On September 1st 2015 Ben Smith began an epic challenge which will see him run 401 marathons in 401 days across numerous locations in the UK. You may ask - why would anyone do this to themselves?! However Ben's aim is notable, with him seeking to raise £250,000 for ‘Stonewall’ and ‘Kidscape’ in the process. It seems however that The 401 Challenge is also inspiring many to run with Ben and set a challenge for themselves - including myself!
Ben brought his 347th (!!) marathon to my hometown of Lincoln and I knew I wanted to join him. It was a beautiful day, and after running a brisk four miles down to the Boultham Park starting point I was really pleased to see a lot of other runners had chosen to do the same. I joined the back of the long line queuing for a selfie with Ben (who it seems is almost becoming a bit of a celebrity!) as well as posing for some large group photos for local media. I had been a little nervous turning up on my own, but I already felt at ease.
A large group of us set off from the park, snaking our way through the central part of Lincoln, much to the bemusement of some passers by who probably had no idea what was going on! I had already began chatting to a number of different runners and was enjoying the nice easy running pace which allowed conversation to flow. As the distance grew some runners reached as far as they were going, many recording PBs for the furthest distance they had ever run. We all stopped and applauded these achievements and it was inspiring to see people pushing themselves just to get one more mile under their belt. There were quite a few stops along the way as we made sure we did not leave anyone behind, and we also needed frequent fluid breaks, but this didn't bother me at all. This was a group run, not about my pace or time. It was great to see how supportive Ben was to all runners too, chatting to as many as possible, laughing, joking and creating a warm and positive atmosphere.
We reached virtually half marathon point and stopped for lunch (although I could not stomach anything major like some others seemed to be able to!) Here I decided to run a few more miles until I was near to my house, then I would say goodbye; I did not intend to do the full distance and had already gone further than I initially thought I would. However, as the run progressed we had now reduced to a smaller group, and in the company of these new, friendly and supportive runners I found myself truly caught up in the occasion. I wanted to see this through, and I wanted to see everyone around me achieve the feat too. As I had already ran four miles to get to the start of the route I knew if I ran the full 26.2 miles I would complete more than a marathon; however the runners who had notched up distance PBs along the way had really inspired me, and I suddenly wanted to see what I could do and if I could push myself that little bit more.
The last few miles were a bit of an effort, we had been out running in the sun and heat for many hours by now, and tiredness, hunger and extreme thirst had really set in. I did it though, finishing the marathon and racking up a total of 30.2 miles for the day - my longest ever run! I was rewarded with a trademark PB photo with Ben - proudly putting our 'number 1' fingers in the air (see image).
As the I hope the photos and my smile illustrates, I loved the day so much, my body felt strong and although the pace was easy, I was pleased by how well it coped with the length of time I was out running. I am also now an ultra runner I guess! The following day I was not too sore, but I did feel absolutely shattered, there was no way I could have ran another marathon - Ben you are insane!
It is clear that The 401 Challenge is an amazing feat and is also having an equally amazing impact on the runners and communities it reaches; let alone the benefits it will bring to Ben's chosen charities. Thank you Ben for choosing Lincoln as a 401 location and giving me a wonderful day and new running experience. Thank you also to Lincoln and District Runners who planned the route, which despite me having ran so many different paths in and around the city, left me feeling inspired. I urge anyone yet to get involved with The 401 Challenge to check it out and find your opportunity to support and run with Ben - you will not regret it!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...