Legendary Sheffield fundraiser John Burkhill has relived his extraordinary life in a charity biography.
Today, The Star publishes the fourth extract from Distance No Object: Sheffield’s Man with the Pram, as part of a six-week serialisation of the book to raise money for Macmillan.
In the following extract, John talks about his experience of running the New York Marathon...
‘At work, British Gas had taken over the depot at Staveley, and they too gave me a lot of support. They were then taken over by Flo-Gas, and I spent my last 16 years before retirement with that company. They were also very supportive and very active in all my charity work.
In 2002, my boss at Flo-Gas asked me if I would do the New York Marathon for their charity. I jumped at the chance; I had never been on a plane before so it would be a very great experience for me.
To warm up, I did a small race on the Saturday: a five-miler called the International Friendly Run for all overseas runners. My number for that race was 11708.
On my way round I was talking to a couple of New York cops at a crossing point. Readers who have been to New York will know that on their crossing signals it says ‘Walk, Don’t Walk.’ A chap with a couple of kids wasn’t watching what he was doing, and the cops I was with did him for what they call ‘jaywalking’ – crossing the road dangerously without paying attention.
“That’ll cost him a few dollars,” they said. I told them they would make a fortune if they came to Commercial Street in Sheffield! They were great lads, and how they loved my broad Yorkshire accent: “How tha goo-in?” “What tha doo-in?” “Tek thi hook!” “Shut thi gob!”
On the Sunday I lined up with 30,000 others for the New York race. My number was NY43910. The race starts at Staten Island and finishes in Central Park, and takes in the five boroughs of New York City. The crowds were in New York were fantastic. They especially loved it when I started doing a bit of race-walking – I don’t think the Yanks have that over there! I saw all the famous sights as I made my way along the race route – the Statue of Liberty and the rest – but the best part for me was when I had first arrived by plane and could see the whole city below me. An incredible view which I will always remember.’
‘Distance No Object: Sheffield’s Man with the Pram’ is available from The Star’s front shop, Waterstones in Orchard Square and Meadowhall, and Amazon priced £9.99. All proceeds from the book will go to Macmillan.