The Man who will run 401 Marathons in 401 Days


Ben Smith is the man behind the 401 Challenge. On the 1st September 2015, he will embark on the trip of a lifetime, as he prepares to run the first of 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days. Not only will this be a life changing experience, but Ben hopes that his amazing ordeal will raise both money and awareness for ‘Stonewall’ and 'Kidscape' - two charities close to his heart.

In order to spread the word, Ben will be visiting 309 locations across the length and breadth of the UK, from Penzance, through London, and up to John O’Groats, the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland. It goes without saying, he’ll be putting his body through its paces (many paces) during this period, and so has sought the support of some major fitness brands to see him through.  And that’s where we come in...

We’ll be providing Ben with Be an Athlete sportswear over the 401 day period. Our premium tracksuits will keep him warm, while our range of caps will ensure he looks stylish for the onslaught of selfie requests, as well as keeping the sun out of his eyes.

Last week, in-between what is no doubt a gruelling training regime, Ben paid the Be An Athlete team a visit to tell us more about his inspiring story...

1. The 401 campaign is raising money for the anti-bullying campaigns, 'Stonewall' and 'Kidscape.' Did you experience bullying yourself during your younger years?

Yes, I experienced both mental and physical bullying for eight years whilst I was at school, and like 37% of children who go through bullying, I didn't speak out. It had a massive effect on my confidence and self esteem and ultimately resulted in me trying to take my life twice. Thankfully, I wasn't successful or I wouldn't be able to use the experiences and emotion I felt to really try and make a difference now with the 401 Challenge.

Sport and especially running has been my savoir really and the 401 Challenge is a way for me to twin two positive aspects of my life together to try and make a difference. This project is about inspiring the younger generation to stand up against bullying.

2. What inspired the ‘401’ Challenge? 

My inspiration was very much down to my experiences of bullying at school. Giving a voice to the thousands of children that are being bullied and have been bullied, and showing that we don't need to be victims of this, but can turn our emotions into positive actions to help others.

3. What is the significance of the number 401? 

I would say it’s simply down to my slight OCD tendencies. The current record stands at 52 set by Akinori Kusuda in Japan. This is the GBWR official record, however, I am aware of a number of others that have run more. Currently, Stefaan Engels of Belgium completed 365 in 365 days, and in my mind the 366:366 challenge just didn't sound right, so that’s why I thought I’d round it up to 400, and then I added a victory lap around my home city, Bristol, making it 401.


4. How long have you been training for this, and what is your regime?

My training began about a year and a half ago. In 2014, I completed eighteen marathons across Europe, Scandinavia and the USA, as part of stage 1, along with working with a personal trainer at Pure Results in Portishead, near Bristol, who I see three times a week.

And then in February I completed Stage 2, consisting of thirteen marathons in sixteen weeks, including my first ‘7 marathons in 7 days’ challenge in the USA. I try and run everyday but as we all know, sometimes life gets in the way.

I also run twice a week with Southville Running Club in Bristol and then spin twice a week with Fox Cycling in Portishead.

5. Sounds pretty intense - what keeps you motivated?

The motivation is and always will be the experiences I had at school. Knowing that I am raising £250,000 to help children open up and talk about what is happening to them is motivation enough. If this challenge raises enough money to save at least one life, then I’ve done a good job.

6. Is there a plan B in the event of injury or sickness?

I’m working very closely with Gore Bio Science with regard to nutrition and injury prevention. No one knows what will happen but the training I am doing, the nutritional advice and tests I am having done, and will continue to have done throughout the event, will help me keep on top of any injuries that could be lurking around. It’s more about injury prevention than overcoming and dealing with an injury.

If I do get an injury then I will have to take stock of the situation and make a decision, but part of the challenge of running 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days is the pain and suffering my body, not just physically, but mentally will go through.

Nowadays I am mentally very strong and, like most runners, very stubborn. I have a great team of people supporting me from a nutritional perspective and I am also working with Ben Coomber, a leading UK nutritionist, with regard to a performance and recovery supplement TDT. Alongside this, Rock Tape has agreed to supply me with their product to help prevent any injuries. I believe it’s all in the planning, hence why the training has taken such a long time.

7. Will you be taking a ‘Paula Radcliffe’ approach when nature calls?

I was very lucky enough to meet Paula at the Brighton marathon last year. She signed my bib number and we had a little chat. She was such a lovely lady and I have watched her for many years and have been inspired by her grit, determination and focus to achieve the amazing things she has achieved.

I will be running my marathons at a much slower pace than hers, so I will have plenty of opportunities to drop into places to use the facilities.

8. 401 consecutive days – does this mean you’re running on Christmas Day and other similar holidays?

Yes, part of the 401 Challenge is that I will run consecutive days including Christmas Day, New Years Day, my birthday etc. I have planned my locations to make sure I am back in Lincoln with the folks over the Christmas period, so can have Mum’s Christmas dinner, which will be much needed fuel for the marathons.


9. How will you spend the 31st August, your last day of sanity as it were?

To be honest, I don't know. I hope to have a goodbye party in Bristol in the week leading up to the challenge so I can say goodbye for now to my friends, even though some will be joining me throughout the event. However, as for the last day, probably a quite night in with friends or locked away in a dark room wondering why the hell I signed up to do this.

10. Which marathon are you dreading the most? 

The honest answer is I’m not dreading any of them - I am genuinely looking forward to every single one. Obviously there will be ones which will mean a lot to me because they are either my official 100th run, which will be in Stroud, or simply the fact that I am going to see some amazing places, meet some inspirational people and just generally have an amazing time. That’s not to say that if you ask me this question again after my 100th marathon, that I won’t give you different answer, but let’s go with this one to begin with…positive mindset and all.

11. What will your diet consist of during this time?

Working closely with Gore Bio Sciences, I will have a tailored diet plan which will be based on the testing they do on my blood. The plan will ensure I am replenishing all my levels before and after each marathon. I will have to take some form of oral supplement to support me, however using TDT, which was developed by Ben Coomber, will help me recover faster and increase my performance during the challenge. Regardless, I’m sure I will simply be eating anything I can get my hands on, so watch out…

12. It’s going to be a shock to the body, to put it lightly – what muscle injury preventatives have you got in place?

Ben Coomber has provided me with a constant supply of his supplement range called TDT, Trans Dermal Technology. This is the application of minerals through the skin to aid recovery and develop performance, and you know what, it really does work. I’ve been using it now for about two months and have been able to increase my training and reduce the time it takes me to recover.

Other support will come in the form of physic sports massages, for which we’re currently looking for people to donate their services throughout the UK. A few have already signed up, however, there will be a template form on the website soon and we will promote this to get more support.

13. How do you plan to celebrate on the evening of your 401st run?

Well, I am a cider drinker and to be honest as long as someone is standing at the finish line with a nice cold pint of Thatchers Gold, then I’m sure this will lead to a great night spent celebrating with my close family, amazing friends and supporters of the challenge. However, the reality is that I’ll probably just go to bed early and wake up the next morning and go ‘what’s next'…..

Check out the official 401 Challenge website, or follow them on twitter, to find out how you can support Ben in his amazing journey. And if there’s anything else you’d like to know about it, drop your question in the comment box below and we’ll be sure to get an answer for you!


  1. AWESOME. Hope I can come see a few runs
    Wes - Manchester

    1. More than welcome to join in Michael, check out the website at for full details of the marathon locations

    2. Who knows, Ben, you might even lure a few members of the BAA team out during your London runs...



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