Following the two visits of Ben Smith to the city in January and August (see 401 days 343 and 344)and following his progress since late 2015, I had committed to run his final marathon on 5 October 2016.  Ben starting his challenge on 1 September 2015, running the equivalent of 401 marathons in as many days around the country to raise awareness of bullying and raise £250,000 for Kidscape and Stonewall, two anti bullying charities. In the process nearly 10,000 people have run with Ben and over 1,200 have run further than they ever have before.  he has also visited 101 schools and gone through 22 pairs of trainers.  Much more details about his challenge and the stats is on
A months before his final marathon was due Ben announced that the final marathon would now be a virtual event rather than a formal one.  This was so all entry fees went 100& to the charities as the ethos of the project was fundraising and raising awareness over a big finale event. I could have still gone to Bristol on 5 October to run the final marathon, but instead I opted to run the virtual version near home with friend, Kris Hopkins, who couldn't get to Bristol midweek but wanted to take part. Others in the area will be or have done the same from 2nd to 9th October.
Kris and I agreed to run our marathon on 2nd October and Kris plotted a route that involved a few hills (his argument being it would be good training for me pre the Snowdonia Marathon in 4 weeks).  I bought into this logic somehow!  We headed off to Elloughton near Brough about 8 miles west of Kingston upon Hull and at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds! With our homemade Virtual 401 Marathon numbers we began our event just after 9:15am, with a hill climb into the woods!

Being just us two running, we had to factor in having drinks available and do our own photo's as well as rely on GPS for mile updates.  A dog walker kindly took a pre event picture for us and off we went, with water in hand to leave at strategic places and collect/drink later.  Thankfully it wasn't as hot as some recent weeks and with plenty of the route through wooded areas it helped keep it cool. We also did a live post on Facebook - a first for me - as we set off.  Ben loves doing these so seemed a good idea to follow in his footsteps!

We plodded round at a very steady pace of around 10 minute miles - this reflected the fact we had two big hill climbs in the first few miles as well.  Kris loves a hill and they were mostly off road.  It felt like I was back on the London to Brighton Ultra from May.  We made no attempts to pick up speed and took it steady up the hills (happily walking a bit to conserve energy).  Some of the views made it worthwhile as we looked out over the Humber Estuary and Yorkshire Wolds.  The route took in loops, which we had covered on a training run a few months earlier.  As we neared the end of the second loop we hit the half way point and I went live on Facebook again as we headed downhill on the edge of a field.  Shortly afterwards my Garmin froze in terms of distance.  I realised about 0.4 miles later when Kris bleeped and I didn't.  At our water stop at 14.6 miles I reengaged it but had the back up of Kris's Garmin and my phone tracker for our distance.
Left - Lucas around mile 16, right - Kris at 17.5 approx
Donate to Ben’s target of £250,000 at supporting these two anti bullying campaigns
The 401 Virtual Marathon - part of the 401 Challenge


Kris & Lucas doing the ben finger point before starting and the view from atop one of the hills with kris ahead

We carried on back through South Cave and up what is nicknamed "Devil's steps" (which we'd come down earlier) before joining onto Dale Road which took us back down to Brantingham with a nice 2 mile drop.  Kris started to feel burn out in his legs at this stage - unusually being behind me on a downhill.  I knew this wasn't a good sign.  Despite this we clocked our fastest mile so far in 8:21 (mile 19).  However, once on the level at the bottom and hitting 20 miles Kris confirmed his leg injury was causing too much bother and he'd not complete the full distance.  Given we had known about the injury before we started this was not unexpected.  The good news is Kris can complete his route sometime over the remainder of the week to still get his medal as the challenge enables you to do your marathon in parts or as one.

We carried on through Brantingham and reconvened going up what is called Spout Hill (a nasty climb!) to the edge of the woods.  This was the final climb of the day with mile 21 at the final peak.  Here we parted and.  I headed down through the woods for 1.4 miles to the edge of Elloughton.  The final 3.8 miles were on road going through the village and following to the edge of Brough - turning when I had 1.9 miles to go.  My Garmin battery was alerting me it was low so I figured I needed to get to the turning point before it died so I knew the right place to make the distance.  This resulted in mile 24 being my fastest mile all day in 8:21 - an unprecedented feat in a marathon for me!  Mile 24 is usually one of my slowest! The Garmin died with 0.75 miles to go!  The final section back to where  we started had a minor incline with a combination of walking and running.  Amazingly when I finished I had still just about been faster than me slowest ever time in 2007!  

Once I found Kris (who had run off along the route he thought I'd taken to finish!) we headed back home - feeling the effects of what we'd achieved and the surrealness of running a marathon (or 21 miles of one so far) in the manner we had.  Kris's Garmin had also died before mile 21 so we checked the stats on my tracker when I got on the laptop.  Timing of 4:46:41 made sense against when my Garmin died.  However, it stated only 38.08km (23.66miles) had been covered.  I knew this wasn't right given my Garmin had 24.55 on it when it died and had 0.9 miles to be added from when it froze.  When we looked at the route the tracker had also had GPS issues and showed random straight lines where we had clearly gone another way!  So, despite three backups, the nature of the route did seem to suggest the signal was intermittent at times plus don't rely on battery power!  (or run faster!!) That all said we were confident I'd done the correct 26.2 miles from pre planning and the info we did have.  

It was certainly a different way to do a marathon but I had had the same pre event nerves in the morning and wanted to quit around 19 miles as well (as I often do!).  But I had achieved marathon 44 and was grateful to Kris for the company (if not so much the route) and delighted to be part of Ben's amazing challenge. I'll update when the medals arrive and Kris has finished his mileage.

Left - Lucas having completed the marathon

Below - Kris and Lucas once they’d found each other !


On Friday 7th October Kris (and I ) ran Kris’ remaining mileage - 6.2 miles to be sure - around Kingston upon Hull on the foreshore and Marina area, completing Kris’ challenge (and finishing his leg off I think!).  In between we had enjoyed seeing Ben’s finish his 401 Challenege and all the amazing media coverage he so richly deserved.  Looking forward to our medals!

Kris at the end of his final few miles

Below - Lucas’ 401 medal on display at home

Medal update

Nearly 4  weeks after Kris and Lucas completed their respective Virtual Marathons, the 401 Marathon medals arrived by post.  Great timing as Kris and Lucas headed to Snowdonia that day (for Lucas to run the Snowdonia Marathon) and could get a great picture with the medals - in the end with some Snowdonia backdrop.

To top that off, a couple of days later Ben won the ITV Fundraiser award at the Pride of Britain Awards.  Well done Ben, Kyle and the 401 Team and thank you for our fab medals!

Lucas & Kris with the 401 medals.