Tributes paid to former miner who fought through Parkinson’s Disease to keep running

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a former miner who fought a debilitating disease to keep on running.

Thomas Craven, who passed away at the age of 83, completed 11 marathons, 15 Great North Runs, 17 Morpeth to Newcastle runs, 11 Blaydon Races, 20 other half-marathons and countless 10k runs.

Affectionately known as Harry, he took part in the Greggs Cancer Run at the age of 57, where his passion for running was first inspired.

However, the following year, the father-of-one, from Jarrow, underwent tests where it was revealed he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

Despite the news, he went on to join the Heaton Harriers running club and continued to enjoy his hobby.

A keen cyclist who never learned to drive, he also rode the Coast to Coast route and cycled from Lands End to John O’Groats, as well as following the route of the Jarrow marchers took from Jarrow to London and back again.

Mr Craven, who worked at Wardley, Boldon and Wearmouth collieries and was nicknamed ‘The Grafter’ due to his work ethic, eventually hung up his running shoes at the age of 79, having giving up running competitively in 2003.

His daughter Valerie Whitwood, who now lives in North Yorkshire, said: “The running definitely helped to prolong his life.

“When he was in his 60s and 70s, his fitness was that of a man half his age.

“He was so inspiring, despite having Parkinson’s Disease he achieved so much. It was only when he stopped that’s when the disease took hold.

“Running helped to give me my father for an extra 20 years and also gave him time to see his only grandson grow up and I will always be grateful for that.”

Grandfather to Joseph, 17, Mr Craven, who lived on the Hill Park Estate, was married to Doreen for 62 years, who he had met at the age of 15.

Mrs Craven died on February 27, also aged 83, of brain cancer.

Mrs Whitwood added: “He was so giving as a person and as a dad. He just wanted me to experience as many things as possible.

“He took me fishing, kite flying, canoeing all sorts. He was very much into helping to improve people’s lives and he learned the generation of my family how to swim.

“In 1973, he took me to see Sunderland in the FA Cup final and I remember he paid well over the odds for the tickets but he wanted me to be there and it was an experience I will never forget.”

Mr Craven lost his battle with Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 83 on March 29.

A service will be held for Mr Craven at South Shields Crematorium on April 11 at 10.30am.