“THE pain that we were in is nothing compared to what Rob and his family are going through."

So said York City Knights captain Tim Spears after completing his 30-hour static bike challenge which has raised over £15,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Assocation (MNDA) and Rugby League Cares.

The former of those charities is supporting Leeds Rhinos legend Rob Burrow, who was diagnosed with MND in January.

And Spears said that the anguish endured by himself and the 24 other former and current rugby players involved in the challenge last weekend was little to what Burrow and his family have been experiencing.

“Rob actually came online and joined us as well and it was really good to hear from him," said Spears.

“Personally, it put my suffering into perspective really. It made me toughen up and get through it.

“The pain that we were in is nothing compared to what Rob and his family are going through.

“I played against Rob a few times and he was a nightmare to defend against – he was so quick and so elusive.

“He had that pace where he could be at top speed in about three strides and physically he was as tough as they come, he never shirked from a challenge.

“He was a fantastic player and an integral cog in that brilliant Leeds team.

“He’s a fantastic bloke off the field too.

"I’ve known people whose kids went to the same school and his, and they used to talk about how much time he had for people.

“He’d go out of his way for people and that’s Rob in a nutshell, he’s a really down-to-earth, good guy.

“To hear from him on Saturday, it really inspired me to do my best for him.”

For Spears, being part of a challenge helped fill the void of his natural sporting competition, given that the Knights' Betfred Championship campaign has been suspended since mid-March.

“I’ve been good mates with the likes of Garreth Carvell and Ewan Dowes for a number of years," the forward added of how he got involved in the challenge.

“They knew that I was into my cycling and would be daft enough to do something as difficult as this!

“When they got in touch, I jumped at the opportunity.

“To be involved in something like this is really special.

“As a player, you do have to say ‘no’ to lots of things given that you’re playing through the summer.

“For example, I’ve always wanted to do the London Marathon but I’ve never been able to do it.

“One positive of lockdown and not being able to play, it gave me the opportunity to do something a bit different.

“It also gave me something to aim for and a little bit of a challenge. As a player, you’re used to being tested and challenged on a pretty regular basis, whether that’s in training or on a matchday.

“You miss that – I certainly do. So to have a challenge of this magnitude certainly got me out of bed to go training in the weeks leading up to it and gave me something to look forward to.

“That sense of achievement afterwards was really pleasing.

“Talking to retired players, they say that having those charity challenges have really helped them. And having not played for a while, I can certainly relate to that and understand why people get involved in these mad challenges!"

Cycling for 30 consecutive hours has certainly taken its toll on Spears' body as he went on to explain.

“I think that when we first started we were all in good spirits on our Zoom call and we were excited to be part of what we were doing," the skipper continued.

“There was plenty of banter and fun during the day, but when it got to around 10-11pm, and you’d been cycling for 13 to 14 hours, you feel like you’re ready for bed.

“I was outside in the garden so the road was quiet, everyone else was in bed and the banter in our chat had subsided and then it was pretty difficult for around six or seven hours.

“The sun came up at around 4am and that was a positive and once you’d got a coffee down you, then the end was in sight.

“Then it was just a case of digging in. By the end, your legs were obviously shot to pieces and even sitting down felt uncomfortable despite a copious amount of Vaseline.

“You’re hands are numb, your feet are numb, your legs are shot, your knees hurt.

“You try to adopt different positions on the bike to try to cope with the pain and that’s all that you could do at that point.

“It was exceptionally tough, but it was a fantastic project to be involved in.

“Once I got off, I was shot to pieces, but I was really proud of what we’d achieved.

“I think our group have raised £15,000 and collectively we’ve raised around £30,000, which is a fantastic effort.

“To raise that amount of money means that it’s 30 hours well spent."

As Spears mentioned, the mid-point of the challenge, at around midnight was the most difficult part of the epic ride.

“I think that late night cycling was the toughest part because, with your body clock, you just want to be in bed," he said.

“Through the course of Saturday, I had one or two people coming in to say hello or calling me. The guys online were in good spirits at that point, but as it got dark, things did get a little quiet.

“A couple of times, I could feel myself nodding off in the dark and nearly coming off!

“Once you got through that and could see the sun coming up, then the end was in sight.

“But then in the last three or four hours, the physical pain increased. Once the finish was in sight, you manage to find that extra gear and a bit of extra energy.

“The boys were ace and they pulled together."

Spears is not the only one in York to have taken up innovative fundraising initiatives in the absence of sport, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Team-mate Danny Washbrook cycled 380 miles in 38 days for the NHS and the Dove House Hospice, while Heworth ARLFC, York RUFC and the York St John rugby league side are just some of the clubs to be supporting charities during this period.

“Shops are obviously being hit by this economic downturn but charities have been severely hit too, with their events being cancelled," he said. “It’s really important to support them.

“When I look at Rob Burrow and see the fight that he’s fighting at the minute, he’s raised so much awareness. If you can support them, then now is a really good time to do so.

“I’ve been absolutely blown away with the support that I’ve received. Castleford lent me a Wattbike and Featherstone offered me one too.

“I’ve had generous sponsorship from friends, family and York supporters. That did motivate me and inspire in the darker hours."