The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run

The Ali Brownlee Riverside Run was first renamed last year in honour of the local broadcasting legend who died last February after a short battle with cancer.

The new name for the Middlesbrough 5k Road Race and 2k Fun becomes a permanent fixture when the event returns on Sunday, July 2.

Middlesbrough Council and leisure services partner Everyone Active are hoping for another record turn-out for the run which takes in some of the town’s most striking landmarks including Temenos and the Transporter Bridge, before a memorable finish beside the hallowed turf inside the Riverside Stadium.

I chatted with Race Director Jimmy Wattis at a gathering of Alastair’s family and famous Boro personalities to officially launch the 5km run.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: We are here at the Riverside for the launch of the Ali Brownlee Riverside Run – I believe the name is now a permanent memorial to Alastair.

JW: Yes, Ali first ran the 10k probably about 10 years ago. We both decided that his skills were probably best used doing the commentary. Then I organised the Sport Relief Mile from the Town Centre in 2008 and we wanted to develop that and we felt that we could extend it to a 5k and take it round the Riverside. So from 2009 Ali did the commentary on this event as well. And I know how much it meant to him being able to come out and meet so many people in a position where he could encourage people and see the joy on peoples faces as he shouted their race number out or if they had their name on their shirt, he would shout their name out. He was just an incredible man all round and I know that he had these events in his heart and I thought that it was only right that we named the event after him.

Q: Of course one of Alastair’s daughter’s ran last year.

JW: Yes, I wasn’t involved last year but Alison ran last year and I think Emily, Alison and Alastair’s wife, Wendy are all going to do it this year.

It is great for the town. We hope that all those thousands of fans that still sing Ali’s name at the games come out in force and support the run and I am sure they will have a great time.

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography

Q: For anyone that jogs, parkruns or races, whatever ability it is special to finish in a football stadium, isn’t it?

JW: Oh it is, there is a fantastic atmosphere because obviously there are two events, we have the 2k fun run and we also have the 5k run, so as people are finishing whichever one they are running in you have got the support of the other runners sat in the stadium cheering them on. Other than last year but it will be back this year, we play Chariots of Fire theme as they run into the stadium. I know that each runner loves that and it will be back on this year. Hopefully, all being well, we will have pictures of Ali and commentary of Ali up on the big screen, that is what we are hoping to achieve this year. So, it will be fantastic for all involved.

Q: So, people that run the 5k can progress to the Middlesbrough 10k can’t they?

JW: Yes, that is what we are trying to do. We have tried to create a stepping stone for the 10k  because that has been a major event in the town since 2005. We are always out there beating the drum about people being healthier and fitter and so there are all the stepping stones there, there is a 2k, the 3k, the 5k and the 10k. Obviously and on top of that there is the Redcar half marathon that we would like to think people could achieve at some point as well.

Q: How long after the 10k is Redcar half marathon?

JW: It is 4 weeks after 10k, it is October 1st Redcar half marathon. So, you could train up for the 10k and then still get a couple of longer runs in and then start to taper off in time for the Redcar half marathon. So, I think the timing for the runs in Middlesbrough and on Teesside is perfect.

Q: It is a great thing that there seem to be more people running than ever before.

JW: Oh there are. I think everyone notices now the nights are starting to get lighter you can see people out all the time. The 10k route especially with it being marked, so people know the distances and they know the times and I think that route has been great for the town as well.

It is always a great event and one of my favourite day’s of the year but the permanent renaming after the great, late Alastair Brownlee and the involvement of his family is bound to make the Riverside Run that bit more special.

Alastair’s widow Wendy said: “I am really honoured to have such a wonderful and prestigious event named after Ali – he would be so proud.

“I know what this event meant to him, he was always excited when he was leaving the house on the morning knowing he was going to meet so many people and to be able to cheer and encourage each and every one of them on.”

