The absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him…
For those of you who might never have heard of Ben Smith or have a clue what I’m talking about, let me rewind.
On 1st September last year, a bloke from Bristol called Ben Smith began his epic ‘401 Challenge‘ – a challenge to run 401 marathons in 401 days. That’s 401 MARATHONS IN 401 DAYS. Not to belittle what Eddie Izzard recently achieved in his 27-marathons-in-27-days challenge for Sport Relief – and to be fair he did it in South Africa where some days he was running in 40ºC+ heat – but what Ben is doing is absolutely incredible.
Why 401? I think I am telling this right…but basically, after weighing up the various endurance running world records, Ben decided to smash the previous record for the most consecutive marathons by doing a round 400. Then someone dared him to do a victory lap on day 401, so the 401 Challenge was born! He’s aiming to raise £250,000 for two great anti-bullying charities: Stonewall and Kidscape.
Anyway, I heard about Ben through good old Facebook, and met up with him in December last year to run what I thought would be part of his 102nd marathon in Worcester. I ended up doing the whole thing. It was bloody brilliant. Ben runs at the pace of the slowest runner in the group, stops for lunch and whenever anyone needs to, and Just. Keeps. Going.
So, going back to my opening line, the absolutely amazing Ben Smith was in Stratford-upon-Avon today, so I just ran a marathon with him – again!
The route was more or less the Stratford half marathon route, except we started and finished each loop at Stratford Sports Club and stopped at The Old Tramway for lunch. It’s funny – and I guess shows how much progress I have made in the last year – because there’s a notorious hill on the Stratford HM route, which I remember very well from when I did the HM last year, but d’you know what? I barely noticed it today – and I did it twice! I mean, I *noticed* it, but it was more than manageable!
We faced all weathers today! It looked pretty gloomy when I left this morning, so I had my 401 Challenge long-sleeved running shirt on, topped with my rain jacket, which was – at that point- wholly unnecessary. The jacket came off after around 4 miles as I was too hot. At around 8 miles I phoned Tom, who I knew was heading into Stratford, and asked if he could bring me a running vest as I was absolutely boiling. About 2 miles later the heavens opened and we all got completely drenched! So the running vest (which the wonderful Tom very kindly brought me) was needed not to keep me cool but because everything else was soaked! The sun came out again in the afternoon, and made a lovely end to a lovely day, meeting lots of new and lovely running people.
Extra special kudos to a 50-something year old guy called James who has only been running for 6 months, and only ever run 6 miles before – he completed the whole marathon! What a legend!