The day before the day before the long run (that’s right 2 days) I had fully prepped my kit: checked, repaired and cleaned the costume/armour, prepped a first aid kit, prepared the clothes: 3 x pairs of trainers, 3 x pairs of socks, 2 x full under garments, prepped both stormtrooper helmets, bought LOTS of food and drink, packed energy bars and updated all social media. It was busy times. I also printed and laminated some posters for social media. I felt fit, I felt ready and I hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol in nearly 2 months.
The day before the run I went to work in the morning and took the afternoon off. It was all about chilling out. I went off for a light leg massage and got my legs taped up with Rock Tape (sports tape) I also spent about 10 minutes with my wife applying some bandages and plasters to the areas on me which are prone to getting cut by the suit. I also applied some blister pads to the sides of my feet as these are the areas where regardless of what trainers I wear, I get blisters when running as the Stormtrooper.
It was time. After months of planning, after months of training the day had finally arrived. At 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday the 16th of May I drove to Pinewood Studios to begin the biggest test of my life.
Throughout the planning for this Pinewood Studios and Lucasfilm had been fantastic. Lucasfilm gave me permission to run a figure 8 loop around their own private area of the studios known as Pinewood East. This great privilege was such a treat as most Pinewood Studios personnel don’t have access to this area. I couldn’t believe it. The rational being that it was the flattest area of the entire studios and therefore the safest and less fatiguing.
Two weeks prior to the run Lucasfilm had allowed me to do a quick recce of the route so I knew exactly where I was going. I would be running around the Lucasfilm complex from midnight until about 6.30 a.m. The route was just 1.2 km so it would get fairly repetitive! The plan was that after 6.30 a.m. I’d leave Lucasfilm and run down the main road until I got to the beautiful national park adjacent to the main site of Pinewood Studios ‘Black Park’. From there I’d continue running until the 99 km point when I’d enter the main site of Pinewood Studios. That was the plan, how would it work out??
How Long Will it Take?
One of the first questions people would always ask me during the lead up to this run was ‘How long will it take you?’ Well that was the Big Question. It was really tricky to know how it would go. Was it possible? Would I cramp out or worse? Plus running off-road takes a lot more out of you than running on road. I could typically run a road marathon in the armour in 5 hours, however when I ran the 40 mile run at Black Park the year before it took double that time. One could say that overall the average pace of the 40 miler was 4 miles per hour. That said, the first half was fairly rapid, the last stretch was really slow and down to just 3 mph. 100km is just over 61 miles, 21 miles more than last year! Therefore at best I figured that the 100 km would take me 7 hrs more. I then calculated that I really would be fatiguing in the last quarter and would need to stop more for first aid and fuel. The magic number I had in my head was completing the 100 km in 18 hours, and that would be really pushing it. That was the plan, and that wasn’t even taking into consideration unfavourable weather!!
As I was driving to Pinewood Studios I was going over my running plan in my head for the 50th time. I had hoped to have got some sleep earlier that day, but even though I had laid head on my pillow my mind was doing overtime and simply wouldn’t let me switch off. I would begin running at midnight, the run was scheduled to last for 18 hours, so even before my first steps that night I would have already been awake for over 17 hours! It would be a long day!
It’s true that if you surround yourself with wonderful people, you can achieve wonderful things. I am lucky enough to have some wonderful friends who literally went the extra mile for me!
Not long after I arrived at Pinewood Studios I was joined by Simon McCowan, Stephen Savory and Andy Bridge. Three top lads who would make sure that I had all the support I needed, plus Andy was a keen photographer who promised that he would take plenty of photos. We moved from Pinewood Main to Pinewood East, took over one of the Lucasfilm security buildings and got ready.
At just gone midnight we started running. First of all I was joined by Stephen, an incredibly experienced runner and extremely selfless friend. We started well, the pace was good and we actually had 10Kms in the bag by 1a.m. I knew that this pace wouldn’t last the whole day but whilst it was flat, I was fresh and the temperature was cool, I wanted to maximise what I could achieve.
As the kilometres built up I was joined by Stephen and Andy and Simon (on the safety bike) who took turns to keep me company. The times I was running on my own were very few and far between, the lads did me proud. It wasn’t long before I reduced the distance I was running without a break, I started with 10 km distances but found that I liked running 5 km then a short stop followed by 5 km with a longer stop. This strategy seemed to work well.
We were really smashing it but I really wanted to do that. I knew I had to leave the nice flat terrain of the Lucasfilm site between 6-7 a.m. and head over to the undulating off road terrain of Black Park. The more kilometres that could be achieved prior to Black Park the better.
Running around Lucasfilm in the middle of the night was so cool for a bunch of Star Wars fans. We were having Nerdgasms just being there. As you can imagine, the chat was mostly about Star Wars, I won’t bore you with the details. The privilege of being allowed to be there wasn’t lost on us though. This is where the movies are getting made. Behind the doors we were running past, there were props and sets being crafted by some of the best in the business. Our eyes were on stalks to see what we could actually see whilst running around. Suffice to say we loved the experience. I’m grinning now whilst typing this!
As the sun came up we were joined by Marc Hockley who quickly put on his trainers and got involved. The Star Wars chat continued and we simply had a good time. It was then time to pack up our base and head over to Black Park.
The lads sorted everything out and drove all of the vehicles, including mine to the next rendezvous (Go-Ape at Black Park). I waved goodbye to Pinewood East and out on to the public road. It must have been odd for the numerous pedestrians, commuters and delivery drivers who saw a stormtrooper running along the main road outside of Pinewood Studios. For the first time of the entire run I had people to wave at! My spirits were high, really high. I was delighted to have surpassed 40 kms before leaving Pinewood so it was then a personal challenge to run as fast as I could (on my own) around Black Park until I got to the 50 km point. I was completing speed/distance/time calculations in my head and I realised that with some determination I could get to 50 kms by 7 a.m. It was a real push but I made it. I was absolutely delighted that in less than 7 hours I had run 50 kms, over 30 miles. I was half way!!
The second blog for the May the 17th run is here: 2018 - The 100 km Stormtrooper Run - Part 2 The Final Push