Donna and Ian Middleton's Big 401 Month!

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

I'm Donna... I'm a terrible but enthusiastic social runner and I live with my partner Ian and pooch Tilly in Northwich, Cheshire.

I began running in 2016 as a means of getting fit, though with no plans, goals or running network it was a real trial. And sporadic. I'd fall out of love with it as quickly as I started and was in an exhausting cycle of stopping and starting.

Around that time we became aware of Ben's original 401 Challenge and I remember watching his progress on TV and thinking, "wow, what a nutter" but also, as someone with no stamina or drive, was completely blown away that someone would have the tenacity and strength of mind to do something like that.

Fast-forward to 2017 when I met Ben and Kyle at a run training camp, and the love story started. Ian and I were captivated by the passion and conviction we heard, and were inspired to be just a small part of this great mission. But personally what it triggered for me was a more positive "can do" approach to my running... heck if Ben could do what he did, then there is no excuse for anybody. I joined an amazing, inclusive running club, began "collecting" parkruns, races and like-minded friends, and started goal-setting as I clocked up the miles. I began to crave being outdoors, needing to just get out and walk, run, cycle... just to be active and engaged with my surroundings more.

One of my main goals was to run a half marathon distance which I was ultimately able to do as part of the 401 Virtual Challenge 2018. The fundraising part which accompanied that was pretty easy as people loved the cause, indeed my enthusiasm must have been contagious as a number of friends also signed up for virtual runs of varying distances that we all had real fun planning and running together.

For the day of my personal big challenge - the half marathon - Ian and I headed to one of my favourite places, the Isle of Man, and started the 13.1 miles with the island's parkrun where we received heaps of support from the organisers and runners, some of whom went on to become great friends. We continued from there on along a pre-planned hilly but stunning coastal route in the most appalling windy and rainy conditions imaginable. But you know what, it still goes down as one of the best things I have ever done, we both loved every second. And the icing on the cake was knowing that I was raising money for such a worthy cause.

During that challenge, and on thousands of occasions since, my "be more Ben" mantra has helped me through many a challenge. And that's not confined to running... I feel I've become a more resilient, focused and positive person through my personal journey since meeting Ben, and finally, I am starting to get fitter - which of course was my original long-held mission - both of mind and of body.

My relationship with running can still be very love/hate but I am growing as both a runner and a person and that's not least of all because of the impact the 401 Challenge, Ben, his supporters and team have all had on me. And importantly, thank goodness for the the ongoing virtual challenges which are a massive part of my continued motivation.... friends and I all love to engage with these to help keep us active, particularly when times are

challenging like most of 2020 has been!

The wider 401 team are such a positive and supportive bunch, some of whom I've met at events and others are just a virtual presence, but all of whom reflect the fantastic positive ethos of the challenge.

I can't thank you all enough for the journey you've taken me on for the past few years. Keep up the great work, we'll remain right behind you.

Donna Middleton

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