Scores of cyclists sign up to ride to North East’s football grounds for the Great North Air Ambulance

Marc Hall (right) and the other cyclists at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium in 2018's sponsored bike ride. Photo by Andrew Gill.
Marc Hall (right) and the other cyclists at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium in 2018's sponsored bike ride. Photo by Andrew Gill.

An annual sponsored cycle ride around the region’s football clubs is set to be at least four times bigger this year.

Former RAF engineer Marc Hall, 39, from Billingham, and RAF friend Graham Purnell organised the inaugural 75-mile challenge last September and raised around £600 for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

Marc Hall with the cyclists at Middlesbrough Riverside Stadium. Picture by Andrew Gill during 2018's bike ride.

Marc Hall with the cyclists at Middlesbrough Riverside Stadium. Picture by Andrew Gill during 2018's bike ride.

It saw 25 riders cycle to the home football grounds of Hartlepool, Darlington, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle in one day.

They are set to repeat the feat later this year and over 100 people are set to take part after a chain reaction of interest.

Marc, who cycles as it helps Crohn’s Disease which he suffers from, said: “It is looking like there will be well over 100 for this year at the moment. It’s going to be quite a big event.

“There are around 250 members of the ride’s Facebook group.

Marc Hall.

Marc Hall.

“Obviously, they all won’t ride but we can guarantee over 100 on the day.”

Marc reckons this year’s charity, chosen by members of the page, is part of the reason for the surge of interest.

Proceeds from this year’s ride on September 1 will go to the Great North Air Ambulance.

“With the change in charity there certainly seems to have been a better response,” added Marc.

Marc Hall and Graham Purnell who are organising a spnsored cycle around the North East's football grounds for the Great North Air Ambulance.

Marc Hall and Graham Purnell who are organising a spnsored cycle around the North East's football grounds for the Great North Air Ambulance.

“I think it benefits the whole of the North East so people have just got on board.

“We will have riders from Newcastle, Northumberland, Darlington, Washington and all over.

“It just seems to be growing so I’m very pleased with it.

“The event raised just over £600 last year. This year we are just looking to raise as much money as possible.”

A special jersey in the air ambulance’s colours of yellow, green and white has been designed by Amber Purnell the wife of event co-coordinator Graham.

It will carry the logos of corporate sponsors.

Marc, who works as a theatre technician at Billingham Forum, took up cycling around 18 months ago and finds it helps prevent flare ups of his condition which is an inflammatory bowel disease.

Middlesbrough and Darlington clubs have pledged to do something to support the event and Marc hopes the other clubs will follow suit.

People can find out more and keep up to date on the Facebook group North East Football Ground Ride 2019.