The marathon man is just warming up. Three years to the day since he first went for a ‘run for a mate’, Kevin Sinfield is about to embark on his fourth epic endeavour in honour of Rob Burrow.
The rugby league legend has already raised more than £8million for motor neurone disease causes through his trilogy of charity challenges, having set a target of just £77,777 when he started out in December 2020.
And the even better news? Sinfield is not ready to toss away his trainers anytime soon. ‘The plan was to just do three,’ admits the fundraising phenomenon. ‘But why would we stop? We haven’t got a cure and we feel we can make a better impact on people’s lives who have MND.
‘After we have done this fourth one, we are not far off seven, we are just over halfway, so perhaps we just keep going. We have got a lot to fight for.’
On Friday, former Leeds Rhinos No7 Burrow, who was diagnosed with MND in 2019, will be back at his old home of Headingley to wave off his ex-captain Sinfield as he begins his latest endurance event.
Kevin Sinfield has vowed to continue pushing to raise money for MND sufferers as he prepares to run another seven ultramarathons in seven days – across seven cities
The former Leeds Rhinos star has already raised £8m since ex-team-mate Rob Burrow was diagnosed with the disease in 2019
Setting off at noon, the 43-year-old will run a marathon, plus a mile, to York. He will cover the same 27.2mile distance the next day in Cardiff, then again in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Dublin and Brighton, before finishing at The Mall in London on December 7. It is, Sinfield insists, his toughest challenge yet.
‘Things might go wrong,’ he warns. ‘I have been trying to get my body in such a shape that I can run for four hours a day, then spend the next 20 hours putting Humpty Dumpty back together again and getting ready to make the start line.
‘Within that 20 hours there will be some travel and disruption. It means my nutrition and recovery might not be perfect. But we understand that life for people with MND and their families isn’t perfect. For us to have a bit of upheaval moving around is a very small price for us to pay.’
Sinfield ran seven marathons in seven days in 2020, then covered 101 miles in 24 hours in 2021. Last year, he upped the ante by completing seven ultramarathons in a week. But he confesses he is undercooked coming into ‘7 in 7 in 7’.
Sinfield promised he would not stop his titanic effort ‘because we haven’t got a cure’. Pictured: standing alongside former Scotland star Doddie Weir, who was also an MND suffer before his death in 2022
That is largely because his focus this autumn was on another massive event – the Rugby World Cup in France, where he helped steer England to the semi-finals as Steve Borthwick’s defence coach.
‘I was at the World Cup for two months and before that we were in camp for three months,’ says Sinfield. ‘I trained every day in France. I ran a fair bit with a number of coaches and there were some really nice parts of France to run in. But in terms of long runs, up until the start of November, I hadn’t done any for five months.’
So while England’s players would have had their feet up following that agonising one-point defeat to South Africa, Sinfield was back out pounding the streets of Saddleworth when he returned home.
‘I’d been back two days and then I got going at 5.30am, up at 4.45am,’ he reveals. ‘It has been really important in our preparation in the last three years that we try and make the training as tough, as dark and as horrible as we can.’
Sinfield, who will be joined by the same 15-strong support team as last year, admits his wife Jayne thinks he is ‘crackers’, as does Burrow. But he insists: ‘We are looking forward to going again. There are a thousand reasons why we shouldn’t go again, but there is one big reason why we should – and that’s Rob and representing this beautiful community.
Sinfield first began running in aid of MND in 2020 – and insisted he would still find a way of ‘banging the drum’ when he can no longer do marathons
‘It’s an important thing we are doing. The easy option would be to say no we are not going again, but the team and I don’t want to take the easy option.
‘We want to give everything we can because the people with MND don’t have a choice. While the money is ticking over and people are coming out in their pyjamas to see us and give us their last five pound note, all of that is fuel and energy for us to try and do our best and to try and shift the dial on MND.’
Sinfield, of course, has done more to shift that dial than most. But he knows there is no time to waste in the bid to find a cure for MND. That is why he is disappointed the Government have still not released the full £50m they pledged to put towards research into fighting the terminal illness.
‘People with MND don’t have time to wait and we all want things done now,’ he adds. ‘So there is some frustration, but whether that that money was released or not, we’d still be here getting ready to run.
‘Whilst my knees keep going, I will keep trying to do my bit. Even when I can’t run anymore, I will find another way of banging the drum.
‘I am in this now. It has shown me exactly why I am here on this earth – and that is to try and help. I don’t think there is any greater gift than providing hope for a community that needs our support, our love and our respect.’
To support Sinfield’s 7 in 7 in 7 Challenge, visit donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/kevin-sinfield or text 70143 to donate £10 or £20.