To register for either the 5k or 2k please visit

Entries are also being taken for the 2017 Taylor Wimpey Tees Pride 10k and 3k Fun Run which takes place on Sunday, September 3.

For further information contact Jimmy Wattis on 01642 20083

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March. 1-3-17  Pic Doug Moody Photography

The launch of the Everyone Active Ali Brownlee 5K Riverside Run took place at the Riversiode Stadium on Wednesday 1st March.
1-3-17 Pic Doug Moody Photography


Running Through Boro’s History

If you are from the generation that has grown up in the past 20 years then all you will know is the Riverside era of Boro watching. A guided run at the weekend aimed to look back at all the Boro venues that came before in the long and definitely winding trail that led to 1995 and the start of first class football in the first class stadium in Middlehaven.

History Runner, and chair of Swift-tees, Michael McCann led a group of runners of all ages and genders around the four former homes of Middlesbrough FC. Members of Community running group Swift-tees and athletic friends from over the river, in Billingham Marsh House Harriers were more than willing participants as Mike told his Boro tales. Setting the context in the development of football as a booming sport in the late nineteenth century Mike exploded the foundation myth of the tripe supper, a very unlikely supper for the gentlemen of Middlesbrough cricket club looking for sporting exercise for their players during the winter. The gymnasium of the now empty Albert Park Hotel was the venue for the historic first meeting some 140 years ago this year.

archery groundThe run set off in soaring temperatures and bright blue skies, very apt for the running Swifts, a name also utilised, as Mike pointed out, for the second team in the early days of the club. From a 35 a side knock around in the old cricket ground in Albert Park the fledgling club started playing home games on the adjacent Archery Ground. The first recorded game here ended 1-1 with Tees Wanderers. The main problem seemed to be finding opposition as football clubs were still far and few in these early days of the game.

As crowds began to build for matches, Middlesbrough were soon given their marching orders by aggrieved parkies. A local farmer, Mr Kemp was only too keen to step in and offer the rent of his field at Breckon Hill. The only trouble is he soon wanted a bigger cut as he eyed up of all the coins collected as gate money.

Middlesbrough’s first proper sports ground was at Linthorpe Road, playing at the ground entered along Clifton Street from 1879. The first changing rooms were over the “road” at Swatters Carr Hotel. A stand was erected along one side and a big fence to keep out all those not prepared to pay. Although this wouldn’t have stopped the more adventurous from climbing a tree to steal a view from the plantation at the far end of the ground.

Mike told us of how the club made momentous leaps forward while playing at Linthorpe Road. Soon champions of the Northern League, the second oldest football league in the world. Then twice winners of the FA Amateur Cup, before turning professional and entering the Football League.

Back towards Albert Park the Swifts and Harriers jogged and along Kensington Road, then a farm track to Old Gate Farm. Here on the outskirts of the growing new town, a field here, known as the Paradise Ground, after a tiny church building became home to the breakaway club, Middlesbrough Ironopolis. The team playing in maroon and green stripes turned professional while Middlesbrough initially stubbornly remained amateur. Ironopolis were actually the first Middlesbrough club to play in the Football League in 1893. Sadly the Infant Hercules was perhaps too Infant to support two football clubs and the Nops rise to fame was all too fleeting as they lost a fortune and crashed out of business.

It is in the Turnstile that Mike McCann handed over to the fanzine editor and Ayresome resident, Robert Nichols to guide the tour around the sculpture trail created by artist Neville Gabie to commemorate Middlesbrough’s home for 92 years. The stadium built by celebrated Scottish football engineer, Archibald Leitch was opened to an incredible crowd of 30 000 in 1903. More than the 24 000 then capacity that watched the final game in 1995. Boro’s Joe Cassidy was the first goal scorer though sadly we were defeated by Sunderland in this Tees Wear derby opener at Ayresome Park. Which is probably something I should have said while guiding the large party of runners around the sculptures hidden away in the modern housing estate.

holgate wallWe paused alongside only remaining structure from the former grounds, the Holgate Wall, once built to keep residents of the Workhouse in and later heightened to stop people legging over the wall for free in the 1966 World Cup.

