Keep On Running

They say that running can be therapeutic, it can clear the mind and allow crucial thinking time. So just how did one man’s thoughts on a regular run in the picturesque spa town of Harrogate, lead to local lad Ben Davis, running almost 500 miles around Yorkshire in just 18 days? That’s over a marathon every day. Oh and 41,000 feet of elevation, higher than Mount Everest! Carolyn Nicoll caught up with Ben (he was static at the time) for the rundown.

Why did you decide to run around Yorkshire?
I’m a keen runner and I craved a new challenge. It had to be big, it had to be unique and it had to be an adventure. In the past I’ve had battles with depression and mental health issues, I felt isolated and needed to do something. I wanted to raise money for CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably, that tackles male suicide.

When did you get the idea?
Whilst running around The Stray (200 acres of public parkland) in my home town of Harrogate, an area I’ve been exercising in on countless occasions. I was wondering what the biggest loop would be that I could run locally. Then it came to me; a lap of Yorkshire!

When did you start running?
Three years ago and it literally changed my life. I was about five stone heavier then and I was smoking a couple of packets of cigarettes a day. Something had to change. In 2016 I ran my first ever marathon, the London Marathon. I’ll never forget the feeling at mile 25, running along the banks of the Thames and I knew I was going to finish and become an actual marathon runner. The incredible magic of that day was coupled with some uncertainty but also an intense relief at the finish line and I wanted that feeling again. The Dublin Marathon followed that same year and then in 2017 I ran six marathons, but I knew that I needed to up the stakes. I’d looked into multi-day marathons in various locations across the world but some would have ended up costing me thousands of pounds to enter and to get there. The answer turned out to be on my doorstep. I set off from Scarborough on 1 August 2018, Yorkshire Day, finishing in exactly the same spot eighteen days later.

How did you feel before the challenge?
Incredibly nervous. The whole thing had been built up so much and many people knew about the challenge. Although I’d trained heavily, I’d never run such a long distance before on consecutive days and I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it.

Support along the way?
It was amazing from start to finish. On the first day so many people turned up to South Bay Beach in Scarborough and members of the Welcome to Yorkshire team started off with me. That first night I camped up beyond Whitby and I got an email from a chap named Jonathan. He’d seen my details on the tracker and wanted to join me the next morning. At 5am we met up, watched the incredible sunrise and set off on the run. Then at Staithes eight more runners turned up and we headed for Redcar. There was so much support and encouragement and it just kept on coming.

What were the best bits?
The feeling of adventure was absolutely massive. I’m aware that I was actually never really that far from home but the life that I was living over the eighteen days was so different, carrying my kit, camping out and discovering so much about Yorkshire. A really brilliant experience! The people that I met en route were amazing. As I ran into Hull I was suddenly joined by a whole group of runners from a local athletics club who had heard what I was doing and wanted to be part of it. Their enthusiasm and encouragement was fantastic. The Yorkshire landscape is so varied, from coast to countryside and at times I was even running through industrial estates that made me feel like I was on a film set. The ten miles from Redcar to Middlesbrough turned out to be particularly enjoyable.

The most challenging bits?
The toughest part was actually one of my favourite parts, from Tan Hill Inn (the highest pub in the British Isles) to Whernside (the highest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks). It was the most challenging 32 miles ever! I was running around the edge of Yorkshire and this sometimes meant taking a route that had no actual paths. This particular stretch was hard core, over rough terrain, up and down, but I loved it.

Heading out of Hull I hit a big problem. I ran the first seven miles, then slowed to a walk and a hobble. It was 17.6 miles between me and Kilnsea with nothing in between, no villages, no houses. My leg was seriously injured and I knew that I still had 100 miles to go to the finish. The poles came out and I walked with sticks for 20 miles. News had spread on social media about my predicament and Lucas Meagor, Race Director of the Hull Marathon had heard about my dilemma and was on the case, then out of nowhere, turned up physiotherapist Laura. We’d never met before and she’d driven for miles to come to my rescue. After working on my leg for two hours, I was then able to run the remaining miles.

Were there times on the run when you thought you may not make it?
The Tan Hill to Whernside part of the run was particularly tricky, over moorland and hills, the fog was dense and I could only see 2 metres in front of me. I felt completely alone and that I just didn’t have the proper navigation equipment with me. I then fell into a bog, up to my waist in water and I was completely disorientated. I couldn’t work out east from west and eventually got a call from my sister who had been tracking my progress. She informed me that I was actually now running in completely the wrong direction!

What motivated you to keep on running?
The support from so many individuals, in person during the run but online too. So many people had opened up to me about their own depression and some of the stories were harrowing. I knew I couldn’t give up, emotions were overwhelming and money for the charity was pouring in too.

What areas of Yorkshire impressed you the most on your run?
There were so many, but Stanage Edge in the Peak District, just outside Sheffield was particularly breathtaking, with amazing views. Running through the area, over moorland and away from the paths took me back to my geography class days.

Any parts of Yorkshire you hadn’t been to before?
Loads! I’m a regular to The Dales but there were parts of it that I’d never been to and I saw it from a completely different perspective this time, as I was off the beaten track. I’d never been to the Peak District but I was blown away with its beauty and the gorgeous beaches near Kilnsea in East Yorkshire with their sweeping golden sand, that I had all to myself, were stunning.

Where in Yorkshire would you send people to visit?
The Cleveland Way with its dramatic coastline and colourful heather moorland was very impressive. Whitby and Staithes with all that history and the sea views, just gorgeous and as for the sunrises!!!

How much have you raised to date?
Over £26,000. The original target was £10,000. but people were so generous it was upped to £15,000 then £20,000. I’m still doing talks and people are still donating. It’s amazing. Now for my next challenge. Watch this space.

This article was taken from This is Y 2019.