2016 was a big year for the running stormtrooper,
a.k.a. Royal Air Force officer Jez Allinson. Not only did he run
the London Marathon on May 24, 2016, raising £5,355.92 for
Make-A-Wish Foundation UK and their Make a Star Wars Wish
initiative, but he also put himself on the radar of Star
Wars fandom in the UK and abroad.
It was a superb effort, which StarWars.com
featured, but for Jez that was far from the end of the story.
Spurred on by the great reaction to his London Marathon run and
going over 200% beyond his target of £2,000, he made plans to not
only match but exceed his 2016 efforts. Jez would compete
in three separate runs — and StarWars.com spoke to Jez about
his mission, just in time for today’s celebration of Global Running
Part one of his mission took him across the
Atlantic to Orlando and Star Wars Celebration, where he raised
money by running on a treadmill.
StarWars.com: You did a magnificent job last
year of raising money and awareness. So what inspired you to do it
all again in 2017?
Jez Allinson: It was a fantastic
opportunity to raise awareness of Make-A-Wish and the Make-A
Star Wars Wish project. I’m extremely grateful to
Lucasfilm for taking a chance on me and allowing me this
StarWars.com: When did this idea first
Jez Allinson: I had been planning
for this ever since the first e-mail from Pete Vilmur explaining
that I would be at Celebration Orlando. I spent seven weeks trying
to convince people to lend me a treadmill, and finally at the 11th
hour I was able to borrow one from the Orlando PD. I have to thank
to the 501st for helping make this happen. I didn’t know until
landing at Orlando airport that it had been delivered!
StarWars.com: So how did Celebration Orlando
Jez Allinson: I was manning booth
1953 for four days. It was in a prime location and, as promised, I
ran a half marathon each day on the treadmill. The booth was decked out with
banners, balloons, posters and information about
Make-A-Wish. I had
vinyl Make A Star Wars Wish wristbands made to give out
for a small [voluntary] donation, free photo ops, stickers, and
balloons for the kids. I found that when I was running the
donations came in thick and fast, but when I wasn’t running it
dried up. Because of that I spread my running out during the day.
I’d run for 10 minutes, then stop for 20 minutes, then run another
mile and then stop for 20. This meant I was able to spread the
distance over several hours, which maximized my charity fundraising
opportunities. With the exception on the first day I raised over
$1,200 every day and raised a total of $5,228 over the four days of
StarWars.com: You were very visible on the
convention floor and you also managed to get seen on the live
Jez Allinson: Yes, I was over the
moon when I was contacted by The Star Wars
Show asking me if they could do a field interview. I also found out
that Nathan Hamill had put a video of me running on his Instagram
and I was told that Riz Ahmed walked past my booth and took a snap,
which is very cool.
Celebration was a big success. Jez travelled back
across the Whale Pond to the UK for the second leg of his
fund-raising venture, revisiting the London Marathon.
StarWars.com: Running so many miles at
Celebration, in the heat and in armor is tough enough, and then you
took on the London Marathon. How did you get ready for that mammoth
Jez Allinson: True, Celebration was
hardly the best preparation for the London Marathon. My legs were
tired, my body was low on carbs, I was jet-lagged, and I was
generally fatigued. If I could have chosen the dates I wouldn’t
have put them so close together, but I couldn’t miss the
opportunity to go to Orlando. I arrived back in the UK on Wednesday
morning and 72 hours later I was in London registering for the
StarWars.com: Mentally, that must have been
Jez Allinson: I began the race full
of self-doubt because I was so tired. I knew I had to run as hard
and fast as I could in the suit if I wanted to set a new world
record. Guinness had set a qualification time of four
hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Last year I ran it fresh,
prepared, body-fueled, and at the peak of my fitness, and it took
me just over five hours. I knew that the odds were stacked against
me, but as Han says, “Never tell me the odds.”
StarWars.com: Runners often say the crowds
can pull you the last few miles home. Did they play a part in
getting you across the finishing line?
Jez Allinson: The support of the
crowd was awesome. So many great banners, so much fun. However, I
must have been called Darth or Darth Vader at least 30 times! Very
strange. There were lots of “Aren’t you a little short…,” “This
isn’t the run you are looking for,” and “May the Force be with
StarWars.com: Did you “hit the wall” at any
Jez Allinson: At 18 miles, it hit
me. For the first time ever, I hit the wall! My legs turned to
lead, I had nothing left in the tank, and my hopes of taking the
record were fading fast. From then on in it was even more of a mind
game. I was having to stop to smash my legs down to get the blood
flowing in my muscles and I was really conscious of people falling
down around me every once in a while with cramp. It wasn’t nice. I
had to keep my helmet on for every step of my run, which is a
Guinness World Record rule. That meant that I had to stop to eat
and drink as opposed to drinking and taking on water as I ran. I
ended up stopping a lot towards the end of the run and taking on
whatever sweets, chocolate, and fruit I could get my hands on.
