Kevin Sinfield: Why I will never give up raising awareness and money for MND

EVEN AFTER raising close to £5m to fight motor neurone disease (mnd), Leeds Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield says he won’t stop until a cure is found.

LEGEND: Kevin Sinfield (r) with Rob Burrow after completing his Extra Mile Challenge of 101 miles in under 24hrs. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Including offline donations, more than £2m has been pledged following Sinfield’s epic challenge this week, which saw him run 101 miles from Leicester to Leeds in 24 hours.

Last year, £2.7m was donated after Sinfield, 41, ran seven marathons in seven days, inspired by former team-mate Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed with mnd in December, 2019.

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Proceeds from Sinfield’s latest challenge will be split between the Leeds Hospitals Charity Appeal to build a Rob Burrow Centre for motor neurone disease in the city and the MND Association.

Kevin Sinfield exhausted after completing his Extra Mile Challenge of 101 miles in under 24hrs. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Burrow’s father Geoff this week said Sinfield has “done enough” and urged him not to put his health at risk with more and tougher feats.

But the former Leeds captain insisted the job is far from complete and confirmed he is already contemplating what might come next.

That could be an event or a challenge, but asked if will ever feel he has done enough, Sinfield insisted: “Not until we get a cure.”

Sinfield was too exhausted to speak to the media at Tuesday’s finish, but addressed an online press conference yesterday.

HOW IT STARTED: Kevin Sinfield sets off from Leicester Tigers' stadium on his Extra Mile Challenge. Picture by Simon Wilkinson/SWpix.com

“It is something I am passionate about and the whole team is passionate about,” he said of the campaign against the terminal illness which affects around 5,000 people in the UK at any one time.

“When you’ve seen it first hand as I have with Rob and then you meet so many brilliant, wonderful families of people (with mnd) it grips and grabs you.

“Geoff has said it to me a number of times, ‘you’ve done enough, you don’t need to keep putting your body through it’, but I think sometimes it is the only way to get people to understand and take notice.”

Sinfield stressed the money collected is only part of the battle.

Kevin Sinfield (r) with Rob Burrow after completing his Extra Mile Challenge of 101 miles in under 24hrs. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com K

“One thing I am proud of is over the last two years we’ve been able to raise awareness as well as funds,” he stated.

“We have been able to educate people that this is a terrible disease, but more importantly, the people it affects are able to come out of the house now and not be ashamed because people understand what it is they’ve got and what they are going through.

“I don’t think I will ever stop. As I get older the challenges will have to change, just because my body won’t be able to cope with some of it, but I will continue to do what I can to help and support.

“While Rob is continuing to fight like he has and is doing and while he has been so brave and courageous – and the whole family has – it is only right his former team-mates continue to do what they do as well.”

Sinfield, now an assistant-coach in rugby union at Leicester Tigers, described himself as “massively overwhelmed” by the national reaction to his latest feat, which had an initial fund-raising target of £100,000.

Fans of both codes and a variety of clubs lined the route, while a crowd of around 1,000 gathered at the Headingley Stadium finish line, along with members of his and Burrow’s families and Rhinos’ current first-team squad, including Sinfield’s son Jack.

Sinfield revealed anticipation of the reception awaiting him in Leeds kept him going at the hardest point of the challenge.

He said: “There were Tigers shirts right up until we reached Leeds and in large numbers for the first six-eight hours, even in places like Nottingham.

“The interesting thing is, during those moments as well, there were a lot of rugby league shirts.

“There were a lot of Leeds shirts, we saw shirts from Wigan, St Helens, Hull KR, Hull – and a guy in a Salford shirt ran a couple of hundred metres with us.

“I don’t work at a rugby league club any more, but the fact people were out there in different rugby league jerseys, supporting, was brilliant.

“The same with Leicester shirts; they are two of the biggest rugby clubs in the UK, they have both been fantastic and they’ve really got behind this.”

Recalling his emotions as he entered his former home stadium, running alongside Burrow’s wife Lindsey and eldest daughter Macy, Sinfield said: “About 45km from Headingley my legs weren’t working as they should be.

“My mind was fine and my energy levels were fine, but my legs had stopped working.

“Understanding I had to run over a marathon, which is hard enough, with legs that don’t work properly took us to a dark place; we knew we were in a battle then and we had to deal with it for five, six, seven hours.

“As soon as I got to Hyde Park and Lindsey and Macy were there, I was pretty emotional, I was ready to burst into tears. To have Lindsey and Macy with us and understanding Rob was going to be there and my wife and kids, mum and dad, it was really important.

“You really understand why you are doing it. Some lives have been massively affected by mnd, especially Rob, so to be able to see him at the end was massively emotional.”

Jack Sinfield has been elevated from Rhinos’ academy to the first team squad for next season and the 17-year-old had his first training session at the stadium on Tuesday, minutes after Sinfield’s arrival.

“That was lovely,” said the ex-Leeds captain. “It certainly wasn’t planned, but it was really nice.

“When you are pushed to your limit and in that dark zone, things like that, being able to see [wife] Jayne and the kids and give them a cuddle and see Rob as well, are what drive you on.”

Sinfield looked remarkably chipper on yesterday’s video call, just 76 hours after his gruelling slog.

“I feel all right, I am getting better every day,” he said. “My toes have been numb ever since, but thankfully I’ve started to feel them today.

“My quads have still got a bit to go, but I’ve stopped walking like John Wayne.”