Interview with Lee Brace

Lee Brace

Lee Brace was not a runner and not your average building surveyor. Following a health scare in 2016 (which turned out to be trivial) he started training for the 3 Peaks Challenge by walking. Walking bored him, so he jogged in hiking boots and became a runner. In 2019, he went big by running his first ultramarathon, the London Marathon, the Great North Run, and numerous half marathons for charity in memory of his father. He raised £7,000 for charity, all whilst running in full Star Wars Stormtrooper armour!

What is your proudest running achievement?

I cannot separate two huge highlights as they made me proud in different ways. The London Marathon was awesome as it was my dream to run after watching it on TV every year and the crowd support I got running in costume was simply amazing. If you had told me 3 years ago that I would complete it, I would not have believed you!

However the Blackwater Ultramarathon took grit and sheer determination that I didn’t realise I had. It started at 40 miles in length and I was lone running after 13 miles on a sea wall, with no crowd and 15 mph easterly winds. The trail zigzagged, continually providing a false horizon and runners started coming by me at 27 miles which was demoralising. However, they all high-fived me and sang Star Wars music (again I was in costume). I hit the marathon point expecting to see a check point, but there was nothing! I was told the course had been extended by a mile, so I ended up completing 42 miles. This was a “mind over legs” run so I was very proud to get to the finish under the cut-off time and receive hugs from friends and family!

What has running taught you?

That if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. The human body is an amazing machine!

What is your most ambitious running goal and did you achieve it?

My ambition was initially to run the London Marathon, followed by wanting to complete an ultramarathon, which I did. However I now want to run the Isle of Wight 100K Challenge.

Have you got any memorable or funny running stories to share?

I have far too many to mention, as weird things happen when you are running in costume. It is funny when people try to get a photo of me running as a Stormtrooper but are often too late to catch me. All those who simply cannot register what they have seen!

Running behind the heels of parkrunners and seeing their reaction when they hear me clattering up behind them and overtaking with absolute disbelief in their eyes.

I do remember going out early one morning along the canal. I was embarrassed at the time, so early starts meant I would avoid contact with people. In the mist, I came across clothes hanging in a tree and two blokes skinny dipping, clearly still drunk from a night out. I still wonder what they thought as I ran past in full kit!

Running beneath a tunnel on the Isle of Dogs during the marathon and everyone stopping to catch a breath while crowds could not see.

What has been your worst moment as a runner?

On my final long training run for the London Marathon I felt a pain in my right knee after 13 miles and had to retire and be picked up. I was three weeks from the marathon start line and absolutely gutted. The ultramarathon two weeks previous had not helped and the physio advised it was my IT band. I had treatment and rested, not knowing if I would complete the race when I lined up at Greenwich. But I did!

What is the most miles you’ve ever run in a week?

50 miles in a week. I recently joined a virtual ‘100 mile in a month’ challenge (typical of me). I joined late so I had to complete it in three weeks.

What has been your most serious running injury?

A sore calf and Achilles have put me out for the last six months and I believe it’s been caused by the extent of running and cycling I have undertaken as part of my charity challenge in 2019. I had physio and acupuncture which did not seem to work so during lockdown I just started running again and I am now getting back to where I was in terms of fitness and distance. I think much of it was in the mind and fear of recurrence.

What is the best advice you have ever received about your running?

Don’t start fast – it rarely gets heeded!

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you first started running, what would you say?

Why did you not start doing this in your twenties? Also, the first mile is always the hardest, so don’t worry about it!

Have you got a running hero or a runner you look up to?

There is a guy who follows and supports me on Instagram (@stormtrooperjeff). Jeff is a gay man in the US Navy, which in itself I have huge respect for, but he runs 5K every week across the United States in a Stormtrooper outfit. He is awesome, just for the fact he does what he does!

Anyone who gets off the sofa and runs has my respect – we are all heroes!

In one sentence, what does running mean to you?

I could not be without it – running provides me with freedom, fitness, strength, resolve and a clear and positive mind.

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