Rob Burrow: Runners honour 'legend and inspiration'

Hundreds of people have taken part in a run in Leeds in memory of rugby league star Rob Burrow.

The former Leeds Rhinos player, who had lived with motor neurone disease (MND) since being diagnosed in late 2019, died on Sunday, aged 41.

The route of the run on Friday, organised by the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, was seven miles long, in recognition of Burrow's shirt number when playing for the club.

A foundation spokesperson said the event took place to "celebrate the life of a true rugby league legend and inspiration".

The route, which started at Roundhay Park, was also mapped out to resemble a rhino.

John McLaughlin, who came up with the route, said the shape had first come to him after he signed up for the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon last year.

"I thought, well, what can I do to support Rob, Kev [Sinfield], the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and all the runners taking part? I wondered if I could draw a rhino on a map," he said.

"People thought I was a bit mad, but actually you can," he added.

Mr McLaughlin said an extra mile was added to Friday evening's route to make the distance seven miles to reflect the number seven shirt Burrow wore during his career.

"It's seven miles, it's a fun route and it's there for everybody to be used anytime," he said.

Leeds' two-time boxing world champion Josh Warrington was one of those taking part in the tribute, wearing blue and amber Leeds Rhinos colours.

Bob Bowman, from the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, also took part.

"We've all been hit massively by the sad loss of Rob and it only felt right to do something this week to be impactful, visual and important," he said.

"The link between running and rugby league has been enshrined over the last few years with Rob and Kevin and the challenges."

Mr Bowman said given Burrow's shirt number, the run's start time also "just felt right".

"Seventh of June at 7pm, we run seven miles in that first seven days of Rob's sad passing - and it's proved to be pretty popular," he said.

Another runner, Emma, told BBC Look North that after completing a marathon and a half-marathon to raise funds for MND she had promised herself her running days had ended.

"I really struggled and I promised myself I'd never do another, but I felt I had to do it tonight for Rob," she said.

"I was devastated with his passing, so I thought I'd come down and show my support with everybody else."

Speaking about the turnout for the run, Emma said: "It's been phenomenal and I think Rob's whole journey has been for everybody, not just in West Yorkshire but all over the world really.

"He made such an impact and it's only right that we all pay our respects."

Parkrun events in tribute to Rob Burrow were held across West Yorkshire on Saturday, including in Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield.

Runners were encouraged to wear Rhinos colours, or any clothing related to Burrow or his fundraising work.

Laura Greaves, 42, a teacher from Doncaster, took part in the Potternewton Parkrun in Leeds, with a party of 12 family and friends.

"We travelled to this one today for Rob Burrow," Ms Greaves said.

"Everybody just loved him and felt for him and his family.

"It's nice to pay tribute to someone who has been so strong and became such a national icon."

Meanwhile, Rhinos fan Fred Jewitt, 28, from Chapel Allerton said he took part in the Potternewton tribute because Burrow was "a special man who fought really hard in his career and was such an inspiration".

Mr Jewitt said Burrow was an "amazing and quick player" who who fought for his teammates and was "probably the best ever player among the Rhinos' golden generation".

A tribute to the Leeds Rhinos star was also set to be held during Saturday's Challenge Cup final.

Fans were urged to chant "there’s only one Rob Burrow" in the seventh minute of the game, which was due to kick off at 15:07 BST.

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