Helen Kirk's 2 x 26.2 Challenge
Updated: Nov 25
I first heard of Ben from posts on social media. Having recently got into running I was astounded to read about this amazing man who was running a marathon everyday for 401 days! I first saw him from afar during my one and only marathon at Manchester, in 2016. How on Earth did he make it look so easy?
I was fortunate to join Ben at Clumber Park, Nottingham on one of his marathons and absolutely loved it. Ben is so personable, he makes everybody he speaks to feel special. From that day I became a loyal supporter! I bought merchandise, travelled to talks, read his biography and took part in the Nottingham 401 Festival of Running. I'm a primary school teacher and we were lucky to have Ben visit us for a motivational talk just before Lockdown hit.
The months of Lockdown were really difficult. Having previously been very active I found it tough trying to motivate myself to get out and exercise regularly when running clubs and parkrun had to stop, gyms were closed and races that I was training for were postponed. My husband had the foresight to buy a turbo trainer for the bike and I began to use Zwift in the garage as a way of keeping fit and helping my mental health.
When the London Marathon 26.2 challenge was announced in April, I decided to challenge myself with a 26.2km run on the Saturday, followed by a 26.2mile bike ride on the Sunday. This was going to be a huge challenge for me, as my fitness had definitely taken a tumble and I had never spent so long on the bike! I set up a fundraising page for the 401 Foundation as mental health was becoming increasingly important, especially as people were facing such a difficult time in isolation. I was astounded as the sponsorship and messages of motivation that came in! The challenge weekend arrived and equipped with motivational 90's music and magic cream, which was recommended to prevent the inevitable sore posterior, I set off. The run was tough, everything hurt!! In comparison the cycle was definitely easier! The experience was really enjoyable but I have nothing but admiration for Ben who was going to go through much worse in America in 2022!!
Raising money for the Foundation was definitely a highlight of such a difficult time. I have also joined the Virtual USA Mission. I feel so lucky that these challenges have helped keep me motivated and definitely boosted my mental health during 2020. So many people have suffered because of COVID through bereavement, depression and anxiety. I am doing everything I can to help raise awareness and much needed funds - recently encouraging my school to join the virtual schools mission too!
Working with Ben and his team at the 401 Foundation has been a pleasure. Like Ben, the team are friendly and always happy to help. I know that the money raised through fundraising goes direct to local communities and individuals to help boost confidence, self esteem and people's mental health - such a worthwhile and important cause, which will be needed even more in the coming months and years.