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

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Ben Smith on the Positive Impact Podcast

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 One of our two part conversation.

  • In his early years sport didn’t play a part in Bens life as most sport at school was largely skill based.
  • How his TIA (stroke) at 29 was a big wake up call and at that time he weighed 17 stone, was a 40 a day smoker, depressed and in a relationship he shouldn’t be in
  • He started to make some changes and tough choices.
  • A year after, a friend told Ben she was sick of him and listed all these things in particular. She told Ben he was moaning about his health and doing nothing about it.
  • She said why don’t you come and join my running club
  • Ben was surprised that there were people like him and surprised by the pain he felt from running which he hadn’t felt after so many years of not exercising.
  • He used to work 60-70 hrs a week, have a nice car, was married nice a house, but he was influenced by peers that to be happy he needed material things and success meant happiness.
  • Ben was shocked when he had the stroke because it showed how lost he was. The anger, frustration and sadness that took hold as he began to try and change. How change is a journey, and why Bens change was organic, and more a mindset thing with running his vehicle for change.
  • The camaraderie around running, Park Run, Couch to 5k.
  • Ben ran with 350 running clubs around the UK during his 401 marathons and he describes how the Elitist element has really dropped away

She said why don’t you come and join my running club?

Bens Friend
  • The cathartic nature of running and how it can be anything you want it to be.
  • How Bens first marathon was the thing that really started him on the journey of looking at bigger things and challenges, and more to the point planning them.
  • The way in which beliefs shape how you see the world around you and how once you break though your beliefs they begin to fall down.
  • Why Ben’s last challenge was about giving back and how he sees his bullies as being effected by their own beliefs. How he questions what is wrong in a bullies life for then to be why they are.
  • How behaviour is often a symptom of something that has happened earlier.
  • Bens early life living in different countries because of his father being in the military and how he ended up in boarding school at an 10
  • How Ben was singled out very quickly at boarding school because he stuck out as being different from the other kids and having different values.
  • In no time at all Ben allowed the bullies to control he and he became the person they wanted him to be thinking it would make life easier.
  • The bullying being mental to begin with and then physical, he thought if he kept quiet they would leave him alone, how his education suffered as a result.
  • This took him to 18 (8 years) when he tried to take his own life – after that he tried to cram everything back down again deep down inside, but this started to eat away. He wasn’t ready to take action on his issues at that time, instead throwing himself into his university years along with drink and drugs and a bad group of people.
  • He was lost he did jobs he didn’t want to, didn’t like, but felt he had to.
  • Bens dyslexia and how in a lot of ways it has allowed him to think differently.
  • The necessary step Ben had to take to cut certain people out of his life whilst he was struggling and trying to get himself out of a rut.
  • The importance of people surrounding Ben who had no reason to doubt him.
  • Bens first marathon in Brighton and how difficult it was, but how he got through it

How you can link up with Ben

401 Challenge

Bens book 401: The Extraordinary Story of the Man Who Ran 401 Marathons in 401 Days and Changed His Life Forever




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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