Triumph of the Human Spirit at Leeds Marathon

Rugby teammate carries a weakened Rob Burrow over the finish line.



(Photo courtesy Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon)

When Rob Burrow was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in December 2019, it put an end to his 16-year career as a rugby player for England and the notoriously famous Leeds Rhinos.

The most prevalent type of MND is ALS, which stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. MND gradually impairs specific regions of the nervous system, as described on NSH Inform. As the disease progresses, it causes muscle weakness and noticeable degeneration, resulting in visible wasting of the affected muscles.

What didn’t waste away, however, was an enduring friendship with legendary sportsman and Leeds Rhinos teammate Kevin Sinfield. Pumped into action by his friend’s illness, Sinfield recently wowed the sports world when he carried Burrow over the finish line of the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon this past May.

Relentless efforts
The 42-year-old Sinfield and current defense coach of the England rugby union team, has taken on a remarkable series of endurance challenges to generate funds for MND following Burrow's diagnosis, reports CNN. In the previous year, he accomplished an incredible feat by completing seven ultramarathons in seven consecutive days. Even before that, Sinfield ran an astonishing distance of 101 miles within a 24-hour period. His relentless efforts in these endurance challenges exemplify his dedication to raising awareness and supporting the fight against MND.

"We were both pretty fortunate we played in a very special team that was able to share in some trophy-lift moments and some really tough moments too, but that would rank right up there with all of them," Sinfield, speaking at the launch of his autobiography, The Extra Mile, told Sky Sports News.

Stopping short of the marathon’s finish line, Sinfield, who had been pushing Burrow in a specially designed wheelchair, gathered Burrow in his arms and together they finished the race, an image that captured the bond of friendship through adversity.

"To have 12,500 people run alongside us to share what it was all about, which was to run for a mate with a mate, and for Rob to be able to fully take part, was incredible,” Sinfield continued. “The plan was to finish arm in arm and unfortunately with Rob's health and not being able to hold his own body weight, and the toll being in that chair for over four hours in the heat, meant we had to adjust the plan slightly.”

Burrow’s encouragement
Despite his personal aversion to running and initial reluctance to write an autobiography, Sinfield's unwavering commitment to supporting Burrow and the MND community was motivated by Burrow's inspiration in the face of his illness, and his encouragement to Sinfield to share their remarkable journey, according to Sky Sports News.

"For me to spend that amount of time with Rob in an event where it was tough for all of us and to get that moment at the end which for us symbolized love, friendship, and caring for your mate was incredible, alongside the support of so many others who worked so hard to get to that start line and made the finish line too," Sinfield told Sky Sports News.

"What's happened over the last three years with Rob, in particular, a conversation with Rob 18 months ago where he told me I needed to [write the book] and the story, it's been quite a journey,” he continued.

“Today is an amazing day for the whole community and will benefit every sufferer,” Burrow texted in 2020, when Sinfield raised over $3 million for MND, according to CNN. In words that echoed Sinfield’s efforts this March, Burrow wrote: “To my amazing friend Kev, you don’t realize the impact you have had on me and the whole MND community.”

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