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Rob Walker’s Absent Friends Tour 

Sports commentator Rob Walker, is set to cycle and run from John O’Groats to Land’s End in memory of four friends who passed away in the last two years.

Rob Walker's Absent Friends Tour banner showing a cartoon version of Rob standing by his bicycle

From snooker commentary to Olympic broadcasting, Rob Walker’s career has seen a lot of highs. But, sadly, in his personal life there have been lows with the loss of four friends in the last two years. This has prompted him to take on what he’s calling the Absent Friends Tour. 

His tour will kick off on 5 June and he’ll aim to be 1000 miles further south west by 23 June. Along the way, he’ll attempt to raise £25,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity and Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home. 

In this post, we’ll cover:  

Rob Walker holding George Hawkins - a child who passed away, inspiring Rob's Absent Friends Tour
Rob with George Hawkins

The people who inspired Rob Walker’s tour 

Rob decided to take on The Absent Friends Tour in memory of four amazing friends who impacted his life, and who has passed away in the last two years. 

These friends were: 

Robin Thomas 

It started as a simple conversation but Rob and Robin became very close friends. In fact, Robin was a guest and even played the guitar at Rob’s wedding.  

Described by Rob as “a larger than life character, literally and metaphorically,” Robin died of a heart attack at age 48 in October 2021. 

Stephen Isles pictured in running kit. He passed away from a brain tumour, inspiring the Absent Friends Tour
Stephen Isles, who sadly died from a brain tumour in 2022

Martyn Settle 

Martyn was another close friend of Rob’s, who passed away just two months after Robin Thomas.  

Rob met Martyn at Exeter University, where they were housemates. They had been friends for over two decades when Martyn died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was 45 years old. 

Recalling the experience, Rob said, “When Martyn died, I have never experienced anything like it. I had known him 24 years, it absolutely shattered me.” 

Stephen Isles

Stephen was a long-time friend of Rob’s, who had lived with a brain tumour for 10 years until he sadly died in May 2022 aged 53.  

Unlike with Robin Thomas and Martyn Settle, Rob had time to prepare for his death, saying, “I knew it was coming with Stephen, and I had the privilege of sitting with him on the day he died.” 

George Hawkins

George Hawkins was the friend of Rob’s son, Arthur. Rob describes George as a “fabulous little character” and “a ray of sunshine”. 

Similar to Martyn, George passed away without any warning. It was during Christmas 2022. Rob said, “There was no reason behind it, there was no cause. He had a great day and he went to bed and in the morning he was gone.” He was just nine years old. 

The Absent Friends Tour 

Rob Walker holding Stephen Isles' hand on the day Stephen died. Stephen is one of 4 friends who inspired the Absent Friends Tour
 Rob is holding Stephen’s hand in a poignant photo on the day he died.

Rob had already planned to undertake the Absent Friends Tour after the death of his three friends. But, while he was planning it, he got the news of his son’s friend’s death.  

After this, he knew that he had to follow through with the tour out of what he calls “tragic necessity.” 

The Absent Friends Tour will begin at John O’Groats on 5 June and last for 19 days, finishing at Land’s End on 23 June. 

Rob will aim to complete the 1000-mile challenge through a combination of running and cycling. He’ll be sleeping in a campervan loaned to him by a friend for the trip.  

He’ll also be handing out four bottles of fizz each day – one for each friend – so that the recipients can toast their own lost friends, along with his. 

He has also said that he’d love people to join him along the way, if only for a few miles, in remembrance of their friends. If you’d be interested, he’s invited you to get in touch. 

Rob‘s fundraising target for The Brain Tumour Charity and Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home is £25,000. 

How you can support Rob

If you’d like to support Rob’s inspiring cause, you can donate on his JustGiving page for The Absent Friends Tour. 

To go through to Rob’s JustGiving page, click the link below: