Over 50 members of the Royal Navy, currently stationed in the Caribbean, took part in their own Virtual Great North Run on the ship's deck.

Petty Officer Joe Gibbs, from Middlesbrough, was signed up to the Great North Run this year, but even after the event was cancelled and his Squadron was deployed overseas, he would not be stopped.

As an Aircrewman with 845 Naval Air Squadron, Joe is currently embarked in RFA ARGUS on operations in the Caribbean. Not able to run in the UK, but still determined to raise money and awareness for Beat charity, he set up a half marathon on board.

RFA ARGUS is deployed on Atlantic Patrol Tasking (North), so the run was nicknamed the “Great APT-North Run” and included medical support and feed stations.

Joe was running for “Beat”, a charity that offers advice and support to those suffering with eating disorders.

He said: “I am from Middlesbrough and I have always known the Great North Run is an iconic event, and something to train for.

“I am not much of a runner and I was looking for a challenge to help raise money for Beat, who are a charity that are very important to me personally. 

“Due to COVID the charity has been struggling – there are more people isolated and so plunging back into problems with mental health and eating disorders, and Beat were seeing more and more people need their service, and at the same time seeing a drop in fundraising as lots of events were being cancelled.”

Joe wanted to find a way to fundraise despite the challenges of lockdown. When he deployed to RFA Argus as part of Commando Helicopter Force, ready to support British Overseas Territories and Caribbean nations during the hurricane season, he was told he could not leave ship to run or train as due to COVID restrictions all crew must stay on board.

He continued: “It was hectic leading up to the event, I had to speak to lots of departments on the ship to get permission, to move aircraft and machinery off the flight deck, to set up medical and support cover. I have been massively supported by everyone to make this happen and to make the event safe.”

The event itself had to begin before sunrise owing to the oppressive heat in the Caribbean. 

Nevertheless plenty of people came out to run with Joe, some joining the half marathon, others opting for 10km or 5km efforts. 

Joe said: “We had a good range of ship's company: Navy and RFA sailors, other aircrew and engineers from 845, the medical teams, and the Logistics department who supported and even provided fresh fruit for the feed stations.”

“This was my first ever half marathon event and I just wanted to get round. I got a time of 2 hours and 8 minutes which I am really pleased with. I am very keen to go back and do the real Great North run in the future, but this was so well supported that it has been a great experience. Of my target of £500, I have now raised over £1300. I am so grateful for the ship for getting behind me.”

Joe Gibbs joined the Royal Navy in 2016 and has trained since then to be a Petty officer Aircrewman. This is his first front line unit and his first deployment, and he will remain on station in the Caribbean with Commando Helicopter Force on the UK ship RFA Argus as they offer disaster relief support to the region during hurricane season, and with their other tasking to combat illicit drugs smuggling in the Caribbean.