RUGBY League legend Kevin Sinfield is set to embark on an epic challenge to raise funds and awareness for his friend and former Leeds Rhinos team-mate Rob Burrow who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) less than a year ago.
From December 1, Grasscroft-based Kevin will run seven marathons in seven days, each day as part of a small Covid-19 secure team of six.
Kevin, whose routes will be around Saddleworth and his place of work in Leeds, described it as the toughest thing he has ever tackled.
As England is in a second lockdown, the event will also be a way of virtually bringing together those who are dealing with illness in their homes and families behind closed doors.
Originally the plan had been to run from Scotland through Yorkshire to Manchester, but the national lockdown meant a re-think. They had wanted to start in Scotland to involve rugby legend Doddie Weir, who also suffers from MND and who has become a close friend with Rob as they have shared experiences of their battle against the illness.
The number seven is synonymous with Burrow as the number he wore throughout his career which was the spark for the idea by 40-year-old to run seven marathons in seven days, finishing on the December 7.
The initial aim is fittingly to raise £77,777 for the fund set up to support Rob and his young family of three children under eight plus additional funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).
The 7 in 7 Challenge Fund has already received a huge kick start with ACS Stainless Steel Fixings Ltd, who sponsored Rob Burrow throughout his career at the Rhinos, pledging £20,000.
As well as raising funds for Burrow and the MNDA, Kevin is also wanting to send out a strong message of support for all families, like Rob’s own, who are dealing with the cruel disease during the lockdown.
As part of the week-long campaign, people with MND or their families are encouraged to post their support on social media using #RunKevinRun sharing their stories.
Kevin said: “We have been planning for a number of months to do something special for Rob ahead of the anniversary of his announcement of his diagnosis. The recent documentary on the BBC was watched by more than three million people and Rob’s story has inspired so many. Rob has always said that he is revealing his story for those who don’t have the chance to do so and we want to make the run about that too.
“Having been part of a bio-secure environment with the Rhinos since July, we will be implementing those plans to make sure the whole event is done as safely as possible.
“We are speaking to the local authorities to make sure everything is done within the current restrictions with everyone tested prior to the event and daily medical checks before we begin.
“With us being based near to home, everyone will stay at their own residence between each run.
“The aim is to complete each marathon in under four hours. Undoubtedly, this is going to be incredibly tough, but it is nothing compared to what Rob and his family are going through and they will be our inspiration every step of the way.”
Kevin hopes to hear from people dealing with MND each day of the challenge. Every afternoon, once Kevin has completed the marathon run, he is asking people to get in touch by using the hashtag #RunKevinRun and we will host a Zoom call for them to share their stories along with special guests from the playing career of Kevin and Rob.
Kevin, a veteran of 12 marathons, recently completed three in three days as part of his preparations. He said running has become an important part of his life since retiring is 2015 and good for his mental wellbeing.
Kevin explained: “There is a void when you stop playing and running has helped me.
“It helps clear your mind and I always feel better after I have done a run. It makes me a better person.
“I needed to do something when I stopped playing and still exercise everyday for my own wellbeing. It has made me a better person.”
Kevin’s team for the challenge will have a strong local presence as he will be running with David Spencer, who is also from Saddleworth, and long-time running companion Chris Stevenson.
And his back-up team comprises Saddleworth pair Darrel Rogers and Phil Allingan and Rhinos’ PR manager Phil Daly.
You can donate online at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sinfield-7-in-7