Ben McBean has just completed an epic 31-mile run around London in the shape of a poppy, and now it's your turn to fill in the gaps...
For a lot of people, losing two limbs in armed conflict would spell the end of their days running around. But thankfully, Ben McBean isn’t one of those people. Having lost an arm and a leg in Afghanistan in 2008, he’s just completed an epic 31-mile run around the streets of London for Vodafone #Firsts, and on behalf of the Royal British Legion.
To find out more about Ben’s incredible feat of endurance, and to learn how everyone in the UK can help to be a part of something amazing, we’ve been speaking to the man himself…
Getting up and running
“I was a Royal Marines Commando,” says Ben. “I joined after I left school, and then I went straight to Afghanistan. In 2008, just days before I was to return home, I stood on an IED and I lost my left arm and right leg.”
Brought home on the same flight as Prince Harry, Ben’s injuries were so serious that his chances of survival were slim. Eventually though, Ben awoke in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where he stayed for five weeks. Then, after a ten month rehabilitation, he wasted no time in beginning his ongoing tide of charity work. He ran the London Marathon just a year after being injured, and has continued to fundraise for charities including the Royal British Legion.
“Ben runs the perimeter, and then we all fill in the roads in between…”
“Over the years since then I’ve done various charity challenges and now I’m fitter and strong enough to do even bigger things. So when I was offered this opportunity to run round London for the British Legion with Vodafone, I couldn’t turn it down.”
The Big Poppy Run is a momentous 31-mile route around London and into its centre that, when tracked with a running app and viewed on the map, looks like a huge poppy. The idea? Ben runs the perimeter, and then we all fill in the roads in between by going on smaller runs with our own running apps between now and this Sunday, 9 November, donating to the cause in the process. The best bit? The Vodafone foundation will match every penny raised for the Royal British Legion, up to £100,000.
The Big Poppy Run means we only need to sweat it out for a street or two to do our bit, but for Ben, it was a much bigger undertaking. So how do you train for a 31-mile run on only one leg? The short answer is, you don’t:
“I didn’t do a lot of training,” Ben tells us. “My leg is very delicate, and if I do lots of training I end up losing loads of skin because of the sweat. So I had the choice of starting the run with skin and finishing with less, or starting with less and finishing with none. So I didn’t really do any training – I just jumped straight into the run.
“The first seven miles were OK,” he reveals. “We were having a bit of a laugh along the way. But I developed groin strain. So from mile seven to 31 it became a bit of an epic. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done because of that.”
A heroic cause
So with all 31 miles behind him, how does Ben feel? And how has JustTextGiving helped raise money for such a worthy cause?
“I’m definitely very proud,” he says. “I’ve been looking at some of the photos today from the run and it’s amazing to look back on. It’s not often that everyone – not just people you know – wants to help you get through something like this. And the fact that it’s a Vodafone #First is great. It means that nobody has done this before, and there was no way I was going to have the chance to be the first and not go through with it. It was really hard, but really worth it. Looking back, I just think ‘yeah: it’s in the bag, it’s done’, and that feels really good.”
“And the support has been amazing. Obviously not everyone agreed with the war or the politics, but I think everyone appreciates our individual efforts, and that we’re just doing the best job that we can do. It’s nice to be able to do my bit, and for the public to do their bit. And that’s why in the future I’d love to do this again.”
All the while, Ben and the Royal British Legion have been raising money using the JustTextGiving code POPP58. By texting ‘POPP58 £5’ to 70070, anyone can send that amount to the cause…
“JustTextGiving has been amazing because it’s so easy…”
“JustTextGiving has been amazing because it’s so easy,” he explains. “In the past, you’d have to sit there on the internet and guide someone through how to sponsor you. But with texting it’s easy: even my granddad can do it. It’s just a very easy number; you text your donation and that’s it: job done.
“Not everyone can be in London or run a bit of the poppy,” Ben says in closing, “but that’s fine – you can just text and donate – you can just do it while sat in front of the TV! With text donations you don’t have to go out of your way to donate, and I think that off the back of that people are a lot more willing to do it, because you’re not taking much time out of their day.”
Get involved… you can find out everything you need to know about the Big Poppy Run – including how to be a part of the run yourself, at the official website. To donate, just text POPP58 £5 to 70070.