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Hold up a second, wait now. I thought you said that the 2018 - 100 Km run was “The Last Stormtrooper Run”?   Yes you’re right, I did say that, but a Stormtrooper can change his mind can’t he?  Please allow me to take you back to 2018, to a time when I thought the Running Stormtrooper had run his last run…

 …I’d been running as the Stormtrooper from 2016 to 2018 and been fortunate enough to hit all of my running and fundraising targets, which if you know your Star Wars pop culture you’d appreciate that target hitting isn’t really a Stormtrooper’s forte. The long run on the 17th of May was the last one, the big one, it was in my opinion unbeatable. 

I had moved on: I was entirely satisfied with the charity money which had been raised, happy that people had apparently been inspired to put on some running shoes and I also seriously needed a break. Most people will never really know how much work goes into a project like this, but trust me when I say that running was just the half of it!  Oh, plus there was the slight inconvenience of me having to work overseas with my job for the best part of 7 months!  

Fast forward to May 2019, I’d been home for a month or so from my time overseas, and was simply enjoying being me and having some much deserved family time. Then my wife and I received an invitation to the annual Spread-A-Smile fundraising dinner in London. Spread-A-Smile are the children’s charity who do the most pure and beautiful work as written about in 2018 here: To Run Again and Why We Need To Spread A Smile

My wife and I thought it would be nice to attend the dinner but the secondary effect of the evening caught me by surprise and was the catalyst for me dusting off the Stormtrooper armour once again.  This part of my personality is a bit of a strange one for people to fathom (including me): most of my non-military friends see me as the helicopter guy who has been serving his country for over 22 years and therefore is probably a bit of a tough nut to crack. However, if you put me in front of a slightly sappy movie or invite me to a children’s charity dinner I tend to get a little bit emotional, ok that’s a secret between me and you, don’t tell anyone about that! Anyway, during the fundraising dinner we were presented with vignettes from surgeons (unaffiliated with the charity), some parents and also some of the Spread-A-Smile children.  I couldn’t help but be moved once again. I turned to my wonderfully supportive (read incredible) wife and with slightly wet eyes apologised and said that I needed to do some more work.  At that stage I didn’t know what, it might have been simple fundraising or awareness building. It most definitely wasn’t running again. That said,  7 months later I’m writing a blog explaining what changed!

From May to November I’d been mulling things over regarding dusting off the suit again. Over this time period I’d noticed that a lot of my friends were asking me if I had any plans to do more. At this time I’d also started reading some articles and blogs from Make-A-Wish, so I started to come up with an idea.  Run once again for both Make-A-Wish and Spread-A-Smile, however I’d mix it up a bit: rather than have one big event I’d set a through year challenge to maximise the results.  In my head I was already setting a target of running 1000 miles in the costume. Yes 1000 miles!

I had some serious doubts though: concerns that some people would be tired of my fundraising. What if I failed to hit the fundraising target or the mileage target?

If you don’t mind I’ll use a movie analogy here: I really like the Rocky movies, however in my opinion they should have stopped at Rocky IV. The movie was brilliant, however after Rocky IV the series felt tired and uninspiring. I was worried that any future Running Stormtrooper efforts might be my Rocky V! To satisfy my doubts I emailed a few people within the Star Wars fandom community whose opinion I respected. I explained that up until this point the project had raised nearly £37,000 and I thought it would be nice to try to raise a specific amount in order to get the Running Stormtrooper to reach £50,000. I explained the situation and went into detail regarding the plan in my head and my worries about failing to hit the new target (for the first time). I asked them if they thought I should do it and requested honest feedback. 

One of the first replies I had was from Gus Lopez.

“I would keep the message simple: 1000 miles in a year. The details about your program each month are good for you to plan but probably more detail and too complicated for others trying to follow this.

I would suggest coinciding some your runs with various comic conventions, toy shows, movie screenings, etc. during the year, i.e. where there will be crowds of people willing to donate.

Why not set the target high like £100,000? Even if you fall short of it, you’ll raise a lot of money”

Thanks to Gus I started to feel positive about this. I also liked his point about simplicity and crazy high target. Then another reply, this time from my friend Ross Barr really made me think more optimistically about any potential challenge: 

“Jez, as I say to my kids all the time - If you do something with all your effort and a smile on your face, you are a success regardless of the outcome.  I think your focus on goals - length of running and money collected - are very ambitious and will guide and push you well.  But if you go out there, have fun, give folks a smile, and raise lots of money for more charities, I think it's an amazing thing regardless of whether you reach one or both of your goals, or neither.  

I do love the Rocky analogy, by the way.  Although the analogy falls apart because in continuing to crank out more and more Rocky movies (and now another Rambo movie??!!!), Sly Stalone was trying to hold onto something - his youth and the entertainment value of a character he created - that had long passed despite his continuing on that path, while you raising money and doing good for others WILL NEVER GET OLD.

You have my support in any way you need or want it.  I think you HAVE to do it now!”

Ross was right. If I failed to hit my fundraising target the only person who’d be upset would be me, some money was better than no money. Therefore I had a word with myself. It wouldn’t matter if 2020 wouldn’t be as successful as 2017 or 2018, regardless of how much I could raise for the 2 worthy charities, money would be getting raised.

As Gus suggested, I will spare you the in depth details of the 1000 mile breakdown and I’ll keep it simple at this stage:

1000 miles from 1st January to 31st December 2020.

There will be some big runs, and there will be a mega run (you haven't seen anything yet). Once again, I have the privilege of being supported by Pinewood Studios and Lucasfilm (more details in a future blog).

A 2020 Running Stormtrooper project target of £50,000 (to be added to the £36,676.83 which has been raised from 2016-2018)

We’re going to be making wishes and spreading smiles. Let’s do this!!

Fundraising - www.virginmoneygiving.com/therunningstormtrooperproject

Instagram - @stormtrooper_run

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/StormtrooperRun/ 

The Running Stormtrooper Project

2018 - The Hottest Marathon on Record

2018 - The 100 km Stormtrooper Run - Part 1 Lucasfilm

2018 - The 100 km Stormtrooper Run - Part 2 The Final Push