FITNESS challenges created by an avid North East runner have raised more than £13,000 for a hospice and attracted celebrity support along the way.

Tony Allen’s latest challenge to raise money for St Benedict’s Hospice, in Ryhope, Sunderland, included running every day in December (RED).

It followed his successful campaign last summer to encourage teams of runners, including hundreds of school children, to clock up the miles and run the equivalent of Sunderland to Rio to raise money for the charity. The Run to Rio campaign received the backing of Sunderland Olympian Aly Dixon, whose Rio marathon entry comprised the last section of the mileage challenge.

And it came as last year, Tony ran a marathon every day in December and received public backing from Caroline Corr, drummer with the rock band The Corrs, who sent Tony a personal video message of support, and marathon queen Paula Radcliffe, who posted his Just Giving page on her Twitter feed.

The 53-year-old dad-of-two from Roker, Sunderland, has undertaken all his challenges for St Benedict’s Hospice, which gave palliative care to his late mum Jeanie.

Tony, who used to be so overweight he couldn’t tie his shoelaces, said:

“It can be very hard running in the dark and in sometimes icy conditions but you’re rarely ever alone running it and the camaraderie keeps you going. The hospice has a special place in my heart and it’s nice to be able to give something back.”

Tony’s running mates from the Sunderland Strollers are keen to support him and usually join him on his challenges. Stroller Anthony Wilton joined Tony on the latest RED challenge and even ran 40 miles on the final day. The pair raised £1,150 bringing the total raised so far to £13,000.

Tony, who works as a sales executive for Robins & Day in Gateshead, set up the RED challenge Facebook group last year. People sign up to run a minimum of a mile every day in December and it has now attracted 700 members from across the world.

Said Tony: “There were hundreds running every day this December and the group is very supportive of each other. We had runners across the world achieving things they never thought they could.”

Tony’s mum, Jeanie, passed away with cancer five years ago. St Benedict’s palliative care team had looked after her at her home.

Catrina Flynn, fundraising manager at St Benedict’s Hospice, said: “We’re so grateful for all that Tony has done for us. He’s fantastic at coming up with novel ways to raise funds and he always pushes himself to succeed in a bid to raise as much money as possible. His hard work and dedication has certainly paid off.”

As for the next challenge Tony said: “We’ve got our eye on something for the summer. It’s under wraps at the moment…but it will be a bit special.”