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Ex-Cheltenham prop Tim Tunnicliff set to run one million metres in the Great Rugger Run

All Areas > Sport > Rugby Union

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Tuesday, 1st August 2023, 10:00

Tim Tunnicliff’s Great Rugger Run will start on Wednesday 9th August Tim Tunnicliff’s Great Rugger Run will start on Wednesday 9th August

One-time Cheltenham prop Tim Tunnicliff is hoping to deliver the ball onto the pitch ahead of his former club’s first league game of the season next month.

That sounds easy enough and in isolation it is, but when he runs onto the pitch at the Newlands it will be the culmination of 25 days of incredibly hard work, 25 days in which he plans to run one million metres, or 1,000 kilometres, from West Wales to Cheltenham.

The run will start on Wednesday 9th August and end at the home of Cheltenham Tigers on Saturday 2nd September ahead of their Regional 2 Midlands West game against Stratford-upon-Avon.

Called the Great Rugger Run, Tunnicliff, who is 47, will be running some 700-plus miles – that’s nearly a marathon every day – and along the way will be visiting as many rugby clubs as possible.

He’ll be raising money for three charities – My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, 4ED Campaign and the Freddie Crisp Trust – as he runs, and as challenges go this is surely one of the tougher ones.

“The training is brutal, really tough,” said Tunnicliff, who is hoping to raise £10,000.

“I’m pretty much running every single day, a minimum of two hours but sometimes up to four to five hours.”

As an ex-prop, who played for Old Colfeians after moving to London in his early 20s before enjoying spells with Blackheath, Esher and Ealing, he is obviously a big man so that makes the running just that bit tougher.

So what makes him do it?

“It goes back to my early days as a rugby player when I played in the back row,” said the former Pate’s Grammar School pupil.

“I always won the longer distance races at school, I had the engine for the back row but not the pace.

“So it was decided to power me up and make me a prop with a good engine.”

That was during his Cheltenham days and although he played in the front row for the best part of two decades, he has never lost his love of running – one of his ambitions is to run New Zealand’s North and South islands.

This will actually be his third Great Rugger Run – he completed a 542-mile run in five weeks from Land’s End to London in 2021 and last year ran 544 miles in 25 days across Scotland.

He stopped off at 175 rugby clubs during those two runs and is hoping to visit plenty of new clubs this time around.

He’s always enjoyed his rugby and had a three-year spell coaching at Old Colfeians after he hung up his boots at the age of 36, but has not been directly involved with the game  since.

These runs are a way of keeping in touch.

“I like rugby people and visiting all the clubs once a month each year fills up my rugby cup,” said Tunnicliff, who is hoping to catch up with ex-Esher team-mate Jamie Gibbs when he visits Stow Rugby Club.

Tunnicliff, a former firefighter who these days builds websites for a living, is fascinating to interview.

Ask him where he lives and he says: “I don’t have a permanent address, I travel the world building websites, I’m a digital nomad.”

And he certainly gets about.

“Since Christmas I’ve been in Bali, Malaysia, Thailand and Bulgaria, then back to the UK for a bit,” he said.

“More recently I’ve been through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Spain.”

He will often stay in hostels and added: “I’m existing like everybody else, I’m just doing it a bit differently. But there are plenty of digital nomads living like me.”

When he spoke to The Local Answer he was house-sitting for a friend.

And although Cheltenham was where he spent his formative years – his brother Chris was a second row for Cheltenham back in the day – he doesn’t call it home today.

“I consider it the place I grew up,” he said.

Nevertheless, Cheltenham Tigers as they are now known played a big part in his rugby development.

“I started off playing for Cheltenham Colts,” he said. “I first played rugby when I was at school, quite reluctantly to begin with because I was a football fan, but gradually I got into it.”

He went on to play county and South West age group rugby, progressing to Cheltenham Under-21s and playing a handful of games for the first-team, although he was competing for a place against the likes of ex-Gloucester duo Malcolm Preedy and Bob Phillips.

That was all a long time ago, of course, and although Tunnicliff is proud of his rugby journey, understandably so, his more immediate focus is the Great Rugger Run, which will start in St David’s, Wales’ most westerly point.

Twenty-five days later there’s sure to be a big cheer when he arrives at the Newlands on 2nd September, but even when the run is completed, Tunnicliff won’t quite be finished.

“The end of this year’s run will be marked by a charity vets match between a Rugger Run XV and the wonderful Eggchasers XV,” he explained.

“I will be inviting players to join me, hopefully securing at least one player from each of the clubs I have represented throughout my career.

"Early indications are that this could be a strong side with some well-known names from the rugby world.

“It’s going to be a highly social and fun event. Please come along and support if you can, I am going to attempt to take the field.”

The match, which will start at 5pm, will be played at the Newlands following Cheltenham’s game against Stratford-upon-Avon.

Anyone who wants to support Tunnicliff on his Great Rugger Run should visit https://www.justgiving.com/page/thegreatruggerrun

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