I am Jon Lawrence; I am 52 and have been a keen runner for around 12 years now. I have always combined my running with challenges as well as fundraising and in 2015 I organised one of Ben’s marathons as part of his 401 challenge. I was the secretary of the Waverley Harriers running club in Surrey at the time and we were contacted to see if we would be interested in supporting Ben. I really admire people who put themselves through extreme challenges to help others and this appealed to me. I have supported Ben and the 401 Foundation ever since and continue to look at ways I can support the good work the foundation does.
Running is very important to me, both for my physical and mental well-being. I love to push myself and challenge myself and every year, for the past 12 years I have done at least one marathon per year. Last year I did two marathons, and I had the privilege of running the New York marathon, which I did to raise funds for the 401 Foundation. I saw this as a good way of helping to start spreading the word of the Foundation ahead of the then upcoming USA Challenge. It was an amazing experience, and I was looking forward to helping with some of the logistics with planning the 401 USA Challenge.
As we know, 2020 did not quite pan out as we had all hoped!! Our whole world changed in March as lockdowns kicked in and we got used to start living with a global pandemic. My whole year previously tended to be built around running events and training for them, and suddenly this year that stopped as the events were cancelled. As I have said, I love a challenge and I love to push myself and so this year I needed something else to replace the real events.
I saw the Virtual USA Challenge email and I knew immediately I had to join up, show my support, and feel part of the 401 community in a very difficult year. I was amazed about the challenge that Ben is intending to take on, so now was my chance to get an idea of the scale of the challenge.
I started the Challenge and signed up for the full package, not only am I supporting a great cause, but I am also a sucker for a medal and a T shirt!! What I am finding about the Virtual USA Challenge since starting is just how big each state is, and how lots of roads tend to look the same. I know that when Ben comes to doing this for real, he is going to need some real metal and physical strength to get through this.
What I really like about the 401 Challenge is that I can look at a map everyday and see whereabouts I am and how far I have travelled. Its great to be then able to click on the map view and see where I am, and I get to see how others in the 401 Virtual Challenge are doing as well. At the time of writing, I am currently nearly 1800 miles into the challenge and close to being in Georgia. What this challenge has made me realise is the scale of what Ben is aiming to do in such a short space of time is incredible.
I have found that throughout the lockdowns and since March, the importance of running for my own mental health has increased. I am the type of person who needs to be out and about and feel like I am really challenging and pushing myself. Getting out almost daily for my exercise, gives me time to think and I love nothing better than that runners high when you finish a run and feel great and mentally setup for the day. To be able to combine this with the Virtual USA Challenge is great as I then have a constant target to also aim for, whether that is a certain mileage to hit in the week or a certain place on the map I want to get to during the week.
The support you get from the Foundation with the challenge is great too and I love collecting the State badges and the postcards from each state capital and the best bit for me is I am getting to know the country more from a geography point of view……as I said, the country is massive though and each state feels like running through its own country.
If anyone were thinking of joining the Challenge, I would encourage them to do it for sure. It provides you with the opportunity to be part of a fantastic supportive running community, it gives you the opportunity to create your own unique goals and it gives you the opportunity to reward yourself for doing something amazing that you enjoy doing anyway, whether that is walking, running or cycling.
If you want to join Jon and take part in one of our Virtual USA Challenge missions, you can register HERE, where will your adventure take you?