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Monday, 04 April 2016 20:25

The 401 Challenge – Morecambe 30th March – Marathon 212

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The day started with Ben visiting Heysham St. Peters Primary school for a morning assembly, about the 401 challenge, his reasons for doing it and the shear scale of the challenge in numbers such as the length of the day’s marathon being 786 times around their playground and the total mileage for the challenge being over 10,500 miles or Morecambe to Sydney.

Ben also took time out to present some certificates to 5 children who had completed a running challenge for the Lullaby Trust along with answering numerous questions. His talk was distracted by a heavy hail & rain storm which everyone except Ben, Paul & Lisa found quite funny.

On arrival at Salt Ayre it was fantastic to see the car park full, it’s always a concern for Ben how many people will turn out to run on a week day. The introductions were made along with the obligatory “selfies” with Ben, a group photo taken outside the club house, then off we set. It was brilliant to see many different groups represented, there were runners from LMAC, Garstang, COLT, Lancaster Uni, Wray WRC, Lancaster Park Run along with Kyles Dad (Ben’s partner) and a baby in a pram. During the day we also had runners from EDF & Overton Village join in, along with some children who ran the 1 ¼ miles from Snatchems to Salt Ayre.

Back to the start, the snake like procession headed up the cycle path towards Lancaster where Ben was met with the first of the Mile Markers (a first for the 401 Challenge) and a photo opportunity – there would be many more throughout the day. There were a number of musters and meeting of new runners (obligatory selfies) as we made our way back past Halton barracks and onto the A6 towards Slyne. Here the first group of runners peeled off and the opportunity was taken to phone ahead to The Lodge, who had kindly offered to provide Ben with a bacon butty to keep his strength up, now most of our runners aren’t shy, so the order for 20 bacon butties was duly phoned through. As we arrived at The Lodge a touch damp from the last downpour, a couple who were just out for a snack, got entangled with the group as we entered the pub, jokingly we asked did they know what was going on and to our surprise they replayed who Ben was, what was happening and why – coup for Lisa and the publicity. I don’t know about a marathon, the scene in the Lodge when the butties were served, along with drinks looked more like the start of a day out. Finally (we had to wait for Ben to finish his second butty & a Latte) we were ready to get underway and the staff from the Lodge explained that all the food and drink was being donated, not just Ben’s – What a great gesture.

Our route took us up to Coastal Road and down towards the next muster point at the café on the Prom near Happy Mount Park, on this section we were joined by more runners doing a few miles of the route (more selfies) after a short re-group and a thank you to the café owner (Ben didn’t eat at this one) for the offer of refreshments, it was on to the Broadway where our next runners peeled off, then across onto the prom side down to the clock tower, where our next feed stop was planned. The Palatine, who had agreed to donate a meal for Ben, if he wanted one (can a fish swim) was invaded by 20 plus runners just as they opened. Ben tucked into a 9 inch pizza a pint of cider, a pint of coke and of course a latte, the mere mortals got bottled water, flap jacks & rocky road cakes (previously dropped off in preparation for the stop). After the shaking of hands and tidying up (we do leave a bit of a mess) we were on our way, but only as far as the Eric Morecambe statue – cue obligatory selfie, then off we went again along the prom, cue pictures of the bay & mile markers. At 15 miles, Vicky Holgate peeled off, having run further than ever before (this wouldn’t be the last time we saw Vicky). Then on to Heysham village, more pictures and round to ½ moon bay café, another planned food stop, where Ben thanked the owners for their offer of support, other runners peeled off as we started to get towards the “business end” – 16 miles completed.
The power stations, drew closer and we made our way onto the EDF nature reserve, where a reception committee from the stations was waiting with good luck messages, a drinks station and news that a “bucket” collection had raised £500 for Ben’s charities – great effort. Following the obligatory photo’s and selfies with more new runners, it was on to Oceans Edge, Middleton Sands (unfortunately we didn’t find Lisa’s cycling shoe – that’s a story for another day) and towards Sambo’s grave, met by another runner where the discussion soon moved in to the Wizard of Ozz Panto – you had to be there, as we now had The Lion, The Scare Crow, would be meeting the Tin Man on Sunderland Point and of course we had Elvis (can only happen in Overton ). Following the obligatory photo’s it was up “the lane” to Sunderland Point were the next feed station was set up, by this time the sun was fully out with no cloud cover. Garden Chairs had been set up around a table with water, biscuits, flap jacks, rocky road and to cap it all the much needed cup of tea. Safe to say, Ben made himself at home and continued to consume his body weight in food. Only the “false call” of having to beat the tide, (we were now well behind Paul’s schedule) got us underway.

The tidal road into Overton saw mile 22 come and go and as we crossed the cattle grid near the Globe an unexpected reception committee was waiting, cue the obligatory photo’s, some money donated and off we went again. Up through the village there were small groups gathered to see us pass, some also donating as we went by ( I need to run this route more often). There were still more than 20 runners strung out along Lancaster road, some had planned on stopping in the village, but carried on. At 23 miles, Ben passed the 5,555 mile mark since the challenge started on the 1st September 2015. On we went along the final stretch towards Snatchems, where we were met by Vicky, Rob and children who would join us on the final section.

The Cycle Circuit itself saw mile 26, cue the obligatory photo, prior to completing the last 385 yards to the club house and reception committee. High 5’s, back slapping & hugs were the order of the day as 12 people had completed the full marathon (4 being first timers) and a further 4 people had run further than they ever had before. A small group from EDF came along and presented Ben with a Zingy Money Box and the £500 or his charities. Cue the obligatory photo’s.
Thanks to everyone involved in what turned out to be a fantastic day due to the organisation, the support, the innovation of the mile markers (over 1,000 views and numerous complimentary comments) and of course the donations to Ben’s charities.
And finally Ben’s view was that he’d “had an amazing day and one that he will never forget”


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