The picture of Matt King was snapped close to the finish line of the 2006 Great North Run. Leading a team of runners, he created history by being the first person with his level of spinal injury to complete a half marathon.
Two and a half years before this picture was taken, a then 17 year old Matt was embarking on a career as a professional rugby league player. On April 4th 2004,and just 20 seconds into his first ever London Broncos academy match, he suffered an injury that left him paralysed from the neck down, unable to breathe without a ventilator and entirely dependent on others for his most basic needs – for life.
Being able to take part in such a prestigious event was a seminal moment in Matt’s life
‘After my accident, I wanted to try and lead as normal a life as possible’ explained Matt. ‘I thought that the days of being able to be part of a team and involved in sport were over’.
‘The training and organisation for the Great North Run was incredibly hard, because of my care needs and the fact it had never been done before. I never thought I’d make it’. But he did.
‘When I crossed the finish line with the team, I felt like I could take on the world and win’ added Matt. ‘So many of my own thoughts about the direction my life would take were changed and I knew I could achieve so much more’.
He also completed the 2007 Great North Run and just 6 weeks later, the 2007 New York Marathon, another world first.
Matt graduated with a first class honours law degree in 2009. In 2012 he carried the Olympic torch & was awarded an OBE for services to charity and those with disabilities.
In 2015 he became a published author when his book, 04.04.04 went to print and sold in large numbers. Matt topped all these amazing achievements by getting married in July of this year to his fiancee ilona.
On Sunday May 3rd 2015 Lizzie saw her husband Danny for the last time. Danny was a professional player for Keighley Cougars & was in the team for the match away to London Skolars that day.
Four minutes into the match at New River Stadium, Danny was substituted after feeling unwell. He collapsed pitchside & was given emergency medical treatment before being airlifted to the Royal Free Hospital. 29 year old
Danny had suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. He had a previously undiagnosed heart defect.
Widowed with 5 month old twins, Lizzie has shown incredible strength of character. A talented singer, Lizzie performed to nationwide television audiences at the 2015 Challenge Cup Final & BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
She has led a campaign that has seen the introduction of mandatory heart screening of all players in the two levels below Super League.
In memory of her husband, Lizzie also, with the help of the RFL, set up the Danny Jones Defibrilator Fund, whose aim is to supply defibrilators to dozens of amateur rugby league clubs.
The British Heart Foundation has recognised Lizzie’s work with a Fighting Spirit award and, in October this year, Lizzie is an invited guest and nominee at the Woman of the Year Awards.
The power of social media helped Matt and Lizzie join forces. Matt’s team was taking shape and his organiser cheekily tweeted at Lizzie to ask if she wanted to join.
Lizzie came back straight away with an emphatic ‘yes’. Though she had never run any real distance before, Lizzie relished the challenge of getting fit to be part of Matt’s Great North Run team.
‘I had met Matt once before and knew something about what he had been through’.expalined Lizzie ‘It’s a privilege to be taking on this challenge with Matt and it’s going to be a very special and emotional day in the North East’.
In a bizarre twist of fate Lizzie’s husband Danny, then also 17 years old, lined up against Matt on the day his life changed back in April 2004.
Rugby league has brought these two people, each with their own tragic and equally inspiring life events, together to take on a challenge. On September the 11th Matt will finally complete his ten year treble in his third and last Great North Run and Lizzie will complete her first.
Both Matthew & Lizzie have acknowledged the amazing support they have been given by the rugby league communtity. It is truly heartwarming that they have come together in such a way to raise funds for others to show how rugby league cares.
You can follow their exploits online and sponsor their amazing effort on the links below.
TEXT MKLJ66 £2 to 70070