Book review – 401: The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever

My running is more ‘pause’ than running at the moment – having my wisdom tooth out has temporarily sidelined me, just as I was getting back up to speed after my sprained ankle. However it has given me to time to read about running and I stumbled upon ‘401, The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever’. The title initially caught my eye for 2 reasons – 1) running 401 marathons sounds kind of crazy (but my kind of crazy!) and 2) I can definitely relate to marathon running changing your life. If running one changed mine, I was curious to know how it felt to run a further 400.

The man in question is Ben Smith who decided to tackle the issue of bullying by running a really long way and raising funds for 2 charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. This book takes you through not only the challenge itself but also weaves in his story which led him to do such a thing in the first place. Ben suffered terrible bullying throughout school, affecting him in a myriad of ways and it was this that ultimately led to him wanting to take action.

It’s a very easy read and Ben is a easily relatable person, whether you’re a runner or not. In fact, one of the things I really liked about this book was hearing about some of the people who ran with him throughout the challenge, many of whom had never run such distances before. As is so often the case, this story is one not just of changing his own life but inspiring others to do the same. I think the glow and positivity you get from running is not only addictive for those of us who do the running, it’s also very tempting for those who see it and wonder whether they can have some of that too. (Short answer – yes, you can.)

Another interesting feature of this book which worked quite well are the way it’s not all told by Ben – various other key players add their own anecdotes throughout, giving a different perspective and a sense of how much support is needed for such a large undertaking.

If you’re after a book about technique and tips on running form, this is not it. Much of the running talk is background to the other stories woven in and that is actually one of the strengths of this book – it’s a geniune reflection from a geniune person that will resonate whether your favoured distance is 5km or an ultra.

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