8 Roadrunners were away on their travels to sunny Leeds for the new Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon. This was a brand new event, organised to continue the amazing work that former rugby league star Kevin Sinfield has done to raise awareness and raise money for MND. Kevin’s work for MND has been inspired by his long time team mate Rob Burrow, together they led Leeds Rhinos to many years of success. When Rob was diagnosed with MND in 2019, Kevin set out on a series of amazing running challenges.
The Rob Burrow marathon is based at Headingly Stadium. Headingly is kind of 2 stadiums in one. A cricket ground that hosts Yorkshire and England cricket matches, and a rugby ground that is home to the Leeds Rhinos, with a large stand that looks into both arenas.
An early start to the run was delayed by 15 minutes to 9:15am, as this brand new setting struggled to deal with the logistics of 12,000 runners arriving, storing their bags and wanting to use the loo! The half marathon set off at 10am.
As the crowds of runners started to move into their alloted start areas, a wave of excitement went through the crowd as the 2 rugby stars made their way through the crowd to the start area. Kevin was pushing Rob in a specially adapted chair, and they would lead the race out. A few minutes later, Rob came over the loud speakers and gave the runners a rousing pep talk, telling all the runners it was going to be tough, and you need to be prepared to put your arm round the person next to you and to get each other through it.
This was a different kind of running field. The love that this city has for Rob and Kevin, brought out a lot of runners who have never done a marathon before (over half the field), there were also lot’s of runners who have been affected by MND, lot’s of shirts explaining who someone was running to support or running in memory of. The spirit was, if Rob can go through this, I can run a marathon. And that spirit was reflected in the support, which is the very best support I’ve seen for any run other than London, and there was something more impressive than the huge numbers in London. When you are running in what feels like the middle of nowhere, and you come you a rural junction with hundreds of screaming supporters crowded around it, you know something special is happening.
So at 9:15, Rob and Kevin started their run, and the rest of the field followed. For the road runners, our 7 marathon runners had re-organised their start waves and all started the marathon together. Our collection of IWRR vests made for quite a sight, and there were many supportive shouts from the crowd for the Isle of Wight. Most of the gang loosely stuck together for several miles, until the rigours
of the course started to take their toll.
The marathon left the city into the surrounding countryside, but the support was unwavering. The support was as impressive as anywhere in the small market town of Otley. The enthusiastic crowds in Otley filled the pavements, and spilled into the streets, crowding the runners like Tour de France competitors. Glen recalled his experience running through Otley “It was the highlight of the day for me, there was great banter with the crowd. At one point I found myself hurdling a large traffic cone in the middle of the road, the crowd cheered. I was on a real high and running well, at least until I got round the corner!”.
And around the corner as the runners left Otley, they met The Chevin, a 925ft high ridge that overlooks the town. For around 2 miles starting from around 17 miles, the runners started a long, slow, arduous climb up and over The Chevin. The combination of an inexperienced field, some significant hills and the hottest day of the year, meant that at least 2 Ambulances were seen attending to runners on this hill, it really was tough.
After that hill though, the course became kinder, as it started to drop down and back into Leeds and the finish line. First to get home was our travelling half marathon adventurer Lyn Snow. Lyn was in Leeds completing her 69th Half, a staggering total, she completed her run in just over 3 hours. Lyn had warmed up for the half by taking in a local parkrun the day before, well done Lyn!
The marathon runners now streamed into the city to finish their runs, the road runners led home by Ian Dyer, who had a great run, finishing in 4:34. Next in were regular training partners Glen and Gareth who had completed the climb up The Chevin together and then finished in 4:44 and 4:49.
Keith was next in just a few minutes later in 4:55. Keith found it tough, but was happy “Such a hot day and so hilly. But what an amazing occasion, the reason behind the race epitomises the true meaning of the word Friendship.” Jane was next in, running with friend and running companion Paul, finish time 5:05. Steve followed quickly behind in what was an emotional day for him, running proudly in his MND vest, a cause that means so much to him, that was marathon number 178 for Steve.
Then came a tense wait for the team. James had last been seen out on the course with Glen at 10 miles, and we knew his foot had been causing him problems and he was complaining about a blister as early as mile 7. James was the star of the day though, digging deep and toughing it out, bringing it home in 5:21. Marathon Supremo Steve summed it up perfectly when he said that James was “an excellent example of guts and determination”.
So on a tough, hot, hilly and emotional day, all 8 of our runners made it home safely despite one of the team impressing local youngsters with their vomiting skills mid race, but a reporter does not always name names! Well done gang.