Boxing star TYSON FURY has been inviting his fans to join him on daily training runs on Morecambe seafront. Our reporter GREG LAMBERT accepted the challenge.
7am. Friday October 2 2015. The autumn chill is setting in and it’s a misty morning over Morecambe Bay.
It’s an unearthly hour for some but I’m not alone as I arrive at the pre-arranged meeting point near VVV Leisure Club on the prom.
Former pro boxer Lee Woodruff from Morecambe is there in his running gear, warming up by the rocks on the seafront.
We are soon joined by Dylan Musgrave from Bolton-le-Sands and his 10-year-old son Mikey, also dressed ready for a jog.
In a few hours Mikey will start school for the day at Bolton-le-Sands Primary.
But he wouldn’t have missed this chance for the world. And what a tale to tell his schoolmates.
Then along comes Cem Oktem from the Packet Bridge chippy in Bolton-le-Sands village.
Today is Cem’s 26th birthday and he’s on a day off from frying fish, so he thought this would be the perfect gift to himself.
Adam Iley from Morecambe is also there. So is Mark Stockell, who has travelled from Fleetwood to be part of this unique fitness opportunity. And a Daily Mail reporter from Oldham will also join us on the run.
Earlier in the week there were runners here from Wakefield, Manchester, Leeds and Preston too.
The chance to jog with Tyson Fury, the self-styled uncrowned heavyweight champion of the world, has been pulling them in from everywhere.
Then, bang on time, the man himself comes jogging down Marine Drive.
Dressed in woolly hat, tracksuit top and shorts, the boxing star cuts a striking figure as his full 6ft9in frame comes into view.
With a big smile, he shakes everyone’s hand and asks how we’re all feeling.
Then the nine of us set off in a pack, at a slow and steady pace, into the rolling mist which engulfs the promenade.
Tyson informs us we’ll be running to the Battery, right the way along the seafront and back.
He makes this journey every day without fail, as part of his training for his upcoming world title challenge against Wladimir Klitschko.
And over the past few days the numbers of people accompanying him have been growing steadily.
“I’m quite honoured that they’re taking time out of their schedule in life to do the runs,” says Tyson as he jogs.
“Everybody is welcome. Men, women, children. There is no bad conversation, there’s nothing, just pure boxing talk, general knowledge, life, nice and sensible stuff. Young Mikey and his dad came and made the effort before school, he’s a dedicated young lad.”
Cem Oktem decided to join Fury when he saw the boxer throw out an open invitation to fellow runners on Twitter.
“At first I thought it was a bit of a joke,” says Cem.
“But then I saw him tweeting the pictures of him on the run with other people constantly, so today being my birthday, I had the day off so I thought I’d go for a run. I’ve enjoyed it.
“I’ve met him a couple of times around Lancaster, never to speak to properly, so it’s good to get an insight into his thoughts.
“I think he’s great, I think he’s grown on me a lot, not everybody likes the outgoing attitude but I think he’s good for boxing. You’ve seen him all over the news, BBC, Sky Sports, he’s putting Morecambe on the map, he can only do good for the town.”
Tyson himself believes his growing number of running buddies shows that the public in general is starting to warm to him.
“I think people are starting to turn their opinions around. They see it’s not me pulling out of fights, I am concerned about the fans and it’s a good opportunity to come down and jog.
“There are more people this week than ever before.”
Certainly as we begin the run, making our way past Morecambe Golf Club and Happy Mount Park, there is a lot of goodwill towards Tyson from passers-by. Dog walkers say hello, while passing cars beep their horns in recognition of the town’s most famous living celebrity.
This may also be partly because it’s been a whirlwind 10 days for the Morecambe-based heavyweight with almost constant media coverage keeping him in the public eye.
From the moment last week when he burst into a London press conference dressed as Batman, to the news that his fight with Klitschko had been postponed, to his stunning revelation that he wants to stand as MP for Morecambe, Tyson has been constantly in the spotlight for the past week.
But as we jog past the Eric Morecambe Statue, then the Midland Hotel, most of the conversation is about boxing.
Fury is happy to answer any question from his followers as he runs.
The personable father-of-two offers his thoughts on his heavyweight rivals Klitschko and Deontay Wilder, even telling us all his tactics for his fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world.
“Klitschko doesn’t like to fight off angles, so I’ll be giving him angles, not just going straight ahead,” he said.
“And you’ve got to push him.”
I ask him if the 12-years-unbeaten champion’s experience at world title level would be a deciding factor. The super-confident challenger shakes his head.
“Leon Spinks beat Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title and he’d only had seven fights. Ali beat Sonny Liston for the title and he was much the younger man. It’s not all about experience. He’s 39 years old and I think I’m getting him at the right time.
“I’m feeling good, nice and relaxed, happy, contented, beautiful overcast morning, fresh and crisp, enjoying life.
“I’m still in full-time training, sparring, running daily, keeping the weight down, keeping mentally focussed.”
Certainly all the running seems to be paying dividends. Tyson, who in the past has been criticised for not coming into fights in peak shape, looks leaner and healthier than ever before.
“It’s all about fat burning this, you see,” he tells us all.
“The first 30 minutes of running you warm up and then the next 30 you burn off the fat.”
He tells us that on Saturdays he’s been running up hills in the Lake District, in a gruelling two-hour session he’s called ‘Death Valley’ which he says “sorts out the men from the boys”.
So there is no doubt that if the fight does go ahead on November 28 as hoped, our man will be in the best physical condition of his undefeated career.
“I’m in the prime of my life and career. I need to be out there active, getting in big fights, I’ve already wasted the ages of 25, 26, 27 on inactivity.”
As we turn around and head back east down the prom, talk then turns to his hoped-for political career, his thoughts on helping homeless people, even a plan to raise awareness of the needy by doing a sky dive out of a plane into Morecambe Bay.
Tyson is never at a loss for words, but his down to earth approach proves that his bragging, over-the-top ‘Bad Boy of Boxing’ image is just one of many facets to his personality.
“I think boxing fans in general are starting to realise that I’m not a bad guy.
“They can look past a few swear words and antics at press conferences and see the real me, and they can see I’m a kind hearted person.
“I’m a big believer in God and God does great things for people so that’s what I want to do as well.
“At the end of the day, I’m not about amassing loads of money and storing it in a bank. What good is that going to do? As long as I can pay my bills, I’m willing to do whatever needs doing for the community, not just in Morecambe but for the UK, my country’s people. It’s not about being rich and famous.
“I’m trying to make a difference as a human being.
“If I have the finances, the ability and the pull to do so, then why not?”
And then suddenly, after a quick check of his mobile phone running app, Tyson comes to a halt.
Just like in the scene from the film Forrest Gump when Tom Hanks’ character runs across America joined by an ever-increasing band of disciples, his hardy band of followers stop running too, and wait for their leader to speak.
“Right, that’s it, we’ve done an hour now.”
Seven-and-a-half miles in the bitter cold. I usually jog only a couple of miles twice a week. So I can feel the distance in my aching legs.
Tyson Fury, however, looks like he could quite happily box 12 rounds and still not be out of breath.
As everyone goes their separate ways with a story to tell of the day they went out running with Tyson Fury, the new People’s Champion of the fight game reiterates his offer.
The door is open for either myself, or indeed anyone, to join him at 7am on Morecambe promenade near VVV Leisure Club, on any week day.
“We might have hundreds by this time next week,” grins Fury, with a twinkle in his eye.
Who knows...he could be right.