On September 1, 2015, 34-year-old Ben Smith set off on a mission to run more than 10,500 miles around the UK. That’s the same distance as 401 marathons – and he pledged to do it in 401 days.
His mammoth challenge saw him run through the Goole area on Sunday, August 7, where he pounded out an impressive 30 miles. It was marathon 342 for Ben, and runners from Viking Striders as well as those from clubs in Selby, Hull and even Grantham, turned out to run alongside him.
Starting out at Westfield Banks Sports Centre, they followed a circular route from the Rugby Club heading towards Howden then through Skelton, Laxton, Gilberdyke and Eastrington before coming back to Goole. BBC Hull came along to film the runners and a piece was aired on Look North that evening.
Nigel Warner, treasurer of the Viking Striders, organised the run in Goole with Ben and his team, and was pleased to welcome him back to the area, after he first ran with the Viking Striders back in January.
‘We were running in much more pleasant weather the second time round but everyone who turned out to run coped admirably with the warmer temperatures and were really proud to cheer Ben on,’ Nigel told us.
Unbelievably, Ben didn’t enjoy running as a youngster and only took it up at the age of 31. He was bullied at school so badly that he attempted to take his own life, suffered with depression for many years and despite a successful corporate career, had a mini stroke at 29.
As part of his return to health, Ben was dragged along to a running club by a friend and found running was something he could be passionate about and could help him rebuild his confidence and self-esteem. By the time Ben had finally overcome his demons, he wanted to use his experiences to help other people and raise awareness of the harmful effects of bullying and so ‘The 401 Challenge’ was born.
He aims to raise £250,000 for two anti-bullying charities – Stonewall and Kidscape. So far he has raised £134,000, and has visited 86 schools throughout the UK to spread the message that people’s differences should be celebrated. He was unable to visit a school in Goole as his run here took place during the school holidays.
Ben has run 55 of his 401 challenge days in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire and by his own admission, he couldn’t do it without his parents Peter and Beverley, who live in Lincolnshire. His father handles all of the logistics of the challenge, including route planning, and he, along with Ben’s partner Kyle, and project manager Tolu, are in Ben’s words, “the backbone of the operation”.
At the time of writing, Ben was nearing the end of his challenge with 42 marathons left to run. When he spoke to Our Goole he was running his 359th marathon in a sunny Aberystwyth, and recalled his two experiences running in and around Goole fondly.
He told us: ‘It has been fantastic to run with the Viking Striders twice this year, and we were fortunate to have great weather for the August run. I was also pleased to find that the landscape is very flat in and around Goole!’
To donate, visit www.the401challenge.co.uk