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Charity begins at work. Ben Dunlop runs the London Marathon for Aspire

By Ben Dunlop

09 May 2018

It’s not just about dressing up as a chicken or an oversized cartoon character! Ben Dunlop’s incentive to run the London Marathon was to raise money for charity after a friend and colleague at Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group, suffered a life a changing accident.

Ben works at Atkins as a practice director in energy systems and successfully raised over £13,000 for Aspire, a charity that supports people with spinal injuries. We caught up with him for an inspirational chat about his motivations to run and to learn more about his journey.

Congratulations on completing the London Marathon and raising funds for Aspire. What inspired you to start running?
Three years ago, I had an underlying health issue and part of the recovery was getting a bit fitter and reducing my stress levels. One day I just put on some trainers and went out running.
How did you find out about the charity Aspire?
One of my practice team suffered a bad climbing injury and Aspire were fantastic at helping her. There’s no cure for a spinal cord injury but I learned a lot about how the charity supports people. In fact, they helped my friend get back to work, despite what she had been through. I learned that the injuries impact not only the lives of those involved, but also families, friends and the work environment. Around half the people that suffer a spinal cord injury end up in care homes, irrespective of age, simply because most people’s homes aren’t suited for wheelchairs. If you’re a young sports-mad athlete it’s utterly demoralising. The mental impact is huge.

Have you run a marathon before?
Not at all. I think one of the great things about raising cash for charity is to experience something new for the first time. Also, it needs to be a personal challenge and a task where people appreciate the preparation involved.

Talking of preparation, how do you train for a marathon?
Good question. I researched a load of different plans and just got confused by them all. In the end I just got out and ran when I felt like it, always pushing the distances up. The only bit of real planning was to get in a couple of 20 to 23 mile runs a few weeks before race day.
It all went a bit wrong in mid-January when I broke my arm in two places which meant I couldn’t run for six weeks. So, I just did other things in a local gym to keep my fitness levels up. But not having a strict plan meant I didn’t feel stressed about not running.

How does Atkins encourage a #givingback culture?
Atkins gives employees two paid days a year to participate in charity work. They recognise people who are ‘givingback’ by promoting them through social media and internal communications. In an organisation of our size, it’s easy to raise the profile of these activities and for everyone to get involved and contribute.

Give us some figures: How much did you raise for Aspire and what was your time?
I managed to raise a total of £13,190.53 and my official time was 4:16:57. If you want more numbers then here you go…
During the run I passed 15,478 runners but only 44 passed me.
I finished in 13,014th place, ahead of 27,212,
My average speed was 6.1 mph
What advice would you give to anyone who might want to support a charity like Aspire, but isn’t up to running a marathon?
For me, the motivation came from knowing that I was helping a friend and colleague by raising money for Aspire. But most people can do a marathon… just look at me! Working at a place like Atkins that encourages charitable work is great, but unless there’s a physical reason why you can’t run, my advice is to not overthink it – and like the famous ad tagline, just do it!

We value people who have talent. Whether you’re a new starter or have years of experience, if you feel you could go the distance at Atkins like Ben, just give us a call.

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