Running to save lives

Posted on Jun 20, 2018

Running to save lives News Post Image


From the back cover of Ben Smith’s book 401:

Ben Smith decided to run 401 marathons in 401 days. People thought he was mad, until they heard his story, then they began to understand. Having endured years of bullying as a child, Ben tried to take his own life. In adulthood, Ben struggled to feel content with the life that was mapped out for him. But having found his passion in running, Ben sold his possessions, escaped his old life and set off on what seemed like an impossible mission - The 401 Challenge.

During his 10,506.2-mile odyssey criss-crossing the UK, Ben ran in 309 different locations, accompanied by more than 13,500 people. He visited 101 schools, burned an estimated 2.4 million calories, wrecked his back and braved every extreme of the British weather, while raising £330,000 for charity, touching the lives of millions.

Ben and his team got in touch with us at Pimp My Cause back in 2015. He had his targets in place for The 401 Challenge and his running plan was coming together, but he needed more marketing support to help engage volunteers, supporters and donors.

We were able to connect Ben with Vicky Burr, an experienced communications professional and passionate runner. Over several months Vicky worked with the campaign sponsors, engaged local media and built the social media campaign around The 401 Challenge. She was a key part of the early team engaging volunteers, building interest in Ben’s story and helping to raise awareness for anti-bullying and funds for their charity partners.

Vicky said, ‘I knew immediately that Ben's story was deeply inspiring and what he was doing was uniquely daring and would have a big impact.

‘He wanted to raise £250K and in the earlies days of the Challenge, was sometimes unsure if that would be possible. It was a lot of work, but in the end we raised over £300K for Kidscape and Stonewall. He inspired so many people to go beyond what they thought they could do. It was an incredible project to be a part of!"

And when Vicky’s schedule no longer allowed her the time needed to be part of the central organising group she recruited her friend and PR expert, Lucy Saunders, to join the team.

The 401 Challenge involved a wide range of people including 101 schools and in addition to raising funds, it created opportunities for children, young people and adults to discuss the difficult topics of bullying and sexuality.

The legacy of The 401 Challenge is the creation of The 401 Foundation, which was launched in April 2017. It’s a grant based foundation that awards grants to small community projects and individuals that build confidence and self-esteem whilst tackling issues around mental health and self-development across all ages. 

Ben's book 401 was published on April 5th 2018 and is Ben's inspirational story of how he ran 401 marathons in 401 days, the history and reasons for taking on the challenge and how anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

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