How to run 60km while stuck in hotel quarantine and raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation

When Tony O'Neill decided to take on the Fred's Big Run fundraiser this year, he had no idea he would end up running laps of his small hotel room while in quarantine.

After having to make a short trip to the United Kingdom for family reasons, upon his return he had 14 days alone in the hotel room - plenty of time, but not much space in which to complete such a task.

Fred's Big Run is a challenge organised by the Fred Hollows Foundation, where participants choose a running distance goal for August and encourage people to sponsor them as they try to reach the goal.

It was one of the various fundraisers that Mr O'Neill and some of his co-workers had signed up for this year - another included an 800-kilometre virtual bike ride in June.

"A colleague at work suggested it - a few of us at work had done fundraising things to stay fit and busy and help other people during coronavirus," he said.

He does not consider himself an avid runner, but he participates in the Strathalbyn parkrun every Saturday morning and has joined the recently-formed Strathalbyn Running Club.

At the time of signing up, he did not know he would be going back to his country of origin on compassionate grounds, and when he got back to Australia he felt he could not give up on his challenge.

He was alone in the hotel room with only his work to keep him busy, and his view looked straight into the nine-storey carpark next door.

So, using his Fitbit, he measured out the diameter of his hotel room - "10 or 11 paces" - and started running, about five kilometres a day.

"From the door to the window, then a sharp left to the next wall and the corner of the bed," he said. "It was as much for my sanity as much as anything else."

It was his 54th birthday while he was in the hotel quarantine, and after seeing some tradies working on the car park next door, he put up some signs in his window saying "Help, send beer", with his room number.

The tradies had seen him running around his room and then saw his signs, so they wrote one of their own, asking him to call a mobile number, which connected him to one of the guys onsite.

They got Mr O'Neill's details, and soon enough a six-pack of beer - Corona, of course - was delivered to his door.

A group of tradies organised a delivery of beer - Corona, of course - to Tony O'Neill's hotel room. Photo: Supplied.

A group of tradies organised a delivery of beer - Corona, of course - to Tony O'Neill's hotel room. Photo: Supplied.

With the various fundraisers he had already done this year, he found it "hard to keep asking the same people for money", so he set a low goal of $100, which, according to the Fred Hollows Foundation, would restore eyesight to four people.

But as word spread of one man's ridiculous run, he received global coverage, and now more than $3500 has been raised through his effort alone.

When it came time to leave the hotel after completing his quarantine on Tuesday, August 18, he walked into the lobby to find staff, security, and police officers holding a finishing line tape between large helium '60' balloons, cheering him on.

He was excited to be reunited with his wife of 31 years, Sharon; it was the longest time they had been apart, he said.

While recognising he was in a much more fortunate position than others, he could not wait to get out of the confines of the hotel.

"The first thing I did was literally take big gulps of fresh air," he said.

"The first thing I wanted to see was greenery. I got a bunch of flowers in quarantine because it was my birthday, but my view was concrete and steel.

"When I walked out, I could see daffodils. I could see distant views."

He was grateful for the "excellent" hotel staff, who had made the quarantine as easy as possible.

"It wasn't that bad. It was only 14 days, I had a roof over my head, three delicious meals delivered to my door, I was warm and dry, and I have still got a job which allowed me to do both my job and fundraising," he said.

"So many people have lost their jobs or have health issues through coronavirus. For me, it was just a minor inconvenience."

Mr O'Neill is still receiving donations - to donate, visit www.fredsbigrun.org/fundraisers/tonyoneill

This story How to run 60km while stuck in hotel quarantine first appeared on The Times.