to do it.”

Graham, who is blogging about every mile whether it is on the treadmill or the streets of Whickham, is hoping to inspire others to take up the challenge and is also seeking sponsorship from local companies. He added: “I already have several companies each sponsoring me 2p a mile – that’s all it takes to get me well on my way to the £2,012 target.”

Jeanette Pickard, from the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, said: “We’re delighted Graham has chosen to support us. All of the money he raises will go towards recruiting and training more coaches. We have so many great sporting clubs and venues in the north east but there’s still a shortage of qualified coaches and referees, which is a huge shame. The funds will really help to make a difference to the lives of local children as we continue our pledge to make sport accessible to all.”

He also has support from Northumbrian Water’s employee sponsorship scheme, Cheque it out, where employees can request financial support from the company for a charity of their choice.

Follow Graham’s epic challenge - click here to read his blog or go to to donate. Current sponsors include Northumbrian Water, Marketing Wand (the company managing Graham’s blog), Jasprint, Martel Instruments, North East Engraving and Signs, The Pantry in Cramlington, Gary Hedley,, Wallseal Preservation and Impact Assist Ltd.

For media enquiries, contact Philippa Clark on 0191 301 5538 or

Picture shows: Even on 1 Jan 2012 while on holiday in Malaga, Graham stuck to his challenge.

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