Beyond the stats and the timing chips, every runner has a story: the thing in there that drives us to keep going, step after step and day after day. That’s the single most compelling thing about running for me: that point of intersection between ‘why we run’ and who we are.

Sometimes you come across a runner whose story is so remarkable, it fairly knocks your socks off. Ben Smith – Mr 401 Challenge – is one of those …

Our run with Ben

The best opportunities don’t always come along when you’re ready or expecting them. The opportunity for me and Ryan to run with Ben was no exception. One Sunday evening, we discovered that the 401 Challenge would be practically on our doorstep the very next day. Monday’s plans went out of the window: this was a chance we didn’t want to miss.

Sometimes you need to ditch the to-do list so life can start happening.

Ben has set out to cover a distance equivalent to 401 marathons in 401 consecutive days, in support of Kidscape & Stonewall. His story is remarkable on every level: the distance; the sheer relentlessness of his daily effort, the causes he’s supporting and the community he’s building along the way. His achievements and determination are immense. But most compelling of all is the story of the man behind the challenge, which Ben was generous enough to share with us as we ran.

Ben shared his incredible story with us as we ran
Ben shared his incredible story with us as we ran

You can read Ben’s story in his own words on the 401 Challenge website, and I recommend that you do: it’s a humbling story of rising from the darkest depths; tough decisions, boldly made; of a life turned around in the quest for fulfilment and authenticity. Real-life triumph and adversity; direction lost and found through the medium of running.

The reason Ben’s story knocked my socks off was that it was at once personal to him, yet universal in the themes that it affirmed:

Extraordinary people are not born that way. They make themselves extraordinary through the lives they choose to lead. Ben’s adventure, his challenge and his success didn’t just happen to him; he wasn’t lucky. He was smart; determined; focused; committed. He decided to grab hold of his destiny to build a future he believes in, and to pave the way for others to do the same. That makes him a pretty interesting guy, for sure – but no one gave him any special permission or qualification to do it.

No one told him he could or he should transform his life. He just did it.

Ben’s 401 Challenge is raising money and awareness for Kidscape and Stonewall. We joined him for Marathon 315 of the 401: Old Kilpatrick. Rosa and I ran 10k; Ryan set out to run half the route but got carried away and completed the whole distance. The power of inspiration is strong …