Goal scorer Pak Do Ik and seven survivors plus the coach from the North Korea team that defeated Italy here in July 50 years ago revisited in 2002. Although initially bemused and disappointed to find the scene of their triumph no longer standing they were quite overcome with emotion at hearing that artist Neville Gabie had marked Pak’s winning goal with a tiny pitch puddle sculpture, the only art work recording a player’s achievements on the former ground site.

After taking a look at the centre circle the runners returned to Albert Park to recreate the first game of 1876 and another near 35 a side match on the old Archery Ground. A post match picnic was eagerly devoured and the signed match ball raffled to raise over £100 for Mike McCann’s chosen prostrate cancer, Mike being a survivor of this cancer, it is a charity close to his heart.

archery ground gameThanks to Mike, for all the research and top delivery, the staff at Albert Park, the expert marshals from Swift-tees and everyone from Swift-tees and Billingham Marsh House Harriers for making this a special event in this summer of our Premier promotion.

The next step will be to hopefully turn the former Boro grounds into a guided trail so that everyone can follow it and unpick the 140 years of our football club whilst keeping fit.

Thank you Kerri Muldowney for allowing me to swipe your photos and Michelle Bytheway for the image below.

albert park boro run


Generation Red Royal Seal of Approval

The Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr Barry Dodd CBE, made a special visit to Boro’s award-winning Generation Red Family Zone earlier this month.

He met the team behind the ground-breaking scheme that has transformed the matchday experience for dozens of families within the East Stand at the Riverside Stadium and also talk with key partners, sponsors and some families.

Already sold out for Boro’s return to the Premier League in August, the GRFZ was launched in 2013 and was an immediate success, helping Middlesbrough FC win the Football League’s Family Club of the Year award the following year.

The East Stand concourse is a family-friendly area featuring activity areas, interactive computer games, giveaways and exciting pre-match entertainment. Partners include Everyone Active, Cornerstone Business Solutions, WH Smith, Frankie & Benny’s, Hollywood Bowl, Cineworld, Game and McDonald’s.

GRFZ 1A delegation of families and the three organisers from Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams charity spoke about how they work hand in hand with the Boro and Generation Red Family Zone. Dave Brown, Manager of WH Smith, Teesside Park branch told the Lord Lieutenant about how he helps delver structured learning, boosting the literacy of young Boro fans.

Player visits are a regular feature and the GRFZ has become a smash hit with children and mums, dads and grandparents.

The Lord Lieutenant was greeted by Chief Operating Officer Mark Ellis and Head of Supporter Services Yvonne Ferguson before viewing features such as the Creative Corner, the Cornerstone Interactive Zone, the MFC Official Little Red Store, the Boro Yellow Brick Road and the Candy Cart.

He also met Helena Bowman, Head of Foundation, and MFCP charity partners.

He said as royal representative he would be taking a very positive message back to the Queen. He would be writing a note telling of all the great work being done at the GRFZ. The Lord Lieutenant went on to say that it would be such a big and very timely boost to be back in the Premier League.

After the visit I spoke with Dave Brown from WH Smith about his involvement in Generation Red Family Zone and to tell us more about the fun, entertainment and education that goes on in this colourful and creative corner of the Riverside every match day.

GRFZ 2Q: You have just met the Lord Lieutenant, what did you tell him about what you are doing?

DB: It is part of the WH SMITH initiative to have a corporate responsibility in all our local stores with any educational ties we can get. At Teesside Park we decided to go to the football ground. Young lads that don’t usually read, they won’t go to libraries, or go to bookshops as much as young girls. The reading age in Middlesbrough is really quite low, we are deprived area. I think the statistics for Middlesbrough is that 1 in 4 kids don’t own their own book under the age of 8, which is ridiculous so we have got to go to where the kids are.

