jack's getting more than his steps in
As a lifelong Leeds Rhinos fan and long-distance walking enthusiast, well-known local character Jack Abrahams is now combining both his loves in tribute to rugby legend Rob Burrow. Walking seven miles in each of seven days, the week-long charity event will take the Elmhurst Windows Founder across all corners of Leeds, raising money and awareness for motor neurone disease.
With an initial target of £3,000, the raised funds will support the Leeds Hospitals Charity in gathering £5 million to build The Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease. With all MND services housed under one roof for the first time, the care centre will give patients and their families the best possible care and support while boosting awareness for MND research.
Growing up in Chapeltown, Jack’s diverse career has ranged from serving in the RAF to selling encyclopaedias, freezers, and even ladies’ wigs before launching the Elmhurst family business in the early 1970s. With many stories built up over the years, Jack can be seen around north Leeds entertaining staff and customers in many cafés and walking pit stops. He is a youthful 84 for sure. But despite some recent health twists and turns, Jack’s boundless energy and passion for the rugby league has always stuck.
“Since Rob Burrow was diagnosed with MND in 2019, I’ve always felt the need to do this walk off my own back,” explained Jack. “The recent fundraising effort from the fantastic Kevin Sinfield has only cemented the idea and encouraged me more to get started.”
“I’ve followed the Rhinos for many years, and Rob has to be one of the most super guys I’ve seen play for the team. One of the big finales of his career was of course his solo try at the 2011 Super League Final against St Helens. I’ve got that on tape, and it will go down in history.”
“To go through what he has after becoming one of the best rugby players in the world must be devastating. My heart really is in it for this lad.”
Starting off his first walk outside the doors of Headingley Stadium, Jack’s week-long walking challenge is planned to the last detail, with all seven routes taking the 84-year-old around his favourite areas of Leeds.
“I’ve designed the routes to go along canals, rivers, and fields, while avoiding major hills,” explained Jack. “I could probably race over these routes if I was 30 years younger, but right now it can be a small challenge to walk even on the flattest terrain at my age.”
“I was trained in the Nordic walking technique not long after retiring which has made things a lot easier. It’s a common method using lightweight poles which works your upper body and keeps you strong, and I’ve also completed a map reading and GPS course.”
A well-seasoned rambler, Jack’s lifelong hobby has seen him traverse the English countryside and coast many times over, averaging 1200 miles a year.
“Growing up in the back streets of Chapeltown was quite tough, and we didn’t have enough money to get out and about,” commented Jack on his passion for walking. “After leaving school, my uncle invited me for a drive to the Yorkshire Dales, and I instantly fell in love with the scenery.”
“When I could afford to go myself, I started walking across all parts of Yorkshire, which over time eventually spread to walking all over the country and jotting down details of each path as I went.”
“It’s a passion that’s continued to this moment, and I still work out my little routes every night before getting up early to walk the next day. I’m always on a high if I know I’m going to get a few miles in!”