Ben Smith – The Man who ran 401 Marathons in 401 Days – Part 2

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Ben Smith an endurance marathon and ultra runner from Portishead in the UK where he lives with his partner Kyle. 

He is a passionate mental health campaigner, motivational speaker, endurance athlete and mass participation event organiser, famous for his incredible achievement of running 401 marathons in 401 days back in 2015 which raised over £330k for two charities Kidscape and Stonewall. His next project USA 2020 will see Ben run a marathon in each of the 50 US state capitals and then cycle between each one.

Ben will be aiming to complete the 18,500-mile adventure in just 104 days – starting in March 2020 and finishing during the Youth Sport Trust National School Sport Week in June 2020.

During this epic challenge; with the help of schools, organisations and individuals all around the UK and further afield, Ben is aiming to raise £1 million for two charities: The 401 Foundation and Youth Sport Trust, supporting their work which uses physical activity to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing.

Ben incredible marathon journey started in Brighton and would take him on to Amsterdam and then all over the world as he discovered his love of travelling combined with his love of marathons and having a positive impact on people around him. Not only this but it came at a time when Ben would grapple with a history of bullying throughout school, suicide attempts, dyslexia, and a stroke as he also came to terms with his sexuality at the same time.

What Ben and I discussed in Part Two of our two part conversation:

  • Ben’s worldwide marathon adventure which started at the Amsterdam marathon.
  • How at this stage he was also coming to terms with being gay which he had known since he was 13, and he was really beginning to enjoy running marathons along with a dream of traveling and discovering the world. At this point he was divorced and ran 18 marathons in 2014 all over the world. He would fly out Friday, spend the day in the city on Saturday and run the marathon on a Sunday.  It became an adventure for him at the same time as seeing a counsellor to deal with his mental health issues.
  • How working with his personal trainer Andy helped Ben with his mental as well as physical approach to the 401 challenge (the idea for which was conceived in a pub over a few pints of cider).
  •  The idea was to raise 250,000 for two anti-bullying charities, Stonewall and Kidscape, to get people involved through running clubs to inspire and challenge people.
  • The chance meeting with Larry Macon at the Riverboat Marathon Series in the USA who thought the idea was awesome so the idea of 400 marathons became the 401 challenge in April 2015 with the start in September 2015 from Portishead
  • Lost 17 kg in the first 50 days, and sustained some injuries.
  • How food clicked last of all and Ben realized he wasn’t eating enough so on day 51 onwards he ate what he wanted and it really effected his energy and mental health.
  • The amazing support from friends, family and his partner Kyle. As people followed it on social media the project became a great way to build people’s confidence. They had 600 people running their first marathon with no training which proved to him that it’s all about mindset.
  • Where Ben didn’t run very fast his body became accustomed to the rhythm of running, but at marathon 285 he had to take some time out due to a fractured back injury, he took 10 days out and ran 117 ultras in order to make up what he had missed having run 4 marathons with a fractured back. The love and support he received after his back injury.
  • Some of the strange reactions from people watching and running with him.
  • 13.5k people came out and ran with Ben and he found it hard on the days running by himself.
  • His food of choice was chicken wings and flat whites and bacon and egg sandwiches.
  • Bens winning chicken, rice and olive feta dinner.
  • Bens view of energy gels which your body doesn’t require and how he needed high protein high fat energy which released slowly.
  • How Ben listened to what his body required on nutrition.
  • The 401 challenge is designed to build peoples confidence and self esteem, Ben has done motivational speaking worldwide and set up the 401 foundation which is grant based supporting mental health projects within the communities of the UK. The foundation is set up for grants from 50 quid to 3000 quid, and the foundation needs money.
  • USA 2020 challenge is raising more money where Ben will run a marathon in each of the 50 states, starting Maine 13 March ending Honolulu on 24 June, 104 days but also cycling between them at 18,500 miles. Equivalent of climbing Everest 9.2 times 177 miles a day.
  • Aim is to raise 1 million for the 401 foundation and Youth Sport Trust for which Ben is a mental well being ambassador for them and helping them to put in an educational program into 4000 schools by September with over a million children involved.
  • Why Bens biggest passion is building kids self esteem and confidence along with the tools to help them achieve.
  • The perils of doing a park run with your dog when it is muddy!!!

How you can link up with Ben

401 Challenge




The organisations we mentioned in our discussion

Park Run

Couch to 5k

British Dyslexia Association

Brighton Marathon



Larry Macon

Riverboat Series

401 Challenge

401 Challenge USA 2020

401 Foundation

Youth Sport Trust

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