FEATURE: 401 marathon man talks about new challenge in the USA

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 June 2019

Backwell School, Year 7 students working on a running and mental health programme meeting 401 runner Ben Smith.

Backwell School, Year 7 students working on a running and mental health programme meeting 401 runner Ben Smith.

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A Portishead man has already made great steps to launch his next big adventure for charity.

The route Ben Smith will take across the USA in 2020. Picture: The 401 FoundationThe route Ben Smith will take across the USA in 2020. Picture: The 401 Foundation

Ben Smith, aged 36, is best known for running 401 marathons from September 2015 to late-2016 in a bid to raise money and awareness for Stonewall and Kidscape.

Under the guise of his new charity - The 401 Foundation - he is embarking on a whole new challenge to raise more than £1million for his foundation and Youth Sport Trust (YST).

Ben Smith after the London Marathon.Ben Smith after the London Marathon.

What is he doing?

USA 2020 will see Ben run a 26.2-mile marathon in each state in the USA before cycling between each running location.

He will cover around 17,200 miles on bike and 1,310 miles on foot - which is the same as hiking Everest 9.2 times.

The challenge will last 104 days and he will average between 14-15 hours of exercise a day.

In order to keep to target and complete the day in a timely manner, he has to keep a steady pace while running so will be completing the marathon on school running tracks across the States, allowing people to join in.

He revealed his next big challenge in December with the hope he will start his first marathon in March next year in Maine's capital Augusta.

401 Marathon runner Ben Smith organising a running festival for his 401 Foundation at Woodhill near Portishead Lake Grounds.401 Marathon runner Ben Smith organising a running festival for his 401 Foundation at Woodhill near Portishead Lake Grounds.

How have things developed?

Ben and his team have been forming a plan to get as many people involved as they can.

Ben said: "It has been a lot more work than we first anticipated it to be but it is still exciting. We have developed so many things it is ridiculous. "We wanted to try and ensure the project has the same feel as the last one, that it gets people involved and we wanted people to get inspired by it.

"But the problem we faced was how do we do that when we aren't here in the UK and are abroad.

"We have been working heavily with the Youth Sport Trust on this Educational Legacy programme."

The programme is a 104-day programme and it is focused on the 'five pillars of wellbeing'.

Ben explained: "These are things like being active, connecting, learning and taking notice.

401 Marathon runner Ben Smith organising a running festival for his 401 Foundation at Woodhill near Portishead Lake Grounds.401 Marathon runner Ben Smith organising a running festival for his 401 Foundation at Woodhill near Portishead Lake Grounds.

"We have built projects around these different topics which can be integrated into subjects like maths and English."

The programme is being built at the moment and is set to be launched during National Schools Sports Week at the end of June.

Ben is hoping to get 4,001 schools to sign up, inspiring more than one million students, with each school raising £401 to take part - with the money going into the final fundraising pot and to help fund Ben's main challenge.

He added: "It is about showing children that you don't have to be the best at sport to take part in a sporting challenge.

"You can be amazing at maths, science and geography and still be a part of it. It is not about being the best but actually being active."

Also on the drawing board is getting people to get involved in their personal lives.

Ben has challenged people to walk or run the 1,310 miles he will be doing or cycling the 17,200 miles he will cover in the USA.

Ben Smith will be telling his story at Somerset Hall in PortisheadBen Smith will be telling his story at Somerset Hall in Portishead

It launched in March 2019 and people have until March 2020 to complete it.

We have around 400 people in the UK and abroad involved so far but you can still sign up until September this year.

Ben said: "We have already covered 72,000 miles as a collective group of individuals - which is the same as running around the world three times - which is just insane and we are only in week nine with 400 runners."

To build the hype for his latest challenge, Ben is embarking on a 50-stop talk tour where he shares his story and talks about USA 2020.

The money from his talks will go back into funding his challenge and boosting the fundraising total.

His next talk will be on June 13 at Somerset Hall, in The Precinct, at 7pm. It costs £12 for adults and £6 for children.­

Recruiting a close-knit team

USA 2020 in numbers.USA 2020 in numbers.

In the coming weeks, Ben will be looking for four volunteers to join his USA team to help with his health care and press coverage from across the pond.

These roles include a project manager, a therapist, a bike technician and a social and communications officer.

He said: "The foundation isn't just about building people's confidence and self-esteem but also helping people to develop themselves and we are wanting to take four individuals who see it as a chance to learn and be involved in a project which is unlike anything anyone has ever done."

To find out more or get involved in the virtual challenge, visit the challenge's website.

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