London Marathon man who was homeless to run past bench he used to sleep on

·3-min read

A man who was homeless will be running past the bench he slept on for two years when he tackles the London Marathon in aid of the charity which helped get him off the streets.

Jay Flynn, 39, will run past the bench on Embankment which he called “No 3 Riverside Drive”, where he slept for two years after losing his job and a relationship breakdown.

Mr Flynn, who lives in Darwen, Lancashire, with his wife Sarah and son Jack, became a sensation during lockdown when his virtual pub quiz went viral after he mistakenly set a Facebook event to public instead of private and attracted half a million people.

The weekly quizzes quickly became a staple lockdown event, often bringing hundreds of thousands of people together, and still take place every week.

Jay Flynn
Jay Flynn sitting on the bench he once lived on (Martyna Przybysz/PA)

In 2020 he was awarded an MBE for his fundraising achievements and he is running the London marathon in aid of homeless charity The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which supported him 12 years ago.

The charity supports people sleeping rough and helps them find work.

Mr Flynn said: “Martins helped me when for two years I had no help, and I was on my own living on the streets of London and they came to my aid, they rebuilt me, they put me back to being a human and they rebuilt me from a shell of a person.

“And I said to them at the time, I will be forever and ever and ever in their debt, and I’m continuing to repay that debt.”

He added: “It’s the biggest ever challenge I’ve taken on in my 39 years of life because I can’t even run a tap, if there is a bus coming I won’t run for it, I’ll just wait for the next one.”

Jay Flynn
Jay Flynn set up a virtual quiz during the coronavirus lockdown (Jay Flynn/PA)

Mr Flynn’s running route will pass through the heart of Westminster, an area estimated to have the highest number of homeless people on the streets nationwide and where he used to live.

Dubbed the “Quiz masters’ quiz master” by Stephen Fry, since March 2020 Jay has raised more than £1 million for charities, and holds a Guinness World Record for the most viewers of a quiz on a YouTube livestream.

He is also set to appear on Eggheads, in the new series launching on Channel 5 on Monday, and is working with the Captain Tom Foundation later this year as he was an inspiration to Mr Flynn.

Captain Sir Tom Moore
Captain Sir Tom Moore is given a framed England shirt by David Beckham after he became the first member of the Lionhearts squad of inspirational heroes (Eddie Keogh/The FA0

Both Captain Sir Tom Moore and Mr Flynn were among the 23 England Lionhearts, a group nominated by the public and created by the Football Association to recognise their efforts during the 2020 pandemic.

The Connection at St Martin’s chief executive Pam Orchard said: “It’s down to the generosity of our supporters that we are able to continue our vital services to help people get off and stay off the streets of London and to meaningful futures and a place called home.

“We do this by tackling the underlying causes of rough sleeping as well as offering practical help.

“We’d like to thank Jay and all our runners for their incredible efforts in completing the London Marathon in October 2021.”

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