If you come to Middlesbrough Football Club we sponsor an educational half time, up in the Sub’s Bench. There are book loanings, so you can use your season card to loan books out, to get the young lads back into reading. The books are specially designed and chosen by a local school teacher and the activities we do all fall in line with the national curriculum. So it is not just finger painting and messing about, there is a real reason behind what we do.

GRFZ ActivityQ: Are the activities structured?

DB: Yes each activity is structured. Not only to the age of the child but also seasonal or what is going on. So, if it was Valentines, we might be making cards but there would be a reason behind it. We also do things around away teams when they come. So, people can look on the map and see how many miles they have travelled, what is the area like, what are the people like. A bit of history about the town that is coming. So they get to know about the team that is visiting as well.

Q: If it is 3pm kick off talk us through your day in the Generation Red Family Zone.

DB: Well, the idea from the club is trying to extend the life of your ticket. So if you pay for your ticket on a match day you basically think well that is from kick off until the final whistle blows. But actually you can get more out of your ticket. If you come in at 12.30 the family zone is open. So you extend the value of your ticket, you get more from it.

So, we sit at the tables and do some activities with the kids. It might be competitions. We have a lot of other partners such as Game, Frankie and Bennies. It really is educational based but it is an activity to keep them happy.

Q: Fun as well.

DB: Oh yes. Some of the other things we do. We do a big day around World Book Day, which all kids in primary schools get a voucher for a free book. What the club does is sponsor its own World Book Day through WHSMITH where any child that comes to WHSMITH in the area gets a free book on that day. No one else in the country does that. No other football club, Premier League or not have invested like Middlesbrough has in World Book Day which means that every child gets a book, which is a phenomenal thing when you think about it. So, that is why we say seasonal, there will be lots of Christmas activities of course etc.

GRFZ BeeSo, once we have done that, we usually do a really fun activity like wishing the players well, it will be educational based or book based. After that, you are not allowed up to the Subs Bench until half time. There is a meeting point downstairs and a member of staff from the Family Zone takes the parent and the kids upstairs.

It was originally set up 3 years back when the football was pretty poor and to get a child to sit through 90 minutes of dross. You were lucky if you got them through the first half, especially in winter if it was raining. There was plenty to do in the concourse but if you have got a small child it meant that the families could bring the kids with them, not just the dads. We had a lovely couple that met at the match but when they had kids stopped coming. It was a reason for them to actually start coming again which is a great story.

We take them upstairs and we do book loaning, a bit of crafting. It gives them 15 minutes away from the cold, with free tea and coffee if it is cold. And there are changing facilities for babies. Soft play for the kids. It is genuinely being copied all around the country. We have people from Birmingham, Preston, Sheffield coming to look at what we do and treat it as a blueprint.

It has gone down really well with my company, WHSMITH and they have sponsored it from the top level. Our managing director or retail, Kevin Hall, has been every year to come and check on it and he sponsors us, so you couldn’t get any higher accolade than that and it has become an integral part of our corporate responsibility when we submit it to the City at the end of September. You find WHSMITHS Teesside Park and Middlesbrough Football Club on that submit and the City love it and think it is a good use for our resources in the end adds to my share price which keeps me in a job (laughs).

GRFZ 4Q: You are wearing the Boro hat and you are saying it is cool to read.

DB: Other footballers have been in to this for a while, Frank Lampard has something like 13 books. All good reads. I know he does actually write himself. Mark Schwarzer, wrote in Australia and there is Theo Walcott, he has a list of them too. It is nothing new but it is new to the kids because they haven’t seen this before and might not realise that football fits in well educationally. Everyone Active do this because of the health benefits as well. We do things around diet, we do fruit upstairs. There are loads of activities. If you think of how you can benefit then we will have touched upon it at some point. Middlesbrough is open to any suggestions.

