North East runners and students step out to support world record attempt
The North East running community and students from a Sunderland college have turned out in force to support a man who is attempting to run 401 marathons in 401 days. Ben Smith, from Bristol, is trying to break a world record, while raising awareness about bullying issues in society, and £250,000 for charity. Smith is currently running through the region and today’s route took him through the streets of Sunderland and to Southmoor Academy, where students and staff joined him for the final few miles of his 183rd marathon.Ben Smith, 33, suffered bullying from a young age and twice tried to take his own life. He came out as gay when he was 31 and from that moment started to turn his life around. Smith took up running and completed his first half marathon in 2012 and in 2014 ran 18 marathons, seven of which were back to back.
Ben Smith comments: “I was hooked. Having never been very good at sport at school you could say I had started from nothing which made the achievement even sweeter. It was from this that the 401 Challenge was born. The challenge is about showing people that no matter what you go through growing up there can always be a positive outcome if you want there to be.”During his record breaking run, Smith is visiting schools and colleges to speak to students about bullying. Today, he popped in to Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, where he addressed 200 youngsters before 10 of them, along with two members of staff, joined him for the final six miles of his latest marathon. The Sunderland route was devised by local club Sunderland Strollers and Steve Cram and included this year’s Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon course, with Smith finishing at Keel Square. Cram also ran with Smith for the last six miles, along with Sunderland’s Rio Olympics marathon hopeful Aly Dixon and other members of Sunderland Strollers.
Steve Cram adds: “What Ben is doing is phenomenal and quite hard to comprehend. Completing just one marathon is a huge achievement for most people, so running 401 in 401 days will be a staggering effort. We were delighted to be able to help with Ben’s run in Sunderland today, which was a nice test of the Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon course. It was brilliant to see so much support from the Sunderland Strollers and the students and staff at Southmoor Academy. I know that the wider North East running community has also been backing Ben with great enthusiasm, which is no surprise at all, and I’m sure that will continue as he makes his way through the region.”The 401 Challenge will make its way north between now and 10 March, before heading into Scotland. Smith is raising money for two charities – Stonewall and Kidscape. To find out more about the challenge visit www.the401challenge.co.uk or follow @the401challenge on Twitter.
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