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Ben's Story

In 2015 Ben set out on a mission that would change not only his life but the lives of thousands of other people around the world.

Growing up Ben suffered at the hands of bullies, it had a huge and lasting impact on both his confidence and self esteem. At 13 he discovered he was gay but felt the need to cover this up through fear of being attacked. At 18 and 21 he tried to take his own life because he was tired of feeling the way he felt everyday.

Throughout his 20s he led a life dictated to him by others, successful on paper, at 29 he suffered a TIA, temporarily losing his sight, hearing, feeling in his left arm and speech. This was a huge wakeup call and he had one of two choices, either carry on or make a change, We'll let you guess which one he chose.


At 18.5 stone, a 40 a day smoker and heavy drinker, working 60 hours a week in a job he didn't really enjoy and covering up the fact he was gay, he decided to take the leap and come out. This set in motion a series of events that would lead him to become the happy and healthy person he is today.

Sport for Ben was something he always avoided, never feeling as though he was good enough. Like many others he put up barriers and made excuses, mostly because he had no confidence. At 30 he was convinced by a friend to join a local running club and from day one he found something that gave him a focus, a way to express himself and a way to help him manage and deal with his mental wellbeing. It became a lifeline for Ben and helped him deal with many of the issues from his past.

In 2014, after finally coming to terms with his past, Ben says,

About Ben Smith

I vowed to take my experiences and turn them into something positive. The 401 Challenge was born, a feat of endurance like no one had ever really seen before.

Ben set himself the goal of running 401 marathons in 401 days all around the UK, aiming to raise £250,000 for two anti bullying charities to help ensure young people didn’t have to go through what he went through as a child. He sold his house and all his belongings and on 1st September 2015 set off from Bristol on a mission that would end up inspiring thousands to deal with their own pasts and question what is actually possible.

The Challenge in numbers


13,500 people ran with Ben

600 ran their first marathon


10,506.2 miles completed

309 towns & cities visited


440K ft climbed


2,146 running hours

5hr 21min run each day


17 kg lost in weight


+60m social media interactions


6,500 calories brunt each day


 fractured back 

3 colds

1 case of flu


£330,000 raised


101 schools visited

The Impact

We are happy to say the project was a huge success and on 5th October 2016 Ben crossed the finishing line in Bristol having achieved something most people thought was not humanly possible.

Raising over £330,000 for both Kidscape and Stonewall, the challenge and Ben were awarded both the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award and National / Regional Pride of Britain Fundraiser of the Year Award in 2016 along with other esteemed awards and commendations.

The positive impact the project had on people when it came to building their confidence and self esteem was the proudest achievement for Ben and in 2017 he set up The 401 Foundation. In March 2024, The 401 Foundation sadly closed it's doors after helping 25,000 over the seven years it was open. It handed out grants and developed programmes to the value of £55,000, something everyone involved was very proud of.

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