Kevin Sinfield’s next ‘7 in 7’ challenge to raise funds for a motor neurone disease charity looks like being a seven-day walk over a “crazy distance”.
The Leeds director of rugby completed seven marathons in seven days last December following his former team-mate Rob Burrow’s diagnosis with the life-limiting condition 12 months before.
Sinfield’s efforts raised an incredible £2.2million for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and he is now targeting a challenge that more people can get involved with towards the end of this year.
He said: “I think it’s going to be a walk that covers seven days with a bit of a crazy distance set in there, and that’s where we’re headed at the minute.
“It could be a bike ride, we could end up doing marathons again, but at this stage because of how restricted we were last time we want to open it up to as many people as we can.
“Obviously we need to be Covid-secure, but we would like to think at the back end of the year that those bigger type of events would be able to go ahead and we want to get people involved. With that, it becomes so much more powerful.”
The MND Association said £655,000 of the money Sinfield had raised had gone direct to research, and that in total the raising of funds and awareness connected to the first ‘7 in 7’ challenge meant the amount going into research this year was £5.7m.
A further £1.25m of the money Sinfield raised will provide frontline support services for the children and families of those affected by the disease, and to support care centres and a hotline.
Sinfield said he and his Rhinos team-mates had quickly resolved to help Burrow once they understood the gravity of his diagnosis.
Rob has told me a million times he would do the same for me, and I absolutely believe him.
“We understood in December 2019 after Googling it and trying to work out what it meant, the Batman call went out and all those team-mates answered it,” he said.
“That’s what team sport gives you – that friendship, that bond. Rob has told me a million times he would do the same for me, and I absolutely believe him.”
The MND Association said Sinfield’s efforts in raising funding and awareness had come at a crucial time.
Chris James, the charity’s director of external affairs, said: “If I can use the analogy, it’s a marathon not a sprint. That said, people are talking much more optimistically, particularly researchers, about where they’re going with MND.
“We know there are a number of drugs coming into phase two trial and phase three trial for particular types of MND.
“One of the great things about all the money that is being raised and all the awareness that is being raised for MND, we are reaching a really crucial point, so we need that funding to really push hard. We always say that MND is not incurable, it’s under-funded.”
Burrow, who Sinfield described as being like “a little brother” to his old Leeds team-mates, was able to greet Sinfield at the finish line of the fifth marathon at Headingley.
Sinfield says he visits his friend on a fortnightly basis.
“Thankfully I seem to find every time I’ve been to visit him the sun has shone in Pontefract for some reason, so I’ve not been sat in the rain,” he said.
“The minute you walk in and see him he’s got that big smile on his face.”
Burrow was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List for his efforts last December in raising awareness for the condition during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sinfield said: “MND has almost been a hidden secret. A lot of people who have been affected or challenged by MND have almost been ashamed, and locked themselves away.
“Rob has broken down so many barriers.”