Hazel's Amazing 401 Journey

I got involved with The 401 because my sister Annette Rainbow was one of Ben’s Therapists during his 401 marathons in 401 days challenge. Annette always likes to support people taking on challenges especially when they are supporting anti-bullying charities, this is largely due to our abusive childhood. The way that she got behind Ben and passionately spread the word across her social media platform, it was hard not to be drawn in.

In 2018, Annette competed in the 5K at Portishead whilst recovering from Pneumonia, pleurisy & a collapsed lung. I surprised her by going along to cheer her on, only her husband and Ben knew that I was going. After experiencing the magic of the 401 festival and everybody there and Annette’s achievements, I was blown away by the whole concept of the 401 and how inclusive and supportive it was, regardless of age, ability, story. Everyone was welcome and included. It was an emotional weekend. I felt accepted for the very first time. It was something that I felt that I wanted to be involved in. I thought, If Annette can do it whilst still so poorly, then why can’t I?

I started the Couch to 5K with the plan to compete in the 5K at Portishead the following year, 2019. Which I did and it was life changing… You see, unlike the previous year where I felt so at home, this year was very different. I felt so alone, so very sad and alone. This was nothing to do with The 401, Ben or any of the supporters… It was due to my own personal situation. I was being mentally and physically abused and had been trying to hide it for several years. The 401 Festival of Running 2019, highlighted to me, how bad things were becoming and that I needed to find a bravery that I had never found before to get myself & my children out, safe and free. I ran in the blistering heat, I got my medal, I had a photo with Ben, I chatted to my sister, Ben’s Mum & Dad and it was a combination of all of those things that made me have an “oh ****” moment – now what do I do?!! That day, 24.08.2019 was the iconic day that changed things forever.

Fast forward to March 2020, 2 weeks before lockdown, I did it! I stood up for myself and my children. He hasn’t been home since. One month later, Ben e-mailed us all to ask us how we would feel about starting the USA mission in April – I jumped at the chance, I needed it. I couldn’t go outside my front door (not just because of lockdown), I was scared to go out so just bounced on my rebounder in the back garden to get my miles up, then one Sunday I felt a sudden bravery to go out and run, I did a very slow 2 miles, nothing mattered other than being out, I was scared but free. I did it! I put it on my social media, Ben commented almost straight away, I just felt like he had my back and that I was safe. I had emailed him to tell him of my situation and he would regularly check in – That’s Ben isn’t it?! We went to court, Ben messaged the night before, just knowing he and the 401 was there, really helped. It’s a community, a family.

I am currently running and walking my way around the USA as part of the USA challenge to support Ben’s next mission. The support of everyone taking part is something else. We are a family, a community, everyone is accepted. Some are knitting or gardening their way around. Everyone is included – EVERYONE.

Now, I am proud to be part of the 104 club since January 2021 (04.01), the support from this group is something else, we help each other every single day, we motivate & inspire each other and fully celebrate everyone’s individual achievements, we pull each other out of a bad day/week. We are there for each other. These people are dear friends & family that I have never even met personally. Again, this is what Ben has created – this is the Ben effect – The 401 community. The 401 Family.

I have come from an abusive childhood and adulthood and for the first time ever in my life, I feel accepted. The 401 Foundation and Ben Smith has created something quite unique, I would encourage anyone to get involved. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Hope to see you there.

Hazel Smith

If you have been affected by Hazel's story and need support please try the following resources:

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