Our History

About Us

Launched by the man who famously ran 401 marathons in 401 days, The 401 Foundation's mission is simple! We passionately strive to help people build their confidence and self-esteem along with tackling mental health and self-development issues, by financially supporting local community projects and individuals directly. Help us help those that need it the most, be part of something truly innovative, inspiring and empowering, help us make a positive change today, for a brighter tomorrow.

Ben's Personal Story

During Ben's childhood,  he like many kids suffered at the hands of bullies. All through his school life bullies  told him he wasn’t good enough, who he was as a person was wrong, that he wasn’t normal. The bullying had a profound impact on his confidence and self-esteem and unfortunately led to him trying to take my own life twice.

 

"I suffered from depression all through my twenties, pretending to be someone I wasn’t. On paper, I was successful, driven, confident, outgoing, but inside I was broken, a shell, had no confidence or self-esteem and suffered from severe mental health issues." 
Ben Smith (CEO and Founder of The 401 Foundation)

 

After a Transient Ischaemic Attack, (‘mini stroke’) at aged 29, he was forced to wake up, realised he couldn’t live the life he had been living anymore and decided to change it, but it was tough. How do you change the way you have been thinking for the past 20 years, it didn't happen overnight.

 

"I was  17.5 stone, a 40 a day smoker, depressed with no confidence or belief in myself, so I started to run. Through running, I found something inside me that I loved for the first time, something that brought back my adventurous spirit from when I was a very young kid. I finally had a fire in my belly and a purpose. My confidence grew, my self-esteem came back, and after two years I had run almost 30 marathons all around the world. But I felt I was destined to do something bigger."
Ben Smith (CEO and Founder of The 401 Foundation)

 

The 401 Challenge was born in 2014, a challenge that would see him run 401 marathons in 401 days all around the UK with an aim to raise £250,000 for two anti-bullying charities. The project not only aimed to inspire people, challenge them to do things they never thought they could do but also raise the awareness of the harmful effects bullying can have on your confidence and self-esteem. The challenge was a huge success. The challenge achieved all its goals raising over £330,000, inspiring over 13,500 runners to join Ben on his adventure, covering 10506.2 miles (equivalent distance of London to Sydney), climbing the equivalent of Mount Everest 15 times.

The world felt the effects of the 401 Challenge. People connected, people found solace in the challenge and over 1,600 were inspired to run further than they had ever run before in their lives. Adults and kids took part, spreading the message far and wide, culminating in a globally published finish.

The project won countless awards including The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award 2016, A National Fundraising Pride of Britain Award and many more.

 

"We couldn’t leave it there. Too much had changed in both my life and everyone that had been affected by the challenge."
Ben Smith (CEO and Founder of The 401 Foundation)

 

This is where the legacy came from and The 401 Foundation was founded