Multiple marathons maestro and anti-bullying campaigner Ben Smith shared his inspirational life story with children and parents in Long Sutton.
Ben (34) completed his 401st marathon in October – having run a marathon on 401 consecutive days and covering 10,512 miles – and has been talking to schools as an ambassador for the Grantham-based sports charity, Inspire+.
Belief is one of the most important things we have as humans. Inspiring our kids to believe in themselves and their ideas, no matter how crazy they may sound to us, can only be a good thing.Marathons maestro Ben Smith
Long Sutton Primary, as an Inspire+ school, listened to Ben’s heartfelt account of how he was bullied for eight-and-a-half years at boarding school and how that left him with such low self-esteem.
After coming out as gay, Ben decided to raise awareness of the damage caused by bullying and to raise money for his charities, Kidscape and Stonewall.
Head teacher Bill Lord said: “He was almost mesmeric. He was just so entrancing for the kids.
“He talked about running 401 marathons in 401 days and was just so, so humble.”
Ben had anti-bullying messages and advice for his young audience and said: “If I had said something to an adult then my school life would have been so much better.”
Mr Lord said: “It was very moving to watch somebody being so honest about what was a very desperate time for him and then watching him inspire a large group of children to find something that would drive them forward in their lives and what they could achieve as adults.”
Ben raised around one-third of a million pounds for two anti-bullying charities from his amazing running.
Around 70 pupils from all year groups were joined by parents for the after-school talk.
Ben told them: “Take one thing from today – I found something I love in running. It doesn’t have to be running for you – find something you love doing.”
Mr Lord said Ben talked quite a lot about the need for pupils to develop self-belief.
His audience learned he was unable to sleep for around three weeks after completing his multiple marathons.
Mr Lord said: “He was having to run half-marathons every day, not for fundraising, but because his body couldn’t cope with stopping running.”
Ben and his team embarked on a three-month ‘cool down’, which saw him do a month of daily half-marathons, a month of 10km runs and a month of 5km runs.
The school has previously hosted stars including London2London adventurer Sarah Outen and Paralympian Sam Ruddock.
Ben Smith was bowled over by the response he received from Long Sutton Primary pupils.
He told us : “I was so touched by the interaction from the kids.
“Having waited after school to hear me talk they were amazing listeners and the questions were very cleverly thought out.”
Ben revealed he wants to inspire children positively. He said: “I have a belief that if we can help our kids think about the way they interact with others, celebrate difference and look further afield than their local community, we can have a simple yet very effective impact on their future.
“Belief is one of the most important things we have as humans. Inspiring our kids to believe in themselves and their ideas, no matter how crazy they may sound to us, can only be a good thing.”
Ben is setting up the 401 Foundation – a grant-based foundation offering money to grass roots organisations that deal with building confidence and self-esteem, along with tackling mental health and self development issues. And in the new year he will make over 460 school visits nationally, spreading the word that difference should be celebrated and kids can do anything they put their minds to.