The brand of the area now is Middlesbrough Football Club there is nothing else to stick my brand to.

GRFZ Dave BrownQ: Now it is Premier.

DB: Now it is Premier League. Three years ago we thought we were mad to get involved. And they have been loyal to us; other clubs might drop us because we have got into the Premier League. We know we are here next season because they like what we do and it is not about making money. Which is the best thing.

Q: This is the future fan base for Boro and the future using WHSMITH and buying books here.

DB: Oh yes the feedback for us is fantastic. If we are in the shop, people come in and say hello and ask us what we are doing at the match next week and can you recommend a book. That book you leant us last week was fantastic. You can’t get any better than that, especially for young lads. The girls are great but the young lads would never have picked a book up. They would have picked a Match Attax sticker book up.

Q: Which is what you are doing now as we speak, showing the fun element.

DB: Yes. Some of the work the Foundation does we can work hand in hand with. They work with Football Manager working out percentages around winning promotions etc. You have to be savvy to use that game properly. We can use the things they have learned and then use it in the Concourse for younger kids. It is about finding horses for courses. It is a win/win for us as a company to be associated with this. Originally they thought we were mad but now we are associated with success which is fabulous.

Thank You To Dave Brown, manager WH Smith, Teesside Park


Boro Real Fans Believe Premier Dreaming

A couple of weeks ago the Lord Lieutenant visited the Generation Red Family Zone at the Riverside. He was giving a royal seal of approval to all the great work going on between the football club and the community. Amongst those invited to meet the Lord Lieutenant were the three big hearted organisers, Tony Wedlake, Jennifer Fowles and Jimmy Wilson as well as some of the families assisted by the incredible Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams.

This small but amazingly active group make dreams come true for Boro fans in need. Middlesbrough FC and the Generation Red family Zone have been right behind them in every way supporting the group as they buy ground tours, home and away tickets, season tickets and host Christmas parties for those disadvantaged, in ill health or in a desperate need of a Boro dream.

Next season the group will be able to make Premier dreams come true for Boro fans.

boro fans lord visitQ: Am I right in thinking that the charity was set up after Wembley last year?

Jen: Yes, Jimmy had a brain wave, his heart ruled his head, where we took one child and a dad to Wembley. We came back, Tony, Jimmy and I got together and decided if we could do it for one child we could do it for more. So we set off with 4 season tickets, 2 adults and 2 children for the family zone, we did that until Christmas.

Q: That is a big commitment, a lot of money to start out with.

J: Yes. Then we had £1500 to raise in 2 weeks and we raised £1800. So we got the season tickets through blind cards and lots of different activities and events.

Q: What are your plans for next season?

J: For next season we have organised another 12 season tickets, 6 adults and 6 children. So there will be 6 new family members coming into the family zone and to see the mighty Boro.

Were hopefully going to organise a flag parade for our kids to come and bring the players out onto the pitch. There will be more mascot places, hopefully, pending how fixtures are sorted out. Our names are on the list for them.

More schools coming in for stadium tours and we are hoping to get some tours up at the training ground as well for the kids as we haven’t done that yet.

Last season we took kids to an away game, we took them to Bolton. This year we hope to get two trips in to Premier grounds.

We have a golf day set up on the 16th June at Middlesbrough Golf Club, Brass Castle Lane and we have another charity night planned for August.

We also do thing for individual kids; one child had been knocked over in a hit and run so we replaced his bike. There was another child that had a brain operation and she was with us today celebrating.

The idea it is to make kids smile and give them a normal day to think back on.

boro real fans lord 1Q: Did you get a chance to speak to the Lord Lieutenant?

J: Yes we did, it was lovely. He was amazed on what we do and how we do it, considering it was just three fans got together and organised it all. The three of us carry on still but we need more people to get involved if we are going to make it bigger. And also we are going to need more people to get involved and stand by us and help with different things. It can be hectic in the Family Zone when it is choc-a-block and we looking after all the families.

