Mildenhall Pilot 'Hits' Wall, Keeps On Running
(June 1, 2010)
Capt. Danny Franz runs the Hadrian's Wall Path
May 14, 2010, in England. Hadrian's Wall itself
is 73 miles long, but the path stretches for 84
miles. Captain Franz, a pilot with the 67th
Special Operations Squadron, ran the wall in 19
hours and 24 minutes, beating the unofficial
record of more than 23 hours. (Courtesy photo)
||ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL,
England (6/3/2010 - AFN) -- Many people have
heard of runners "hitting the wall" when they
run long distances, whether it's a 10K race,
half-marathon or full marathon.
Other people, like Capt. Danny Franz, take it to
the extreme. Instead of "hitting" the wall, he
ran it - all 84 miles of it.
The "wall" in question was Hadrian's Wall, which
spans England's peninsula between Wallsend, near
Newcastle upon Tyne in the east, and
Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast.
The 67th Special Operations Squadron C-130 pilot
ran it all in one stretch, alone and finished it
in just 19 hours and 24 minutes.
Built in 122 A.D. Hadrian's Wall is 73 miles
long and is the largest ancient monument in
northern Europe. However, its national trail,
known as Hadrian's Wall Path, stretches 84
"A couple of years ago, I started to
feel the itch
again for long distance running," Captain Franz
said. "I'd already done a couple of 100-mile
marathons (in Colorado), and heard the wall was
really cool to hike. But when someone mentioned
that some British guys had run it, I figured,
why not do that?"
One of the people he heard about ran it in a little more
than 23 hours, so he decided he wanted to beat that time if
"When I finished, I was told I'd beaten the unofficial
record," he said. "When I saw my time was under 20 hours, I
was really happy, though I had originally wanted to do it in
under 17 hours."
He took the first steps of the trek at 1 a.m. and finished
just before 8:30 p.m. that night.
"I had a backpack with 3 liters of water, six muffins, some
energy shots of caffeine and a guidebook," he said. " I also
had another pouch with an extra liter of water, my phone and
The pilot said he ran most of the time, but would walk for a
few minutes every so often, to give himself a break.
"I set a target pace of 12 minutes a mile, and kept checking
to make sure I was keeping to it," he said. "In some places
I was running a 10-minute mile, so every mile or two I
allowed myself to walk for a couple of minutes, to take the
load off my legs.
"But I was constantly moving the whole time - if you have a
break, you don't tend to keep going afterwards, you kind of
just stay there. So it's better, for me at least, to just
keep going," he said.
Captain Franz said his legs were sore and started to cramp
up around the 50-mile mark, which was made worse by the
constant stopping and starting when going through farm
Running such a long distance all in one go requires strict
training in advance. The pilot said he runs almost every
day, allowing himself one day off a week.
"If I'm not training, I'll run 3 to 6 miles a day; on
weekends, I'll go for a 12-mile run. When I'm training, I do
sprints and run farther," he said.
The captain said, running 84 miles alone gives a person
plenty of time to reflect.
"There's so much to think about - what's coming up next week
or next year, your past, memories or imagining yourself in
an event," he said, adding that he likes running without
headphones most of the time, so he can take it all in and
enjoy the scenery.
Pushing yourself to run that distance certainly takes a toll
on your mind as well as body, he explained.
"To do that distance is more of a mental game you have to
play. Physically, as long as I stayed at my 12-minute mile
and drank lots of water, I was OK."
During the daytime, the weather was really good, and pretty
warm, he said, adding that there were no trees or shelter.
He was also running directly into the wind most of the way,
which he said slowed him down a little.
"I like the feeling you get miles, and hours, into the run.
You get such an adrenalin rush, and it's a pretty euphoric
feeling," Captain Franz said, adding that he likes doing
long runs by himself or with a handful of people, rather
than with huge crowds.
"It was a pretty good experience," Captain Franz said. "The
last five miles I was hurting pretty bad, and with three
miles to go, I started feeling dizzy and found it tough to
keep focused on the road because I'd run out of water
several miles back."
At the end of the run he went to the bed and breakfast where
he was staying that night. Chatting with the owner, he told
him he'd just run the wall in under 20 hours, and now he was
desperate for something to eat.
The owner, surprised and amazed at the achievement,
recommended the local pub, though he said they usually
stopped serving food at 8 p.m. But after seeing the
disappointment, and look of hunger, on Captain Franz's face,
he phoned the pub landlord and explained what his guest had
just done, and was told to send him over immediately.
"They served me a huge meal, which they had waiting for me
when I arrived and gave me a drink on the house," Captain
Franz said. "Word had obviously gotten out because other
people started buying me drinks as well. They all treated me
really well," he said. "Everyone at the pub was really
"There was also a book there, signed by people who have
hiked the path, with a page just for those who'd run it, and
the landlord made sure I signed it too."
He said the feeling of having finished was wonderful, though
physically he felt really drained.
"It was such an awesome feeling of relief and
accomplishment; I couldn't really take it all in at first -
it hits you more the next day," he said. "I was aching
pretty bad in the morning, and found it pretty hard to climb
The pilot said he felt almost back to normal on Monday, and
though he was still aching a bit, he tried to hide it from
his work colleagues.
So, with two 100-mile runs, three marathons and now this
84-mile run under his belt, Danny Franz's next goal will
have to be big.
And it is.
"I also do a lot of triathlon training. My plan is to do an
Iron Man competition fast enough to qualify for the one in
Hawaii," he said, explaining that an Iron Man contest
involves a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile
With as much passion and dedication as this 67th SOS pilot
has for fitness and running, it seems his goal of competing
in the Iron Man contest will be a walk in the park.
By Karen Abeyasekere|
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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