- Raising money for two of UK’s leading anti-bullying charities
- 9.15 am start at Millenium Square running the Leeds half marathon route
The 401 Challenge is raising money for anti-bullying initiatives delivered to school and colleges across the country by charities Kidscape and Stonewall. Ben Smith’s Guinness world record breaking attempt is to run 401 marathons on 401 consecutive days. By the end of Sunday, Ben will have run 4,000 miles which is the distance between Ben’s home town Bristol and Lahore, Pakistan. Nearly 10,000 people follow The 401 Challenge on Facebook.
This rapidly expanding community is connecting people from all over the country. Each individual’s participation in The 401 challenge is inspiring others to come and run with Ben whether it is a mile or two or the full marathon distance. Ben’s inspiration is his own experience being bullied at school which led to two suicide attempts and had long term effects on his life. The Challenge has raised over £30,000 so far.
By the end, Ben will have run in 309 locations all over the country, from Scotland to Cornwall, from Wales to Northumbria, supported by over 250 running clubs who help design the routes and support him by running alongside him. In total, he will run 10,506 miles, using 21 pairs of trainers. Ben aims to visit 50 schools to talk about bullying, diversity and how physical activity can help an individual realise their potential. To date Ben has delivered 11 talks and has run with over 300 young people.
Ben Smith is finding the mental strain of running back to back marathons, day after day, harder than the physical impact. Nearly 3,000 people have run with The 401 Challenge so far, with more than 300 achieving personal bests and 88 running the marathon distance for the first time. It is a huge community project, as therapists offer their services for free, firemen turn out to clean Ben’s camper van, and full English breakfasts are a daily delight, contributed by cafes and individuals.
Along the way, Ben’s example is inspiring hundreds of people to start running or run a marathon for the first time and for families to run together. Here are some snapshots of the people who run with The 401 Challenge:
Vicki Parker, recruiter, 51, started running in October 2014 and ran with The 401 Challenge in Stroud on 16 November. ‘I wanted to see if he could help me run further than I’d ever run before. I ran a full marathon, double what I had run before, much to my astonishment. He has the power to convince you that you are not tired. School days were not the best days of my life. Ben inspired me because of how he has turned his life around. My eleven year old son ran a couple of miles with Ben and was bowled over by it.’
Matthew Arnold, 41, running with Samoyed dog Qi (pronounced Kai): ‘I decided when our Samoyed pup Qi was 18 months old that I would have to get a bit fitter and lose weight to keep up with him. He is always excited to see me pick up his running harness. When it is too warm for Qi to run, he wears a back pack and carries our water supplies. We ran with Ben at Warrington, then in Wigan and will run with The 401 Challenge again this year.’
Sue Coates, 41, mother of two : ‘He’s doing something incredible. I had only run intermittently before this year, but decided with my twin sister to do a marathon because we hit 42 this year and a marathon is 42km long. A marathon means I’ve got to take this seriously. I’m really enjoying it. It has given me a focus to concentrate on myself. It has challenged me. Running with The 401 Challenge, I have met some lovely people and joined the local running club. I run so I can eat Belgian buns (and drink wine).’
Jordan Williams, 16, school student: ‘I ran first with The 401 Challenge on 21 December and then on Christmas Day as well. I had been bullied myself and was inspired by reading about what Ben went through and how he dealt with it. I was bullied because I am a foster child. Running helped me. I went out running and I could try not to think about it, try to think like a normal person with a normal life. On Christmas Day, I wasn’t planning to do the whole marathon, but when it came to it, I carried on to the end.’
Ian Ferguson, 35, ops manager: ‘It is incredible what he is doing. I have massive respect for anyone doing seven marathons in a row to raise money, let alone 401. I was bullied myself at school for a number of years. This led to me developing a serious health issue and severe lack of confidence both of which I am still struggling to overcome. I didn’t find therapy helped. Ben’s story, of how he has turned a massive negative into a positive, really gripped me and inspires me to win my own personal battle. Luckily I have the help of those close to me. So far, my girlfriend and I have run with Ben at three different locations and we plan to run with him again.’
Suzie Mills, 36, Met Office IT manager: ‘I started running to help with weight loss on 5 January 2015 and on 5 January 2016 I ran my first marathon ever with The 401 Challenge in Liverpool. Me run a marathon? I was scared, anxious, apprehensive, nervous, excited, petrified and determined. The 401 hasn’t just helped me with my running but with my confidence and belief in myself. I have met some amazing people. I want people to know that it doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, how far you can go or how quickly, just getting out there and going for a run is what matters. If I can run a marathon, anyone can.’
The 401 Challenge
The 401 challenge is a Guinness world record attempt at running consecutive marathons with the same runner, Ben Smith, running a marathon every day. It is also a national educational outreach project combining running and anti-bullying activities to engage local communities. Ben Smith relies on the community for food, shelter and support. For more information, please go to the websitewww.the401challenge.co.uk or the Facebook page for The 401 Challenge which has a lot of photographs and video footage of The Challenge in action.