Q: You have come an awfully long way in less than a year.

J: Yes in eight months.

Q: When you started with the trip to Wembley it was only intended to be a one off wasn’t it?

J: Yes and then we started again in June. At that moment we were in decline, the community were in a decline but now we are going forward, now we are in the Premier and now we can bring back more things to Teesside and make sure that the kids from Teesside get a great time.

charity golf day



BORO REAL FANS – Believe In Dreams

Boro Real Fans – Believe in Dreams are making fantasy reality for deserving children from all over Teesside. A bunch of Boro fans have set out to make a difference by bringing a bit of Boro joy into little lives. Children that have maybe gone through tough times and need a little Boro boost. The group organise tickets, ground tours and much much more.

I asked the fans group to tell a little more about their story and what they are achieving. I was going to say hoping to achieve but they have already put smiles on many, many of young faces, since coming together at the end of last season.

This all started when Jimmy Wilson and Jennifer Fowles started off by raising money for Pete Roberts and his son Zack to get them tickets for Wembley. To their surprise the groups on facebook took this idea and the donations started to roll in and they raised £115 in less than 24 hours.

boro real fans 2One of the group Members Tony Wedlake bought 2 tickets during the online sale period and said he would like to give them to Pete and Zack to make their dreams come true and all monies raised should be used to buy Zack items from the club shop to make his day even more special. Needless to say the result was not ideal but both Pete and Zack had a day to remember.

After Wembley there was a meeting held with Jimmy, Jen, Tony And myself (Phil Bew) and we were discussing about taking this further and making dreams come true for as many kids as we can and this was when Boro Real Fans Believe In Dreams was born. We arranged a meeting with the club which Jen and Phil attended and we spoke about what we wanted and were looking to achieve through fundraising on facebook and people we knew.

We have so far managed to secure 2 adults and 2 kids season tickets for the family zone, so every game we send 2 kids and their carers/parents/guardians to the game and the club show them round the family zone and they have a great time. We paid for kit and tickets and a donation to travel costs for the Derby County away fixture just gone. We also have bought the home mascot packages for both Charlton Athletic and Derby County which will be given to kids through nominations.

george kidsWe run a stadium tour every month also which takes at least 10 (mix of adults and kids) on an official stadium tour round the ground. Then they get a little goodie bag with sweets and drinks and crisps in from ourselves also.

We are also planning a huge winter funderland Christmas party which will have all sorts and this will be for nearly 100 kids. Plans for this are ongoing but we are trying to bring Lapland to Middlesbrough is the best way to describe it.

The kids we are looking to get as nominations are from a very wide range but all fall under kids with disabilities, under privileged, disadvantaged or have overcome obstacles to continue with their lives. The reaction to what we are doing has been nothing but positive and supportive, we did wonder how it would come across after raising money for one person as it was with Wembley but everyone knows we are doing it to help as many as we can and the support both financially and in terms of morale have been brilliant and we couldn’t have imagined it being as successful so quickly as it has been.

People can contact us through the facebook page itself or through the group we have called Boro Real fans Believe In Dreams. They can go on there and nominate or donate if they wish also.

We have a go fund me page too

boro real fans

Boro Real Fans have their first fundraiser this Friday 6th November at Ironopolis Social Club.

The popular pre match haunt for many Boro fans will see a night of music and fundraising.

Performing will be Mr Soul George Williamson and top Mod Band Heavy Mod. Plus Disco, raffle, auction, a top class night of entertainment & fundraising.

The Funds raised from this night will go towards a Christmas Disney Wonderland Party for 100 Children with disabilities, ill health, faced tragic loss or less fortunate than others in Middlesbrough being held on December 13th.

Friday’s kick off is 7pm and tickets are £5 –  let’s see a full house (275 capacity).

boro real fans fundraiser