COMPLETING one marathon is tough enough – how about tackling 401 back-to-back?
That is the gruelling challenge running extraordinaire Ben Smith has been taking on for the past year.
And with the home straight now in sight, Ben called on the area’s fitness fanatics yesterday to join him in his 392nd marathon.
Some 80 people joined Ben on his route, which saw him jogging from 1000 Lakeside, in North Harbour, to Portchester and back, then lapping around the lake before heading to Farlington and Hilsea.
It was his third time visiting the city for his challenge.
Those running included Irene Pollard, of Gosport.
How Ben finds the energy to get up in the morning, 392 times, and run I’ll never knowTony Conway, Portsmouth Joggers Club
The 73-year-old is battling breast cancer and is halfway through her chemotherapy.
But that did not stop her from taking on the opening run from Lakeside.
She said: ‘Ben’s fantastic. We saw him last September at the Mountbatten Centre and to see him now, over a year later and still going is just incredible.’
Irene – who has been with the Portsmouth Joggers for 32 years – has had breast cancer three times as well as kidney cancer once.
She added: ‘I’m halfway through my chemo and I had to come and see him. He said I was an inspiration to him.’
Husband Phil, 74, has completed a total of 75 marathons – and every Great South Run in Portsmouth. He tackled the opening 13-mile stretch and said: ‘What he is doing is brilliant. I’m amazed he still has the energy left.’
Naouele McHugh, 36, of Farlington joined the afternoon leg. She said: ‘I train to do one marathon a year – he is doing one marathon a day. He is a true inspiration.’
Ben quit his job to take on the event, which he hopes will raise £250,000 for charity.
The challenge will see him run 10,506 miles, which is the distance between London and Sydney.
Thousands of people have already joined him on a run.
But speaking of Portsmouth, he said: ‘Today has been a great. The reception has been absolutely fantastic.
‘I’m so close to the end it feels both amazing and frustrating.
‘I’m so close I want it to be over but at the same time I really don’t.’
Tony Conway, 58, of the Portsmouth Joggers, organised yesterday’s run for Ben.
He said: ‘Ben’s awesome. How he finds the energy to get up in the morning, 392 times and run, I’ll never know.’
Ben has raised £165,000 so far. His last run is in Bristol on October 5.
To donate to his effort, see the401challenge.co.uk