Yorkshire firefighters' Three Peaks Challenge for Rob Burrow and MND Association
A group of firefighters from Leeds have raised more than £8,000 completing the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge in their full kit for former Leeds Rhinos player Rob Burrow and to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND).
Six members of white watch at Hunslet Fire Station completed the 24-mile route between Pen-y-ghent and Ribblehead on Wednesday (21 April) - in what is believed to be "first ever" time the challenge has been completed by people in full firefighters kit.
The team completed the walk route of Pen-y-Ghent at 2,277ft, Whernside at 2,414ft and Ingleborough 2,372ft, in 11 hours and 52 minutes.
The crew, which also included supported walkers from the Hunslet and Leeds Fire Stations, who played a vital role in carrying supplies and water, undertook the challenge for Rob Burrow and to raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND).
Organiser of the challenge and one of the team was Mark Newton, the brother-in-law of Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow, who was joined alongside teammates Alex Thompson, James Mcleish, Jodie Allen, Gareth Davies and Mathew Birch.
Speaking from Castleford Mr Newton, 35, whose older sister Lindsey Burrow is married to the rugby legend and was also a support walker during the challenge, said it had been a "tough task" but worth every minute of pain.
He told The Yorkshire Post: "I think we're all feeling it today. For me my feet - they are very sore and tender with a number of blisters.
"My legs are very tight and I have a very sore back and shoulders because of having the aset [a firefighter backpack] strapped to my back for nearly 12 hours.
"The third peak [Ingleborough] was the toughest one - everything just started hurting then - the feet, the legs, the weight on the back, the helmet - it was getting really uncomfortable and really hard but we wanted to finish it. We just gritted our teeth and got to the end."
He added: "Putting ourselves through that and being in pain for 12 hours is nothing compared to what Rob and other people suffering from motor neuron disease are going through."
Mr Newton, who has known Burrow since he was 14-years-old, said the team had received congratulations from the Leeds Rhinos former captain who was diagnosed with the degenerative and life-limiting condition in 2019.
"As soon as I told Rob we were thinking about doing it - Rob and my sister were like ‘you’re crazy’ you don’t have to do it for us. But we want to do that," Mr Newton said.
The firefighter, who has been part of the crew at Hunslet Fire Station for the past 14 years, added due to the "heartbreaking deterioration" of Burrow he felt "compelled" to do something to raise awareness of the condition.
The disease has already robbed Burrow, who was awarded an MBE for services to his sport and raising awareness of MND through the pandemic, of the ability to speak without a machine and forced him into a wheelchair.
Mr Newton said: "Rob is the brother I never had. It’s heartbreaking to see, especially because of the speed of the deterioration.
"We never expected the disease to get hold of him that quick. I can’t imagine what it is like on his mind - when you’re trapped in a failing body.
"You feel helpless at times but I wanted to do something. And we can all do something to raise awareness."
So far the challenge has raised more than £8,000 for the MND Association and the Rob Burrow support fund, after an original target of £1,000 was set.
"We are really pleased and grateful for every donation that has been made. Every message of support is massive and thank you from myself and from my colleagues and from Rob," said Mr Newton.
Mr Newton added the team would be having a "quiet few days" after completing the challenge and is hoping another "epic challenge" is in the pipeline.
He said: "I think we’ll gather our thoughts and see if we want to do anything else.
"I’m always up for a challenge and doing stuff. And obviously this is very close to my heart - if I can do anything that makes a little difference then I’d be willing to do anything.”
"Hopefully one day we can get there and find a cure for MND, or some effective treatment that can hopefully slow in down in some shape or form and help the patients."
You can donate to the firefighters Three Peaks Challenge for Rob Burrows and MND Association here.
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