Ben Hirst is an Australian running for a purpose.
On September 21st, Ben will set out to run 2,348 laps of a school oval in Tasmania in memory of the 2,348 men in Australia who were lost to suicide in 2017. Ben’s mission is to raise awareness for mental health and to normalise asking for help within our communities. He will be taking on this challenge in his Aussie Grit Apparel.
We caught up with Ben as he prepares for this epic run to find out more about his laps for lads challenge and his motivation for running overall.
What do you think it is about mental health that makes it such a big topic in the running community?
Well, I think about what motivates a lot of people to start running and for lots of us, it’s an outlet.
It’s an opportunity to switch off from the day to day and disconnect. Like a lot of people, I used to run with headphones and became really reliant on them on the trail. The time that I took them out, I realised all the sounds that I had missed out on over the years. It can really open your eyes; the trails are super calming and there is some kind of connection to nature that helps everything.
We are pretty spoilt in Tasmania with lots of amazing trails on your doorstep… It helps you switch off a lot more easily.
Can you tell us a bit more about the laps for lads challenge?
I don’t want to set something that I know I can complete. I put myself out there publically with these things and so I put everything in to it… I have no idea if I’m going to be able to complete it or not, like the other two challenges that I’ve done.
I’ve done similar things to this but not to this extent so it’s always a big nerve wracking. The one thing I’m pretty confident about is that the community will get around it.
Everyone is capable of amazing things, you don’t need to be gifted with the most amazing talent to do something really special. I hope people get some inspiration from this event to just keep going.
You’ve been training in your Aussie Grit Apparel, how are you finding the gear?
I first got a Tempo Top from the Ultra Trail Australia merchandise store. I was looking for a long sleeve top and there was nothing for me between a thick top and a fleece top.
What I found with the Tempo Top is that it’s quite flexible in hot weather as well as the cold… It’s really comfortable and flexible material that doesn’t get too hot.
I ran in it in a backyard ultra for 14 – 15 hours during the day and night and it’s one of my most comfortable pieces of clothing. I was just washing it and then putting it back on again so I was very happy to get another one for this challenge (laughs).
I’ve had a few runs in the (Icon) shorts as well and they are the same, really comfortable.
In Ultra-Marathons, if you have anything that is that bit uncomfortable after 20 hours it becomes really uncomfortable and annoying but with the Aussie Grit clothing you don’t need to think about it.
If there’s one thing that you’d like anyone who learns about your challenge to take away from it, what would it be?
The one thing that I want people to take away is that there’s no shame in asking for help.
Even if you think that you’ve lost all hope or you’ve gone from everything to nothing, there is always the opportunity to come back stronger than ever.
For me, I was in the same situation and I couldn't see any way out. A few years later, here I am. I just want to give people hope in this challenge and the message is to not give up.
You can follow Ben’s journey on Instagram @run_for_mental_health_
If you or someone you know needs support, please contact Lifeline: https://www.lifeline.org.au/