Before I relate my experience of joining Ben for the day, let me set the scene with the reason why we joined Ben.
Below is the 401 Challenge Facebook page banner following his journey with Red Rose Road Runners and other supporters on his 213th of 401 planned marathons on consecutive days.
And I don’t believe I can start my account without first sharing Ben’s information from the ‘About’ tab above:
Launched on 1 September 2015
Stonewall and Kidscape
I am running 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days all round the UK to raise £250,000 to support anti bullying initiatives.
Text BEN to 70660 to donate £5
North Somerset Braveheart Heroes Award (2015) North Somerset
Public Choice Heroes Award (2015)
Giving Tuesday Champion – Shortlisted (2015)
Having accompanied Ben round this one of his marathons, I witnessed his gregariousness in involving everyone who joined during the run. He paid particular attention to the young and anyone who was achieving their own milestone as they ran, noting those achievements in his phone, for later publication. Genuinely, a great guy, and an inspiration to all who are fortunate to meet him.
Getting Under Way
We assembled in the yard at Garage Doors Lancashire in Aspden Street, Bamber Bridge on Thursday 31 March 2016 for a 10 am start.
Ben took an individual selfie with each of those present before we set off in front of the Channel Five camera.
– Starting off out with Ben (sorry, the link goes via Facebook, as I’ve deleted this video!)
As we entered Preston Junction from Brownedge Road, Stuart took a head count of 49, including a pram being pushed, two cycles and my ElliptiGO.
Onto the Guild Wheel after crossing the Tram Bridge, and Ben moved freely among his entourage, chatting as we headed for Brockholes.
Those who wanted to, grabbed food and drink, whilst Ben was taken aside by Channel Five for an interview, before he could snatch a quick bite himself!
The weather was bright and the day was warming by the time we were ready to move on.
Next came the monster hill in Red Scar woods where I missed the chance of shooting a video clip, having to push the heavy ElliptiGO over the rutted mud and cobbles as Ben and his posse powered ahead. The run was very much in the spirit of a Red Rose training run, as Ben was always considerate of not dropping anyone who was falling behind, and waited while they caught up, rested and were happy to carry on. It was not all about Ben – everyone was made to feel welcome and an integral part of the overall achievement.
Well Into It
For the next significant hill, I made sure to ride ahead and park up out of the way before walking back to film the action on the hill. Ben was ‘full of beans!
We made steady progress as we continued along the path cut through the ‘Hills and Hollows’ on the way to Ingol
A Welcome Break
The sky had clouded over, causing a sudden drop in temperature, by the time we arrived at our very welcome lunch stop. After discovering that the pre-planned venue, The Ancient Oak, was undergoing refurbishment, we diverted to The Guild Merchant, where around 29 of us arrived, unannounced. Remarkably, we did not have to wait long for our tasty food and drink orders to be served, despite there being but one chef working.
As we left the pub, to head by the Uclan Sports Arena, along the canal towards the Ribble Link, the sky cleared again allowing the warming sun back through. On, past Preston North End’s training ground, some of our group were beginning to feel the effort as we crested the steep climb over the Blackpool Road bypass crossing.
Now truly on the homeward leg, I had the luxury of being able to coast down from Blackpool Road alongside the bypass until the terrain levelled and the wind required that I pedal again! There was no coasting, however, for the runners following me, as they were tormented by sun and wind, while the long, long, straight stretch ahead presented a view which, annoyingly, offered little assurance of any meaningful progress being made!
Meanwhile, Ben and a small, close-knit group, were powering along to the next muster point. By now, we had left 20 miles far behind and were into ‘wall’ territory. As we re-grouped, the late arrivers were not the only ones beginning to feel the strain.
Once all had had some degree of recovery, the group set off again, as one, to cover the stretch along the river to Penwortham Bridge, then through Broadgate and Riverside, to The Continental, where a quick pit-stop was taken. It was then onwards, over familiar ground for most, as we passed through Miller and Avenham parks, over paths trodden during many parkruns, Inter Club, 5k, 10k races and numerous Red Roser’s training runs.
Over the final mile, I needed to make a diversion to avoid the footpath behind Severn Drive school but rejoined the group on the other end of the ‘Chicken Path’ so that I could witness the final run-in to the finish.
My thanks go out to John and the other Red Rosers, together with club runners from Blackburn, Blackpool and Trawden, among others, who helped organize, guide and provide the atmosphere for the day.
Special praise must also go out to those who took on and achieved challenges beyond where they had been before.
And, of course, an extra special heap of kudos must go out to Ben Smith, for inviting us on a fun day, and allowing us to play a small part in his epic journey, as he strives to raise awareness and bring an end to bullying.