Later this month, Owen Conlin, from Sydney, Australia, will return to his Geordie roots to take on a very special challenge to raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

The 51-year-old, originally from Forest Hall, Newcastle, moved abroad in 1995 for work. Now he plans to ‘come home’ to do the Great North Run for the first time, before flying back to Australia to complete the Sydney Marathon just seven days later.

On both runs, iconic bridges provide key focus points and, as the Tyne Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge are hugely similar (both were designed by the same London firm and built by Middlesbrough contractors, Dorman Long), they may well provide a sense of déjà vu for Owen as he runs across them.

Travelling between the two runs will be, as Owen describes it, “a bit of punishment.”

Leaving Sydney on Thursday (5th September), he will travel via Hong Kong and arrive in Newcastle late on Friday, before the run to South Shields on the Sunday (8th September).

He will then leave Tyneside the day after the Great North Run and be back in Australia by the Wednesday, ahead of the Sydney Marathon at the weekend (Sunday 15th September).

This will be his first Great North Run and Owen is proud to be joining more than 111 runners using the opportunity to raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Runners for the charity this year include Patrons, Trustees and supporters of its work who are currently receiving treatment for cancer, as well as people hoping to help or running in memory of loved ones.

Owen doing the Ultra Trail Australia Race

Owen says: “This is my chance to give something back to my home town and Newcastle Hospitals in particular. I can never forget the great care that my Mam received at the Freeman Hospital, while she battled lung cancer. She worked at ‘the Ministry’ and, sadly, passed away aged just 55. She fought hard all her life for her family, so this is for her.

“Sir Bobby is an absolute hero of mine. A fighter, humble, loved, a man who never gave up and really cared. So, it will be an amazing occasion to come back home, dedicate the race to my Mam and hopefully raise a few dollars for Sir Bobby’s charity.”

Sir Bobby launched his Foundation in 2008 and it has gone on to raise over £13 million to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.

The work funded directly benefits cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria and plays a significant role in the international fight against the disease – funding cutting-edge cancer treatment and innovative cancer support services.

The Great North Run is always a very special day for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Sir Bobby’s family and friends volunteer in a tent at the finish, where runners can mingle and enjoy a well-deserved rest and, this year, places available to runners through the charity were taken up faster than ever before.

Owen continues: “The Great North Run is absolutely iconic, not just in terms of its history and number of runners, but the camaraderie and support from other runners and the crowds along the route.

“I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and to the atmosphere, which will be amazing. And the sense of achievement in making it across the Tyne Bridge and on to South Shields. I reckon if you can’t get a personal best time there, you can’t get it anywhere.”

Owen, whose career in aviation first took him to Fiji, has also lived in New Zealand and settled in Australia in 1997. Married to Rachel, the couple have four children and celebrated their wedding with a reception at St James’ Park September 2000.

A member of the Kirribilli Runners running club in Sydney, he only began running two years ago when he completed the Honolulu Half Marathon. Since then he has also finished half-marathons in Singapore and Carlsbad, USA, and one full marathon in Hong Kong.

Owen adds: “For the Sydney Marathon, I’m looking forward to running with the Kirribilli Runners and my Rhodes Park Run mates. They’re extremely supportive teams of runners of all abilities and will help me push forward and pick me up when my energy drops.

“Sydney is a nightmare of a run though. It starts across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, then crosses the city’s hills for 42.2km until you end at the finish line at the Opera House. But I’m a Geordie and, in the spirit of Sir Bobby, we’ll do this!”

The Kirribilli Runners will be supporting Owen in his challenge ‘down under’ and are arranging their own “Black and White” Race Night to support the fundraiser.

To sponsor Owen, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/doublebridgechallenge

If you have a place in the Great North Run and would like to raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, please contact Pauline Buglass on 0191 213 7235 or Pauline.Buglass@nuth.nhs.uk.

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