By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate staff
EXETER — “Ben, you’re a hero, man. You’re a hero.”
Those words were spoken Saturday night by South Huron Hospital board chairperson Jeff Keller, but there were probably many more in the audience thinking it.
Keller was speaking of South Huron’s Ben Armstrong, who had just completed a triumphant 11-hour, 84-kilometre double marathon throughout South Huron to raise money for the hospital. So far Armstrong’s double marathon, dubbed “One Strong Run,” has raised more than $31,000.
Armstrong started his run at the South Huron Medical Centre just after 7 a.m. Saturday and finished back at the medical centre about 11 hours later. In between was a grueling run which saw Armstrong suffer leg injuries and require his knees to be taped.
Along the way he was cheered by supporters and a large group met Armstrong at Hansen’s Independent and ran the final stretch with him down Main Street to the medical centre.
“Ben, you are amazing,” Keller said upon his completion of the double marathon.
South Huron Mayor George Robertson said watching Armstrong’s run is a good learning experience for youngsters, and added the hospital has always had the backing of the community.
South Huron Hospital Foundation chairperson Pat O’Rourke said, “Ben, you are an inspiration. Just fabulous.” He thanked Armstrong and all those who helped make the run a success.
O’Rourke noted Armstrong’s fundraising goal was $10,000, which was surpassed weeks ago.
Armstrong’s friend Darren Kints, who ran part of the way, said his friend showed great courage and called it “one of the most inspirational moments of my life.”
Armstrong denied the hero label and said he just wanted to help. He said he has a passion for running and was inspired by Theresa Carriere of London, a breast cancer survivor who ran 100 kilometres in a day to raise money for breast cancer research.
“I’m not a hero. I’m just a resident of South Huron,” Armstrong said, adding he had many people to thank.
Sunday afternoon Armstrong told the Times-Advocate his legs were “a little tight,” but he otherwise felt good.
Speaking of the difficulties he faced during the run, Armstrong said after completing his first marathon at Mount Carmel, he felt pain below his kneecap outside Crediton. Massage therapist Kendra Craig was called in, who taped up Armstrong’s knee, allowing him to continue.
But on the west side of Crediton, Armstrong faced more difficulties.
“When I stopped for massage again I could feel my leg start to cramp up again and tighten up . . . It was really tough. Everything had seized up.”
After more massage work, Armstrong was good to go.
“It took a good little bit to get it loosened up again, but once we got it loosened up it was a lot better. I was able to keep going.”
Despite the injuries, Armstrong said he knew he was going to finish his double marathon.
“I wasn’t going to stop.”
He said he had supporters running with him and offering him encouragement.
“I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to finish somehow.”
Armstrong said it was amazing and overwhelming to see so many people cheering him on during his final stretch on Main Street and when he arrived at the finish line. He says he wishes he was able to talk to more people upon completion of his run.
Of the $31,000 raised, Armstrong said, “That’s awesome.”
He said he’d like to see the money go towards the hospital’s physiotherapy department and palliative care room.
Armstrong wanted to give particular mention to those who ran with him at various points along the way, including his girlfriend Tanya Mero, Gavin Snell, Tony Van Mierlo, Mike Boyle, Ange O’Handley, Bruce Lamb, Darren Kints and Mark Lynn.