Jamie Peacock laughs as he recounts the advice of his old Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield ahead of his own ultramarathon challenge.
‘He said, “It’s going to f****** hurt so be ready for it”,’ grins the 44-year-old, who is the most successful player in Super League history with nine Grand Final wins to Sinfield’s seven.
Peacock will attempt to run 104 miles – the equivalent of four marathons – on Saturday to raise money for Greenhouse Sports, a London-based charity for children. It comes just five months after Sinfield completed 101 miles in 24 hours and raised more than £2million to support people with motor neurone disease.
Jamie Peacock will attempt to run 104 miles – the equivalent of four marathons – on Saturday
The Rhinos legends, who won six Super League titles together as part of the Golden Generation at Headingley, both came up with the idea for their charity challenges last summer but had no idea what each other were plotting.
‘It made me laugh because we think alike,’ says Peacock. ‘Without even knowing it, we were doing the same thing.’
Peacock is under no illusion about the scale of his task having run a double marathon for Greenhouse Sports last year and joined Sinfield for one of his 24 legs in November.
‘I did the nightclub shift with Kev at 3am,’ he smiles. ‘I have seen Kev in pre-season and big games but I’ve never seen him hurting as much as he was at that time.
‘I know stopping and starting really hurt him in the end and made it even more difficult. We don’t want to do that so our aim for the first few hours is to try to run for 55 minutes and walk for five. We want to get it done anywhere between 20 and 24 hours.
‘This will be the toughest thing I’ve faced. It is a mental challenge. You’ve got to be prepared to ignore that voice that tells you to quit.
‘A hundred miles is serious s***, but once you are in that club, it’s a good club to be in.’
Rhinos legends Peacock and Kevin Sinfield won six Super League titles together
While Peacock and a number of other former Rhinos kept Sinfield company last year, he does not expect the same treatment from his rugby league friends on Saturday. ‘London on an Easter Weekend? No chance!’ he laughs.
But Peacock does have a secret weapon for his run: his home-baked cakes. ‘My sister bought me a baking book for Christmas and that has come in pretty handy,’ he explains.
‘I have been cooking all sorts of cakes and taking them out with me on my run. My two best are a cherry bakewell and a matcha green tea sponge cake.
‘It doesn’t sound like the sort of thing you should eat as a runner but it’s about finding what works for you, and I’ve found my baking works for me.’
If baking is not the archetypal hobby of a 6ft 5in former prop, neither is running. During his playing days, though, Peacock found it gave him the edge over his rivals.
‘One of my things was to go running on Christmas Day morning because I thought, “Every other player is at home opening their presents and I am out here getting fitter than you”,’ he reveals.
‘Then when I finished playing, it really helped fill that void. In the first two or three years, I really missed that big physical challenge of a rugby match at the end of the week so I used to go out for a long run.’
Peacock, pictured at the London Marathon, joined Sinfield on his ultramarathon challenge
Peacock stopped playing in 2015 and joined Hull KR as their head of rugby before coming out of retirement for four games at the end of the 2016 season.
He then left the sport to set up his own successful speaking, mentoring and wellbeing business and jokes he is too busy ‘trying to be Forrest Gump’ to return to rugby league full-time.
However, Peacock does still do punditry work and also holds a part-time role in the Rhinos commercial department – so he has seen his old side’s fall from grace up close.
The Rhinos are second bottom of the Super League table having won just one of their seven games. Richard Agar quit as coach last month and Peacock’s old team-mate Jamie Jones-Buchanan is currently in interim charge.
‘It is difficult watching the side,’ admits Peacock ahead of Leeds’ match with third-placed Huddersfield on Thursday.
‘The group as a whole seem to have lost confidence and belief with each other. Once that goes, it’s hard to get it back.
‘I know how difficult it can be as a player at Leeds when things aren’t going well because it’s a club that expects success.’
That expectation comes from the days of Peacock, Sinfield and Rob Burrow, which peaked when they won the treble in 2015.
Sinfield, pictured with Rob Burrow at the launch of new Leeds Marathon, has raised over £2m
‘You’ve got to pay respect to the past, but if I was a player now, I’d say, “We’ve got to carve our own name into this club, don’t worry about what they did”,’ says Peacock. ‘They need to look forwards not backwards.’
Peacock, though, now allows himself to look back on his glittering career, the highlight of which he says was captaining Great Britain to victory over Australia in Sydney in 2006.
He also reflects fondly on his old Leeds team-mates, who still share a special bond which is captured in the tunnel at Headingley. Adorning one of the walls there is a giant picture of Peacock and Co lining up for a special match for Rob Burrow in 2020, a few weeks after he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
‘It’s one of the best photos I’ve ever seen,’ admits Peacock. ‘It’s a load of players who are past their best who came together one last time for their team-mate.
‘That’s what team-mates are about. It’s all good when you are winning, but it’s when things aren’t going well that you need to standby people.
‘I feel really lucky to have played in a side with eight or nine really good characters. No one had an ego and wanted to be the main man. Because of that, we had a really tight bond.
‘It was just a golden period in the club. Even when I am 70 and I look back at it, I will think, “They were really good times”.’
Donate to Jamie Peacock’s fundraising challenge at www.justgiving.com/campaign/runfortheroof