Kevin Sinfield: I won’t stop charity challenges until there’s a cure for MND

The Leeds Rhinos great and Leicester Tigers defence coach completed a 101-mile run in his latest fundraising challenge on Tuesday. “Something I’m really proud of over the last two years is we’ve been able to raise awareness and educate people this is a terrible disease,” Sinfield said.

A day after completing his latest epic charity run, Kevin Sinfield was straight back down to business in Manchester at a meeting with the likes of Alastair Campbell and David Haye.

The former Leeds Rhinos captain could have been forgiven if he had decided to take it easy after running the 101 miles to his old club’s Headingley home from the ground of rugby union club Leicester Tigers, where he now works as defence coach, in the space of 24 hours.

But although physically drained and feeling ill after his efforts on the Extra Mile challenge, raising money for both the MND Association and Leeds Hospitals Charity, the 41-year-old had no intention of having too much time for rest and recuperation.

“I was tired, but there are some things you’ve just got to do, haven’t you?” said Sinfield, who has also been using a bye-week for Leicester in the Gallagher Premiership to analyse videos ahead of their European Champions Cup opener away to Bordeaux-Begles next Saturday.

“I can just sit around or lie in my bed all day and do nothing, or I can get up and get moving and try to get back into it as quickly as possible – which is what I tried to do.”

Sinfield’s Extra Mile challenge came nearly a year after he embarked on running seven marathons in seven days to raise funds for motor neurone disease research and awareness, inspired by the plight of former Leeds team-mate Rob Burrow after he was stricken with the illness.

On that occasion, the seven-time Super League champion raised over £2M and, with over £1.77M already raised and around a further £500,000 pledged, he is set to break that target again from his latest exploits. Indeed, he is overwhelmed that people have continued to donate so generously.

“What last year did and the amount that was raised, we didn’t think there was any chance of getting close to that,” said Sinfield, who initially set a £100,000 target for his latest run.

“Plus, there’s an understanding of how generous people have been to the different charities associated with MND and the funds that have been put together.

“Also, when you look at society at the minute, how difficult it’s been with Covid over the past 18 months, inflation rising, gas and electric bills rising, petrol prices going up – there is some realism in there. So, for it to do what it has done, we’re massively blown away again.”

Burrow was there to greet his old Rhinos clubmate at Headingley on Tuesday morning as he finished his run, and Sinfield is heartened by how much this cause has resonated across the rugby league family, seeing shirts representing clubs from across Super League during his run this week.

There were plenty of Leicester shirts on the route too and he is all too aware how one of the 15-man code’s greats in Doddie Weir is facing the same plight as Burrow, having been diagnosed with MND in 2017.

The former Scotland international is doing his own work in raising money and awareness through his My Name’5 Doddie foundation, and Sinfield is pleased to see both codes of rugby coming together in the fight against MND.

“You’ve got two giants of either code who are absolute champions and everybody loves them to bits,” Sinfield said. “To be able to combine the two, how powerful is that?

“As we’ve seen across Monday and Tuesday, both codes have grabbed hold of it, supported it and run with it and understand it – and why can’t both codes work together on some of these things?

“There is a lot of tradition and history that’s gone on, but times have changed and to be able to do something like this, get both codes on board and support it is wonderful because two of our greatest rugby players are challenged and fighting this disease.”

Sinfield is already contemplating his next challenge, be it a physical one or something else in the form of an event, although Burrow’s father Geoff has told him he has done more than enough to help his friend and former team-mate.

For his part though, Sinfield has no intention of stopping now.

“Not until we get a cure,” Sinfield said. “When you’ve seen it first-hand – as I have with Rob – and then you meet so many brilliant, wonderful families and people along the routes, it grips you and grabs you.

“Geoff said 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’s the only way to get people to understand and take notice.

“Something I’m really proud of over the last two years is we’ve been able to raise awareness and educate people this is a terrible disease.

“But more importantly people who have got this are able to come out of their house now and not be ashamed because people understand what they’ve got and what they’re going through.”