Former Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield has been urged to scale back his dare-devil exploits after his latest gruelling fund-raising challenge left him physically ill.
The England rugby league international made a triumphant if painful return to Headingley after completing his Extra Mile Challenge in aid of former team-mate Rob Burrow, which has raised over £1.5million.
Sinfield was clearly in great discomfort as he entered Headingley to the cheers of around 1,000 fans at the end of his gruelling run, which was the equivalent of almost four marathons completed without sleep inside 24 hours.
His 101-run mile from Leicester, where he now works as defence coach with the Tigers, took its toll, with Sinfield unable to speak to waiting reporters as he was whisked away immediately after completing his commitments with the BBC’s Breakfast Show.
Burrow, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2019, was at Headingley for the emotional return of his close friend, accompanied by his wife and three children and father Geoff, who has been a driving force behind the bid to find a cure for MND.
Sinfield helped raise £2.7million by running seven marathons in seven days last December and his latest fund-raising effort also caught the imagination of the country.
“It’s nothing short of a miracle, really,” said Geoff Burrow. “He’s super human.
“I said before this that he’s done enough. I think this is the ultimate one, I don’t think he should even try anything like this again. But who knows with Kevin?
“We’ve all been part of a big family ever since the famous Leeds team achieved what they achieved, he’s like another son to me. His mum and dad must be so proud, it’s beyond words.
“It’s difficult to take in. Whilst we all knew he would do it, the main thing is that Kevin took care of himself.
“The money is great but nowhere as important as Kevin’s health. But he’s done it, I don’t know how.”
The Oldham-born England international was also accompanied during the run by former team-mates Jamie Peacock, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Gareth Ellis and Barrie McDermott, along with politician Alastair Campbell and Leeds triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
Sinfield’s Giveasyoulive fund-raising page went past £800,000, with another £160,000 in gift aid, within an hour of him crossing the finishing line and will be divided between the MND Association and the Leeds Hospitals Charity to build a new care home in the name of Burrow. By 6.30pm on Tuesday the total stood at more than £1.26million, with over £250,000 in gift aid.
“It’s going to take the ball over the line, just watch this space,” added Geoff Burrow, whose emotional appeal for central funding is thought to have played a key role in the Government’s decision to award a £50m grant for MND research.
“I’m hopeful all the time but this is making a difference.
“It’s not just the rugby league family any more, it’s rugby union, it’s the sporting family, the whole country.”
Sinfield, who was accompanied on the last leg of his run by Burrow’s wife Lindsey and oldest daughter Macy, says he was driven by the presence of his old team-mate.
“It was really tough at times, especially the end, but it’s down to my little mate here,” he told the BBC.
In a message on his recording device, wheelchair-bound Burrow said: “Today is an amazing day for the MND community. It will benefit every sufferer.
“To my amazing friend Kev, you don’t realise the impact you have had on me and all the MND community.”
Meanwhile, Geoff Burrow insists the forthcoming two-year anniversary of his son’s diagnosis will be no special landmark.
“With the original diagnosis and prognosis, you hear it takes life within 12 months or two years, but it’s not taking Rob’s and hopefully with the awareness and the money that’s been raised, it’s not taking too many other people, if any,” he said.
“That’s the main thing. It won’t be a landmark because there’s going to be a lot more landmarks and landmarks of Rob and others getting effective treatment now and getting better.”