The Wearside running community and students from a Sunderland college turned out in force to support a man who is attempting to run an incredible 401 marathons in 401 days.
Ben Smith is trying to break a world record, while raising awareness about bullying issues in society, and £250,000 for charity.
The 33-year-old is currently running through the region and his route took him through the streets of Sunderland and to Southmoor Academy, where students and staff joined him for the final few miles of his 183rd marathon.
Ben suffered bullying from a young age and twice tried to take his own life.
He came out as gay when he was 31 and from that moment started to turn his life around, taking up running and completing his first half marathon in 2012.
In 2014 he ran 18 marathons, seven of which were back to back.
The challenge is about showing people that no matter what you go through growing up there can always be a positive outcome if you want there to be.”Ben Smith
Ben said: “Having never been very good at sport at school you could say I had started from nothing which made the achievement even sweeter.
“It was from this that the 401 Challenge was born.
“The challenge is about showing people that no matter what you go through growing up there can always be a positive outcome if you want there to be.”
During his record breaking run, Ben, from Bristol, is visiting schools and colleges to speak to students about bullying.
At Southmoor Academy, in Ryhope Road, he addressed 200 youngsters before 10 of them, along with two members of staff, joined him for the final six miles of his latest marathon.
The Sunderland route was devised by Sunderland Strollers running club and former world champion athlete Steve Cram and included this year’s Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon course, finishing at Keel Square. As part of his challenge, Ben is raising money for two charities – Stonewall and Kidscape.
Steve also ran with Ben for the last six miles, along with Sunderland’s Rio Olympics marathon hopeful Aly Dixon and other members of Sunderland Strollers.
Steve Cram adds: “What Ben is doing is phenomenal and quite hard to comprehend. Completing just one marathon is a huge achievement for most people, so running 401 in 401 days will be a staggering effort.
“We were delighted to be able to help with Ben’s run in Sunderland, which was a nice test of the Siglion Sunderland City Half Marathon course. “
The 401 Challenge will make its way north between now and March 10, before heading into Scotland. For more information visit www.the401challenge.co.uk or follow @the401challenge on Twitter.