HE’S broken bones and put his body on the line but now Ben Smith is within touching distance of achieving what many thought impossible – to run 401 marathons in 401 days.
Mr Smith, who is now becoming widely-known as ‘the 401 runner’, set himself the challenge of running 10,506 miles to raise more than £250,000 for two children’s charities.
Last Thursday, he started and completed his 388th marathon from David Lloyd Leisure in Newbury where he was greeted by staff, supporters and members of Newbury Runners.
The 34-year-old from Bristol said: “Newbury was amazing as usual, it’s the second time I’ve been here and the support is incredible.
“It’s a lovely town to run through and so welcoming. Sarah Russell from Newbury Runners organised everything and she’s brilliant.”
One of the main reasons Mr Smith has taken on the gruelling challenge is to raise awareness of bullying and he hopes the money raised will offer victims more support.
He said: “I was bullied for being gay at school and it lasted for years. I thought I could deal with it myself but at 18 I tried to take my own life.
“I was depressed through my 20s until a friend got me into running. It saved me and gave me the strength and self-esteem to do things I never thought I could do.
“That’s why I wanted to do the challenge, to show others that they can do it too.”
However, the impact the challenge has had on his body has been huge. He had to stop the challenge for 10 days when he fractured a vertebrae in his lower back which caused his spine to ‘corkscrew’.
Remarkably, after intensive physiotherapy, he not only resumed the challenge – but has since made up the 262 miles he missed out on while injured.
He’s also broken his big toe on his left foot and suffered with severe tendonitis, but even that has not managed to stop him.
“I was devastated when I did my back in and thought I’d have to give it all up” he said. “But here I am. I’m still going.”
Before he set off from Newbury last week, local sports therapist Janet Gray, of Grays Therapies, offered her support by giving Mr Smith a massage.
She said: “When I heard about Ben’s amazing feat of endurance and learnt more about the charities he is supporting I knew I wanted to get involved.
“Hopefully some massage and therapy at the end of this latest leg of his challenge will ease some of the discomfort he will be experiencing.”
So far he has raised £170,000 of his £250,000 target. To donate, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com and search for Ben Smith.
You can also follow his progress at www.the401challenge.co.uk