StarWars.com: When did it dawn on you that
you were going to break the record?
Jez Allinson: When I got to the
23-mile point, I knew I had it in me to finish, but I could see the
clock counting down fast. When I rounded the final corner at
Buckingham Palace and had 200 meters to go, I could see the clock.
It really was going to be close. When I passed the line I didn’t
know what to think, the emotions became all too much. I was very
quickly grabbed by a smart man in a blazer and trousers from
Guinness who congratulated me and told me I’d done it. I’d set the
record with just 47 seconds to spare! I was made to pose for a few
photos and then left to get my finishers goodie bag. I kept my
helmet on as I could feel myself totally getting teary. I was
drained of all energy and I was emotionally done in. I removed my
helmet and thought, “Well, if someone ever wanted to see a crying
stormtrooper, now’s the chance.” I wasn’t ashamed, I just simply
had no energy left to care.
StarWars.com: It sounds like this really took
everything you had to get it done.
Jez Allinson: I’ve never felt so
tired in my life. I’ve run marathons before, I’ve run longer
distances, but I’ve never had to run so hard in my life.
Jez then turned his attention to the third and
final part of the challenge. Forty miles around Black Park,
near Pinewood Studios.
StarWars.com: So, you’d run at Celebration,
then less than a week later, ran the London Marathon for the second
year, and finally you prepared to tackle what was arguably the
biggest challenge of all, 40 miles around Black Park near Pinewood
Studios. Were you mentally prepared for this?
Jez Allinson: Even though this was a
much longer run I felt much more confident. I was more prepared,
better rested, and had fueled up on pasta all week. The day of the
run came and I drove to Black Park with my good friend and fellow
Vintage Rebellion podcaster Grant Criddle. We were joined by
several members of Star Wars Forum UK, Stu Skinner,
Stephen Savory, Marc Hockley, Darren Petford, and Peter Lee. We
were even joined by Brian Muir, the man who sculpted the original
Darth Vader helmet, and his wife Lindsey.
StarWars.com: What time did the run
Jez Allinson: I began running at
7:45 a.m. and soon started building up the miles. Everything was
going okay until I had one fairly big fall at the 8-mile point, but
apart from that I was fine. Stephen Savory was very good at nagging
me to drink and eat at every opportunity, and he even applied a
dressing to a rather large blister at the 20-mile point. Some of
the members of the support crew took turns to join me and keep me
company for a few miles. After three unscheduled stops for live
radio interviews I found myself about 30 minutes behind my target,
but after a 10-hour day that’s not too bad!
StarWars.com: And then the final mile at
Jez Allinson: Yes, at the 39-mile
point I was escorted from Black Park through a side gate to
Pinewood Studios, where I was joined by a small team of Pinewood
staff and some of my support crew. We enjoyed a lap of the studio,
soaking up as much atmosphere as possible, until we rounded the
last corner, where I was joined by my wife and children and Oliver
Ball, a young Make-A-Wish recipient who was dressed in his very own
Biker Scout outfit. We all ran the last 100 meters together and
crossed the finishing line to cheers and a huge confetti
I had invited Oliver as I was really moved by his
story and wanted to give him a second wish. The community really
rallied around [him] and, prior to the day, they all contributed to
a huge toy chest full of Star Wars toys to spoil him.
Oliver was given the VIP treatment around Pinewood
Studios and got to see a few things, plus he had a quick photo with
a very special Star Wars hero.
StarWars.com: You’re a famously modest guy,
but looking back, how do you feel about your
Jez Allinson: I was absolutely
delighted that I had smashed my target of £10,000 and so happy that
Oliver had had a great day. I’d like to thank Lucasfilm, Kathryn
Donovan at Pinewood Studios, my support crew, and my biggest
supporter — my wife Jules.
Images supplied by MARATHONFOTO.
Mark is the owner of Jedi News, has written
for Star Wars Insider and Build The Millennium Falcon
partwork, and co-hosts RADIO 1138 and Take Cover
on the Jedi News Network. He’s an honorary member of both the
501st and the Rebel Legion and when he’s not talking, tweeting, or
writing about Star Wars, he can usually be found
sleeping, where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star