Pals help Northampton charity runner Ben Hope over the line as he raises £5,500

Ben Hope completed his mammoth 406-Mile February Calendar Challenge - with a little help from his friends!

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 11:16 am
Ben Hope runs around the County Ground as part of his February Challenge
Ben Hope runs around the County Ground as part of his February Challenge

The Rugby & Northampton AC athlete set out to run every day in the month of February to raise funds for the Young Minds mental health charity, starting by running one mile on February 1, two on February 2, and so on until the 28 days were up.

It was a very tall order, but things were going well for the teenager until he hit something of a brick wall on day 21.

That was when he realised a tendon injury meant he could barely walk, never mind run... which was when his friends stepped in to make sure the challenge was completed.

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Ben Hope spent 20 days out on the paths and roads of Northamptonshire

Fellow runners who had been following Hope’s progress on Instagram offered to finish the challenge for him and providing the rest of the outings needed to finish the 406 miles.

And, with 196 miles still needed to be completed, Hope’s friends smashed the target as between them they ran more than 1,000 miles to ensure the fund-raising effort was accomplished - and what a stunning success it was as well.

Hope set out with the intention of raising £1,000 for Young Minds, and as it stands the amount he has raised is a whopping £5,480, and the money is still coming in.

A middle distance runner for R&N, specialising in the 1,500m, Hope knew he was setting himself a very stiff target with the February challenge, but that was entirely the point.

Ben Hope gets some steps in at the PTS Academy Stadium

“My normal long run in a week would be 10 miles, which is why I knew the challenge was always going to be very intense,” said Hope, who was born in Northampton and lives in Silverstone.

“I liked the challenge because I genuinely didn’t know if I could finish it, rather than just a fun run, and I wanted to test myself as well as raise money.”

So why the Young Minds charity?

“I am only 19, so I empathise and I also have a younger brother, and I see, especially in lockdown, it has been hard for everyone, but especially young people,” said Hope, who is a university student in Birmingham.

Ben Hope did a few laps of Franklin's Gardens as part of his charity challenge

“They are isolated from all normality and are missing out on some key milestones in their life.

“In terms of the running, as a runner myself, I know how much sport can help, not only with the physical aspect, but also socialising and the mental health aspect as well.

“So I thought I would combine the two and try and raise some money for a brilliant charity.”

Hope has featured in these pages before, as on day 15 his run saw him take in the three main sporting stadia in the town, namely Northamptonshire’s County Ground, the Saints’ Franklin’s Gardens and the Cobblers’ PTS Academy Stadium.

Some of the runs carried out by Ben Hope's Instagram followers to help him complete the February Challenge

Sadly, it was a couple of days later that the injury that would end his personal bid started to flare up.

“The injury came on on day 17, and it was one of those where I just needed a day off, which was something I couldn’t do,” said Hope.

“So it just built up and built up, and I woke up on the morning of day 21, and I just couldn’t bend my left knee. I went out on to my drive, and I just couldn’t run.

“Mentally, you know that no day you have got coming up is going to be easier than the one you have just done.

“Normally I would do a 10-mile run and then take the next day off, and it got to a point, I think it was about day 15, when I started to not enjoy it any more as it was getting really, really hard.

“I would come home and just want to sleep.”

So how did the intervention of social media friends from up and down the country come about?

“I was tracking the challenge on Instagram, and I had people from all over the country who were following it,” said Hope.

“It took ages for me to do it because I felt I was giving up, but I just put a post on there saying I can’t carry on as I can’t bend my leg, and I need some help.

“I said ‘it’s not going to be the same, but if anybody can donate some miles by walking, running, cycling, anything, then just send in a photo of you doing it, or your watch or phone tracker or anything, and between us we can finish the challenge’.

“On that first day I got about 120 miles, and over the final seven or eight days there were about 1,000 miles donated and it was amazing, it brought a new sense to the challenge.”

And although disappointed not to be able to physically complete what he had set out to do, the charity he was raising money for focused on the positive that he had asked others to help him.

“Young Minds said that although doing that wasn’t what I wanted, it was kind of more what they are about,” said Hope, who is hoping to be able to return to competitive running this summer after a year of Covid disruption.

“Because I was a young person asking for help, and that a young person asking for help is not a weakness.

“It felt like it but it is not, that is just a running thing, so it was really good looking at it from that sense.”

People can still donate to Hope’s challenge fund by going to https://uk.gofundme.com/f/1-to-28-mile-february-challenge