Reuben’s Walkers: Academy coach and six friends who walked a marathon for charity Tiny Lives

“It’s not as good as Goodison” joked Academy goalkeeping coach Matthew Edwards on his verdict of seeing St James’ Park for the first time ever, his mind clearly fatigued (only explanation) at the time of walking down Strawberry Place, the home straight of the previous 27 miles completed.

Edwards’ friends Lee and April’s son Reuben passed away at a day old in December 2019 with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). He was treated by the charitable trust Tiny Lives within Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary – the charity Lee, Matthew and five other friends walked over a marathon on Sunday to raise money for.

But Reuben’s Walker’s, the team walking the marathon, friendship starting line began decades before the marathon’s first step.

The starting line: Durham

It’s all sort of their group of mates they’ve grown up with from back home, Durham,” began Edwards. “So there’s those six and over the years I’ve got to know them better and better to the point where I would class them as my mates rather than just Ross’ mates”.

“One of my good friends when I was at Leeds United [Ross], it was two and a half years we lived with a family and before that we lived in a big house at the training ground and I shared a room with him so we lived together for 3 years. Lee is his best mate from back home.

“We did another charity thing for Tiny lives during lockdown. So obviously everyone was at home and had loads of spare time. 80k/50 miles in a week and you could either run, walk or cycle. One of the lads did it walking and went way beyond 80k in a week. I think he did 200k or something.

“Last year he did 500k in a month. While he was doing that, all the lads decided to do one specific walk within all of his. So we did 21 miles last year. They just decided this year we may as well bump it up to a marathon.

“Lee had took a little teddy that they’d bought in the Disney shop so there’s photos of the landmarks as we go along”:

“I’ve done a marathon before, running, and I expected it would be much easier, and it was, but I didn’t feel much better afterwards”.

Tiny Lives

Reuben was treated by Tiny Lives, a charitable trust that helps to care for 800+ premature and sick newborn babies and their families each year. It supports the Newcastle Neonatal Service at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary that cares for babies from across the North-East and Cumbria.

Lee and Matthew’s team have set up a Just Giving page for donations because of how important the funding is for paying for the hospital’s neonatal equipment, having raised £1,710 on the 1st October. While they walk also to raise awareness of CDH.

“Having a conversation with Lee when we were doing the walk and he said when he was speaking to April even they didn’t know how much of the equipment is funded by the charity,” explained Edwards. “[We’re] getting it out there what they [Tiny Lives] do. I know they were a massive help – that’s where Reuben was treated”.

Oliver Walker, Reuben’s brother, is born

“When [Ross] got married last year, Lee was his best man but Lee and April have had another baby boy, that was about two days before the wedding, so I ended up being best man for the wedding because Lee couldn’t make it,” reminisced Edwards.

“Oliver. He was at the start, obviously we started from their house. He’s healthy and happy – he will be four months”.

Reuben’s Walker’s have signed up for next year’s Great North Run as well as planning on increasing the team for the next marathon walk.

“It’s [the walk] something we want to try and do every year. They did it last year, just the four of them. I’ve jumped on it this year and there’s a couple of lads trying for next year. So we’ve all signed up for the Great North Run next year as well”.

Don’t forget to donate to Tiny Lives.