Ed Slater says he has been overwhelmed by support from the rugby community after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
Former Gloucester and Leicester lock Slater announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect three weeks ago.
The 34-year-old revealed he had been diagnosed with the devastating degenerative condition which fellow former sports stars Doddie Weir, Rob Burrow and Len Johnrose are also battling.
Fundraising initiatives were immediately launched, with a JustGiving page recently topping £150,000.
And Slater and a group of current and former players returned to Gloucester’s Kingsholm course on Wednesday after a 350-mile cycle ride that lasted three days and raised a further £155,000.
Gloucester and Slater created the 4Ed campaign, which will initially work to raise awareness of his diagnosis, generate funds for his treatment and support his young family.
The route took in Leicester’s Mattioli Woods Welford Road stadium, Milton Keynes – Slater’s hometown – and Twickenham before heading back to the West Country, with Slater joined by current Gloucester players Lewis Ludlow, Billy Twelvetrees and Fraser Balmain.
They were welcomed by around 250 Gloucester supporters, family and friends and an emotional Slater said: “I don’t know where to start. I had a little cry going down Birdlip Hill (seven miles from Kingsholm).
“I’m just an ordinary guy from Milton Keynes who happened to play a bit of rugby and the way people have supported me since my diagnosis means so much.
“The welcome here is humbling and overwhelming. I have had incredible support from the club.
“After being diagnosed I was in an exceptionally dark place and they (Gloucester) have lifted me out of it.
“I cried when we got to Gloucester because a lot has changed for me since the diagnosis. I’ve had to give up rugby. I’ve had to give up a lot of things.
“A lot of this challenge was about proving that I could still do something that was very difficult, and it almost broke me.”
Slater, who featured in a number of England teams and represented the England Saxons, joined Gloucester in 2017 after seven years with Leicester, where he served as club captain.
Reflecting on the past few weeks, he added: “I just decided it (the disease) is out of my control, there’s not much I can do about it.
“It’s not going to go away and it’s not going to change and it certainly isn’t going to if I sit at home wallowing in self-pity. For me, I just have to keep doing things.
“You think you have a small friendship group of five or six people, then you get overwhelmed with messages and you suddenly realize that there are a lot of people who care about you.
“I’m not going to help anyone by cooking at home – my kids don’t need it, my wife doesn’t need it, I don’t need it – so I’m determined to keep going and try to keep that attitude.
“I’m in a good head-space, to be honest.”