It wasn’t just the weather which gave marathon man Ben Smith a warm welcome yesterday, as hundreds of schoolchildren, fellow runners, bikers and well-wishers turned out in support as he ran his 247th out of 401 marathons through Grantham.
The 33-year-old told the Journal that he was ‘overwhelmed’ by the response of the town, which united to ensure it would be a memorable leg of his 401 marathon challenge all across the UK.
“I haven’t been to Grantham before. My dad is from Lincoln. The support here has been incredible. I am quite overwhelmed,” he said.
The day went smoothly thanks to the joint efforts of charity Inspire+, Grantham Athletics Club, Belvoir Tri Club and Grantham Running Club, many of whose members helped to form Ben’s ‘entourage’ around the town.
Co-ordinator Paul Davidson, of Grantham Athletic Club, said: “Everybody who was involved with organising Ben’s marathon made it a very special day that many people will remember.”
Indeed the event saw CEO of Inspire+, Vincent Brittain, complete his first marathon. “As we were running we spoke about the school visits and I know they truly inspired him. They also inspired me to complete the marathon which was amazing considering I did no training for it!”
Also joining Ben for the 26.2 miles, was Grantham Running Club’s Holly Durham, who said. “It’s nice to run with those from other clubs who are normally our competitors.” Cyclist Louise Payne of Belvoir Tri Club added: “I’m really proud of the support Grantham has given Ben.”
It was on September 1, after selling his Bristol home, that Ben embarked on the first of his 401 marathons on 401 consecutive days. By doing so he aims to raise £250,000 for two anti-bullying charities, Kidscape and Stonewall, having suffered badly himself as a child. Moreover, during all of his runs he is visiting schools to talk about the issue.
“In my opinion bullying isn’t talked about enough, and I think a lot of problems in the world stem from the fact that somebody was bullied when they were younger,” he said.
After setting off at 10am from the South Kesteven Sports Stadium, he was greeted by excited youngsters ready to give him hundreds of high fives at 19 local schools.
PE teacher at the West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s, Alastair Weir, said: “The staff and students were inspired and captivated by the lengths Ben had gone to in order to ‘Beat the Bullies’ and his smile through his thick beard lit the way around the field.”
One of Ben’s videos of the day saw Walton Girls’ School students pack out their tennis courts to greet him with huge cheers. Principal, Caroline Saxelby, said; “Staff and students from Walton were delighted to be able to join Ben for part of his marathon. We were inspired by his tenacity and commitment to his challenge and we wish him luck for the rest of his journey.”
Meanwhile Sarah Murphy, PE subject leader at the National School, said: “We had 460 pupils lined up on the front playground who couldn’t wait to high five Ben as he ran through. Our children have been taking a keen interest in Ben and his challenge, and it has linked particularly well with our whole school theme of endurance this term.”
Also gathering in their playground to wish Ben well, were pupils at Huntingtower Community Primary Academy. Year three teacher Dina Lord said: “Ben’s achievement is truly amazing and it was wonderful for our children to be part of such an inspiring event. It was also fantastic for our children to see so many runners from local Lincolnshire clubs taking part in this record-breaking event, whilst raising money and awareness of bullying.”
Delighted with how the day went, starting and ending by the Meres Leisure Centre, SKDC’s business manager for venues and facilities Paul Stokes said: “It was a fantastic turnout by local schoolchildren to support Ben and we’re very pleased he chose Grantham Meres as the place to start his latest marathon.
“He commented it was among the best receptions he’s had throughout the hundreds of marathons he’s completed.
“He is an inspiration to children across South Kesteven and we hope they can use his infectious spirit to channel into their own sporting goals and aims as part of their active and healthy lifestyles here in the district.”
* For full details of Ben’s challenge, go to www.400400challenge.co.uk. Videos of his Grantham run are available at www.facebook.com/the401challenge, and to donate to his charities go to his fund-raising page at Virgin Money Giving - The 401 Challenge
* If you have any more photos or videos of Ben’s Grantham run that you would like us to include in a special slideshow, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org