Jon Lawrence - from Godalming to New York

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

I love to combine my love of running with also doing something challenging and giving something back to others. That is why in 2015, as the then secretary for the Waverley Harriers running club, I was delighted to be able to organise and plan one of the marathon legs for Ben’s 401 Challenge. We ran from Godalming to Cranleigh and back, and ours was marathon 63, at a time when the 401 challenge was still building up momentum. I was immediately struck with Ben’s drive and determination, not to mention that he was just a nice man, so I wanted to continue to support his work and the foundation as much as possible.

In 2019 I organised a 401 talk for Ben to come along to Godalming and talk about his life and raise funds for The USA Challenge now taking place in 2022.

In 2018 I turned 50, and one of my ambitions in life was to run the New York Marathon, so myself and a friend signed up for it. I am so glad I did not wait till this year, as I’d have never probably got to do it!!

Having got my place in the marathon, I set about training and then decided that I would run it and make it even more worthwhile and memorable by raising funds for the 401 foundation. I did used to do marathons and asked for sponsorship to support Leukaemia and Lymphoma, but after a while it felt a bit cheeky asking the same people to sponsor me to do something I loved, so I stopped getting sponsorship. New York however was big for me, a lifetime ambition achieved and a celebration of turning 50, so I decided I should also do something to help celebrate and support others and the 401 foundation was the natural choice, especially considering that Ben would be taking the 401 challenge over to the USA. I saw myself as the advance 401 party, establishing the brand out there!!

I set my target initially at raising £401, obviously, as this would be something Ben would have liked too. I didn’t want to put pressure on people having to sponsor me though, so I left it to people’s choice if they wanted to support me or not, after all I was going to run New York anyway. I am delighted to say though that my sponsorship total ended up reaching £1,220 which was amazing.

I was so proud to reach New York and get to the start line and stand in my 401 branded top knowing that I was fulfilling an ambition and raising funds that would help the foundation, something close to my heart.

The event itself was absolutely amazing, 52,000 runners pounding the streets of such an iconic city. The crowds turned out in force and there were many shouts for me on the day of “Go 401, you’ve got this”!! It was an experience that will live with me forever and especially now, with everything that has happened in 2020, I am so glad I went for it and didn’t wait.

I have always combined my love of running, with challenging myself as well as hoping to give something back to others, and for me the New York Marathon 2019 ticked all of those boxes. I continue to support the 401 Foundation and the magnificent work that they do and am currently virtually running through the USA as part of the new USA Challenge. I have found that the 401 and the running community itself is so positive and supportive, and let’s face it, we all need that right now.

I am always on the look out for the next challenge and the next way I can play a part in supporting the 401 Foundation, and my tip for anyone who wants to do the same is to get creative. I keep thinking that the 401 community could come together and do some form of group running challenge to raise further funds in support of Ben and his work, so watch this space!!!

The world is a very different and challenging place right now for all of us, but one thing remains the same, and that is that we can put on our trainers and head out for a run. We may not have the big events going on right now, but that means we need to find different ways to challenge ourselves and keep focussed. I know that for my own personal mental health and wellbeing I need my fix of daily exercise and having the virtual USA Challenge has really helped through the last few months.

Stay safe and well everyone and as I always say as my running mantra, “Go strong OR go home”!!

Jon Lawrence

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