So the 2018 fundraising campaign had started. I had a place on the London Marathon, was planning the 100 Km run and had just developed the Virtual Run Series. You might think that those 3 elements would be enough. Oh no, the Running Stormtrooper had much more to do.
Treadmill Running - Camden Market
The charity ‘Spread A Smile’ have their small office in Chalk Farm (London) right next door to the ever popular ‘Camden Market’. The team at Spread A Smile were eager for me to try to do something at Camden Market and they managed to get permission for me to run on a treadmill at a key location at the market, next door to awesome ‘Cyberdog’ store. I leapt at the chance and suggested that I should run a Half Marathon like I did at Star Wars Celebration in 2017. All I needed to do was borrow a treadmill. With memories of trying to get hold of a treadmill for Star Wars Celebration still fresh in my memory, I knew it wouldn’t be straight forward. I tried numerous gyms and even a military establishment in London but nothing was easy. None of the gyms replied and the military barracks explained that I could borrow one but they couldn’t help me move it or transport it and it wasn’t on a ground floor. Without actually saying ‘no’ there were just too many hurdles put in place so I needed a different tactic.
It then occurred to me to simply try to buy one locally on eBay. Use it once and then sell it, maybe even at a profit. After looking at a couple I managed to be the winning bidder on a folding treadmill about 20 minutes away from me. I arranged to collect it the night before the big day (12th April), however when I arrived and explained to the seller what I’d be doing with it, he explained that he’d just discovered it had an issue. If you tried to quickly build the speed it would for some reason cut out. However if you slowly built the speed up to 6/7 mph it would be fine. This problem had only just been found by him apparently, and there was nothing he could do about it. It was far from ideal but I needed a treadmill for the following day and had no other options. I had to accept it. I knocked him down from £50 to £30, tested it for 15 minutes and then took it home. It worked as long as you built up the speed slowly, it would be ok, or so I thought…..
So the following day I drove my packed up car from Oxford to London. I met up with Daz Petford (ever faithful support crew for the Running Stormtrooper) and got set up. The location seemed perfect and I was full of optimism for a good days fundraising. A very kind company called Black Rock had also agreed to send a small band of helpers over who would act as my charity money collectors, all wearing Spread A Smile hoodies. This was looking good. I had my sights set on maybe £600-800.
Then the problems started. We plugged in the treadmill and I began to test it. I was aware that I needed to build up the speed slowly, so I was cautious. Then suddenly the machine tripped off, even though it had only reached 4 MPH. I reset it and started again, bang the same thing happened! Oh my goodness, what was going wrong?? I slowly started it again, same thing happened. Nightmare, how on earth could I run a Half Marathon if I couldn’t get it much faster than a fast walking pace? I started to make the most of a bad situation, people were still fascinated by watching a Stormtrooper on a treadmill so I just cracked on, walking fast, then occasionally breaking into a jog. Sometimes it would be 10 minutes before the treadmill tripped, sometimes 30, occasionally it would be after just 2 or 3. In short, this treadmill was awful. Totally unreliable and actually a bit of a danger to me. Never mind, people seemed fascinated and stood watching with their phones in their hands taking hundreds of photos. The second disappointment was the fundraising. Whilst there was a load of people there, the vast majority of them were French school children who understandably didn’t really feel obliged to donate any money, fair enough. We were getting some money thrown in the buckets but not on the scale I’d seen before in Orlando. People were mainly just watching, taking photos then walking away. In Orlando the donations are coming in from all angles. I think this lack of donations was a combination of the Running Stormtrooper not really running much and the language barrier.
After 3.5 hours of jog/walking the Running Stormtrooper finished his half marathon. We packed up and headed back to the office to count up the charity money. In total £231 had been raised. I was disappointed with the outcome of the day as I had such high expectations based on my previous experience and thought that the Camden Market day would really work well. I felt that, if I had known that I would only raise £231 I probably wouldn’t have taken a day off of work, travelled to buy the treadmill and traveled from Oxford to London. It seemed like a lot of effort and expense for just £231. That said, the Spread A Smile team were delighted with the result and explained what that money could be used for and that they were delighted because by simply having the Black Rock team there wearing the Spread A Smile hoodies they had managed to get the small charity some really good exposure! So it was totally worth it, I just needed to have a word with myself, maybe I was just tired!
Dealing with the treadmill company.
What also upset me about the treadmill was there was also a really good chance that I’d have another opportunity to treadmill run at a Star Wars convention in Redditch later in April. If this treadmill was unreliable that would be another dashed opportunity. I needed to get this treadmill fixed or replaced. Then it occurred to me that the treadmill company might want to help, after all this was a Proform treadmill and they seemed to be a good brand. It could be really good for them if they were able to either send a technician to fix my treadmill, or even better loan me one for the opportunity in Redditch. It could be a really good PR opportunity to them. I contacted the Proform PR company ‘Munro Forster’ and explained the situation. I explained what I had been up to, what my future plans were and how they might be able to help. I explained that this could be a great opportunity for both parties. The PR lady asked me to write everything in an email and she would pass it on. I did so, I sent them everything. The following day I got a reply explaining that they had received my email and they had sent it on to Proform. I then heard nothing. I waited for 10 days and then asked if anything could be arranged as the next opportunity was in 7 days and I needed to get something sorted. They gave me the same answer and said that they’d be looking into it. That was the last I heard from them. Proform had a great opportunity to support this charity endeavour and get some good publicity. Instead the didn’t even have the decency to reply to me. Bad form Proform.
I was determined to make sure the next treadmill event would work better. I’d forget all about Proform and go for something more reliable.
So there we go. Another chapter in the Running Stormtrooper’s 2018 journal. Not the best event but something which Spread A Smile were still delighted with, so that made me happy enough.
Massive thanks to the Camden Market management for giving me the opportunity, Daz Petford, Black Rock and the Spread A Smile team. Finally thanks to all of the ladies & gents at Camden Market who did make a donation, Spread A Smile were well chuffed.