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A marathon every day during 2024 hardly seems possible! And it's all for charity.

We love stories of personal challenges and especially when fundraising for charity is involved. 'Marathon Man' is a phrase often used and it's never been more relevant than in this case. Enter James Cooper.

James is an avid ultra runner and fundraiser six weeks into an extraordinary challenge in 2024 to run 366 marathons in 366 days, all in support of the renowned mental health charity, Samaritans and to raise awareness of his Smilinggg initiative, The Smilinggg Mile. This remarkable feat aims to raise awareness and funds for Samaritans' life-saving work, providing vital support to those in need.

East Grinstead, West Sussex in the UK is set to witness an unparalleled display of determination and resilience as James takes on this monumental task. The challenge, Smilinggg 366, commenced on 1st January 2024 and concludes on 31st December 2024 covering a staggering distance of 9,589.2 miles throughout the year.

Samaritans, a leading mental health charity, has been providing emotional support to individuals in distress for over 70 years. Their dedicated volunteers offer a listening ear, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ensuring that no one has to face their darkest moments alone. The funds raised through this challenge will directly contribute to Samaritans' ongoing efforts to prevent suicide and support those struggling with their mental health.

James has a personal connection to Samaritans' cause, recognising the importance of mental health support and the impact it can have on individuals and their loved ones. Inspired by Samaritans' unwavering commitment to saving lives, James has set an ambitious fundraising goal of £703,000 to help ensure that Samaritans can continue their vital work. This significant number highlights, honours and pays tribute to the 703,000 people around the world each year who die from suicide.

In 2014 and 2015 James experienced a depressive period within his life that rocked him to his core. An emptiness that was difficult to convey with words. James can't recall exactly when, but remembers reading a book called Mindset by a lady Carol S. Dweck. He didn't quite realise at the time, but it planted a seed and ignited the faintest spark in his mind. The power to believe we can improve. That who we are in this very moment isn't who we always have to be. It opened his awareness on an intellectual level that we can grow and things can and will improve through purposeful effort.

Over the course of many months, with small but purposeful effort, his situation did slowly but surely improve, and what came from the darkness was Smilinggg. The Smilinggg Mile proved fundamental in helping James improve his mental health and wellbeing. It has since provided a framework to live his life by. Not bad considering it all started by Googling 'How to be happy.'

Throughout the year, James will be running marathons predominantly in and around East Grinstead, but is keen to run further afield if opportunities present themselves, with the intention of engaging with local communities, businesses, and running enthusiasts to raise awareness about mental health and the services provided by Samaritans and The Smilinggg Mile. The challenge will also serve as an opportunity to encourage open conversations about mental health, reducing stigma, and promoting overall well-being.

James is calling on individuals, businesses, and organisations to support this incredible endeavour by making a donation to Samaritans. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a significant impact on the lives of those in need.

Donations can be made securely through the donation platform JustGiving, and regular updates on the challenge's progress will be shared on James’s Instagram and Facebook pages.


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