Wigan man inspired by Rob Burrow takes on 1200km ‘Triathlon Impossible’ to raise money for MND charities

Martyn Clarke is no stranger to marathons and triathlons – but his next endurance challenge is unlike any before. 

The 49-year-old from Wigan has created the ‘Triathlon Impossible’, consisting of a 1200km journey across five countries in just seven days.

Clarke was inspired to create the challenge by former Leeds Rhinos scrum-half Rob Burrow, 40, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2019.

Former England international Burrow is one of the most successful players in rugby league history, winning eight Super League championship titles and two Challenge Cups with Leeds.

As a rugby league fan, Clarke was decided to take action and raise awareness of MND after hearing Rob’s story. 

He said: “Wigan has always been a rugby league town, and we’ve always been a rugby league family. My son, who’s 18, has played the sport all his life. In his younger days, he played in Rob’s position.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Rob and his wife Lindsey on a few occasions. Life’s not fair sometimes, and I thought I should do my bit to raise awareness of the condition.”

Clarke (left) and Burrow (right) at a charity gala (Image: Martyn Clarke)


Clarke’s Triathlon Impossible begins with a three-hour 7km swim in Frankfurt, followed by over 750 miles of cycling through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and England. 

It will conclude with a 92km run from Leeds to Leigh Sports Village in Greater Manchester, the home of Super League team Leigh Leopards. 

Clarke and his team will aim to reach the stadium before kick-off between Leigh Leopards and Hull Kingston Rovers’ Super League match on June 30, which will be broadcast on Sky Sports. 

He highlighted the efforts of Leigh Leopards owner Derek Beaumont in preparation for the Triathlon Impossible.

“I’d like to give him a special thank you,” said Clarke. “He’s been helping out behind the scenes, and without him not a lot of this challenge would be possible.”

Clarke and his team will cycle via Wembley Stadium, where Burrow won Challenge Cups in 2014 and 2015.

He has also chosen to extend the running route in the north of England to include Leicester, in tribute to former Leicester Tigers coach Kevin Sinfield.

Sinfield has led the efforts to raise awareness of MND. His first charity fundraiser took place in November 2020, raising more than £2.7 million for MND Association against a £77,777 target, and recently, poignantly, carried Burrow over the finish line at the Leeds marathon having pushed him in a wheelchair around the course.

“[Sinfield] has done so much for people all over the country who have MND,” Clarke explains, “So we’re doing an extra 101 miles along his run route on the penultimate day to honour those efforts.”


The Triathlon Impossible is a culmination of three endurance events, including the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon last May. Clarke ran while pushing his colleague Ian Flatt, who has MND. 

Clarke (left) and Flatt (centre) following the Rob Burrow Leeds marathon (Image: Martyn Clarke)

This was only three weeks after he completed the London Marathon. 

“I’m alright at endurance events,” Clarke explains. “But the Triathlon Impossible is a crazy, insane challenge, unlike anything I’ve done before. It’ll push my body to its limits.”

Previously, Clarke’s biggest challenge was completing seven half Ironman Triathlons in seven days in 2021, when he raised almost £40,000 for MND Association after initially setting a £500 target. 

Now, Clarke wants to take his efforts even further. “It’ll be a real test of legs!” he said. 

He has been training for the event since Boxing Day 2022, and has been receiving one-to-one guidance from a trainer working for free – as a gesture to the MND Association. 

Beyond this, Clarke has embarked upon several half marathons in the Lake District in order to gain experience with the difficult terrain. 

He said: “We’re going to be cycling between 120 and 140 miles per day in the middle of summer. It’s going to be absolutely brutal.

“It’s been a rough winter and spring with all the training, but it’s all in the hope of making it across that finish line in Leigh.”


Clarke’s fundraising goal is £7,777, to honour the No.7 shirt Burrow wore during his time at Leeds.

His challenge support four organisations – MND Association, Leeds Hospital Charity, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, and the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation. 

The MND Association raises money to improve care and support for people with MND, as well as funding and promoting research that leads to new understandings and treatments of the disease. 

A majority of its funding comes from individual and community events, like the Triathlon Impossible. 

MND Association fundraising and spending in millions

The Association is directly supporting Clarke and his team, providing them with a support vehicle throughout as well as arranging their transport from Calais to Folkestone.

Dominic McDonough, the MNDA’s regional fundraiser for the north of England, said: “We are completely blown away by Martyn’s incredible Impossible Triathlon challenge to raise funds for the MND Association.

“His energy, passion and commitment to this event, whilst also working full time, is phenomenal, and that passion and dedication will no doubt help him overcome the immense physical challenges he will face.”

Clarke and Flatt (centre) in Leeds (Image: Martyn Clarke)

Maximising fundraising is the primary motivation behind Clarke’s efforts, but his personal goal is to simply make it across the finish line. 

“Just getting past each day is a 50-50 shot,” he said. “Just to get in and out of the water itself on the first day, for example, will be such a great milestone.”

There have already been some injuries in the training process. 


Clarke’s efforts have received support from across the rugby league community, which has rallied behind Burrow since his diagnosis in 2019.

BBC rugby league commentator Dave Woods said: “This is what rugby league has always been really good at – coming together. It’s a family thing, at both a professional and community level.

“The sport always comes together so beautifully, and it’s no surprise so many people like Martyn put such massive efforts in.”

Woods also praised Sinfield, the England RU assistant coach, for his incredible feats.

“What Kevin Sinfield has done has been fantastic – not just in efforts to find a cure for MND, but also in raising awareness for this condition,” he said. “The money raised is like nothing I’ve seen before.”


Kevin Sinfield carried Rob Burrow over the finish line at the first Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon 🥹 #KevinSinfield #RobBurrow #Marathon

♬ original sound – BBC Sport

This sentiment was echoed by the MNDA. McDonough added: “We can only support that level of work thanks to the efforts of people like Kevin and Martyn, and their generous network of family and friends.

“We are immensely proud to support Martyn on his fundraising journey and I can’t wait to see how he gets on.”

Clarke will be joined by a host of athletes, including TeamGB Paralympian Ian Marsden, and Everton and England Women’s footballer Izzy Christiansen. 

Marsden had previously joined Clarke and other fundraisers at the Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon earlier this month.

This will most likely mark Clarke’s final major endurance event. “My wife joked that she was fearful of what I’d come up with next!” he said. “But I don’t think I can create anything bigger than this.”

Follow Martyn’s progress on Instagram at @triathalonimpossible2023. You can donate to his fundraiser here.

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