19th January 2016 AUTHOR: dwhite CATEGORIES: Event Report

The 401 Challenge comes to EHH

Richard Alsop and  Ben Smith Many of you will have seen the postings today (Sunday January 17th) relating to Ben Smith and his amazing ‘401 Challenge’ which is to run 401 marathons in consecutive days. This is a mind-boggling concept, and obviously requires meticulous planning!

Part of the planning involved contacting over 250 different running clubs around Great Britain with a view to obtaining reliable courses. We at East Hull Harriers were one such club, originally contacted in January 2015. It didn’t take long to realise we could combine the East Hull 20 and Boxing Day courses…et voila, we have a marathon. I duly sent maps and directions to Ben and his support team and communication continued on a semi-regular basis. Our course was scheduled for marathons 139 and 140, day 1 being September 1st 2015 in Ben’s home city of Bristol.

Start of the runI personally left it in the back of my mind, other club events taking priority, until a week ago when I was contacted by Pete Smith, Ben’s father and part of his support team. The mobilisation of Harriers began and as always you didn’t let me down. Approximately 20 members turned out for the start and ran the first part of the run, some up to 12 miles and both Iain McGowan and David Butt for the full distance. I joined at the underpass for the 4.25 mile loop then came back after lunch for the 10k so not bad for me and my Achilles injury!

I had also contacted Radio Humberside and as luck would have it one of their journalists David Harrison is training for a 4-day coast to coast event so was only too happy to come along and run the complete distance, Camelbak and all.

Ben is a talented runner whose personal best time is 3:15 but clearly cannot sustain such a pace for this mammoth undertaking. The pace was fairly steady early on (I noticed 9:30 pace at about 9 miles) but following the carbo-loading of cheesy chips (which are clearly the food of champions) at the Bay Horse in Arnold Ben seemed to get faster and the 10k was definitely quicker. Evidence of that was when the Radio Humberside reporter David Harrison and myself were left in the dust by a man who had now run marathons on 139 consecutive days putting in a 6:37 last mile (!), to round off 27.1 miles for the day and another one chalked off his list.

Special mention also to John Baker who cycled round the entire course and promised to do the same on the Monday when there will probably be a lower turnout of club members due to work commitments.

The story behind Ben’s motivation to raise this money for charities can be found on his website www.the401challenge.co.uk, where donations can also be made. I and others found Ben to be an engaging, articulate character with a real enthusiasm for his challenge and someone who was keen to involve and thank all those supporting him. He insisted on taking selfies with every one of us before the start (for Guinness World Records purposes) and was very grateful to those who ran and cycled with him. He also was interested in our club and shared his experiences with his club in Bristol with me when running the 10K part of the course.

We also had a surprise visit from the firemen of Southcoates Lane station before the start of the run, as Ben had been promised a post-run massage at the station so they came to wish him luck which gave us the opportunity to use the blue fire engine as a backdrop for the group photos. They also suggested to Ben he contacts other stations in advance, as their network is extensive and they can offer support around the country.

Richard Alsop
17th January 2016.

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