It’s an image that encapsulates the power of friendship through adversity: Kevin Sinfield, a legendary figure in the sport of rugby league, stops short of the finish line of a marathon to gather Rob Burrow, his friend and former teammate, into his arms.
The poignant moment came at the end of the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon on Sunday and the pair received cheers from those spectating when they crossed the line together.
Burrow, who played for England and Leeds Rhinos alongside Sinfield, was diagnosed with the degenerative condition motor neuron disease (MND) in 2019.
Sunday’s 26.2-mile race was held in support of two MND charities and attracted more than 12,000 participants, starting and finishing at Leeds’ Headingley Stadium.
The 42-year-old Sinfield, now defense coach of the England rugby union team, has undertaken a series of endurance challenges to raise funds for MND since Burrow’s diagnosis – completing seven ultramarathons in seven days last year and running 101 miles in 24 hours the year before.
His latest effort saw him push Burrow in an adapted wheelchair through the city of Leeds and its suburbs, crossing the finish line in a time of four hours, 21 minutes and 54 seconds.
“Thankfully, Rob is five-foot-four and quite lightweight too – it’s not like we’re pushing a six-foot-10 guy who’s 25 stone (350 pounds),” Sinfield told BBC Breakfast ahead of the race last week.
“It will be tough, but it will be tough for everybody … I’ve been inspired by Rob throughout the time I’ve known him, especially the last couple of years. The fact that he’s going to be right under my nose this time, I won’t be short of inspiration.”
Burrow’s wife, Lindsey, also completed the marathon and was raising money to build a new MND facility in Leeds.
According to UK media reports, Sinfield has raised more than £8 million (almost $10 million) for MND charities since Burrow’s diagnosis. He ran Sunday’s marathon in a jersey bearing the number seven, which Burrow wore throughout his rugby career.