Leeds man inspired by Rob Burrow runs from Old Trafford to Headingley for MND Association
A Leeds man has run over 42 miles from Old Trafford to Headingley, inspired by Rhinos legend Rob Burrow.
Paul Strafford, 31, ran between the stadiums in Manchester and Leeds on Easter Sunday and has currently raised over £2,600 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).
He had watched Burrow, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2019, play for Leeds Rhinos while growing up and set his fundraising target at £1,326, Burrow’s heritage number.
Mr Strafford, a Rugby Football League referee, said: “People with MND battle every day, I can battle for one day and raise a bit of money and awareness.
“I looked at what would be fitting for Rob. His last game was at Old Trafford in 2015, on my birthday, and his first game was on 6 April 2001. I wanted to go between the two stadiums where he started and finished his career at Leeds.”
He set off from Manchester at 8am on Sunday, ran over the Moors, and after ten hours he finally crossed the finish line at Headingley stadium.
His partner, Carrera Whittle, met him in a support vehicle every six miles and his family were there to cheer him on at the halfway point.
The 32nd mile was dedicated to Stephen Garton, who has MND, and who Mr Strafford came to know after Mr Garton’s wife Carol saw his fundraising in a Facebook group.
“As I got up one of the biggest hills near Brighouse he was standing at mile 32 for me”, Mr Strafford said.
“I finally got to meet him in person and he spurred me on the last 13 miles. He gave me the boost to go on”.
The 33rd mile was dedicated to Mr Garton’s friend Andrew ‘Dobbo’ Dobson who passed away last year and who had raised money for MNDA at his funeral.
Other miles were sponsored by local companies, and Asda Middleton donated Burrow the Bunny who waited at marker points along the run.
Friends and family of Mr Strafford followed the journey on Mr Strafford’s ‘Chubby Lad that Runs’ Facebook page.
“I’m not the slimmest, I’m not your average lad that runs for miles”, he said, adding that he only started running a year ago to keep his fitness levels up while unable to referee during lockdown.
In July 2020 he did his first charity run, raising £1,300 by running the 16 miles between Leeds and Huddersfield for Andy’s Man Club, who run talking groups for men across the UK.
Mr Strafford ran 92 miles in training for Sunday’s run, but it didn’t all go according to plan.
“Two weeks ago I got put into isolation from being in contact with a positive case of Covid so that took 10 days out of my training. I had to squeeze a lot into the last two weeks, but I got through the run in a time I’m happy with”, he said.
Visit Paul Strafford’s fundraising page here