Fundraising, Sports

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On 25 February 2024, renowned anthropologist, film-maker and Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) Ambassador, Chris Terrill, will be taking on the Brighton Half Marathon, on crutches, raising money for RNRMC and in memory of his friend, Royal Navy Commander Robert ‘Bob’ Hawkins MBE RN.  

This will be Chris’s 45th half marathon, but his first, and perhaps most challenging, on crutches as he recovers from hip replacement surgery after a sporting accident a matter of weeks ago. 

Chris first encountered Cdr Bob Hawkins, a legend within the naval community, whilst filming the HMS BRILLIANT television series for the BBC in 1995. Bob also featured in Chris’s 2018 series, Britain’s Biggest Warship onboard Aircraft Carrier HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH. They remained friends until Bob’s sudden death, whilst still serving, in October 2023, an event which shocked the naval community. 

Brighton-born and Brighton College-educated, Chris will be identifiable during the half-marathon not only because of his bright red ‘racing’ crutches, but also his Royal Marines ‘Green Beret’. This was earned by completing the full 32 weeks training with 924 recruit troop at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) Lympstone.  He was made an honorary Royal Marine in recognition of being the only civilian and oldest person to be awarded a Green Beret on merit.   

We were fortunate enough to meet up with Chris during a recent visit to our RNRMC office and ask him a few questions about the run, the commando mindset and his memories of Bob Hawkins. 


First of all, how is the training is going? 

It's going very well. I'm in the gym every day for at least two and a half hours having physiotherapy and since the hip operation, I’ve had to work hard on keeping up my cardiovascular fitness. I'm a long-distance runner, always have been, but now I do a combination of cycling, cross training, swimming, upper body work and boxing. The hip is just a central pivot on the leg which is a pillar so boxing is great for strengthening.  I went back to sparring two weeks ago and it was okay, but now I’ve got a cracked rib, so I’m carrying that at the moment too! 

Are you out on the pavement running? Or on a treadmill? 

I'm out, but I've been doing a lot more on the crutches, just because that's a very specific technique. It's not walking, you are trying to run to keep up a pace. I've been running on the South Bank in London and I look for runners to see if I can either keep pace with them or even overtake them. But the danger of running with, effectively, four legs is that it’s very easy to take pedestrians out! 

Is using the crutches taking a toll on your arms and hands?   

Oh yes, because there’s a lot more transfer of weight onto the hands and the arms so what I need to be careful with on the day is hand blisters, pressure sores and rubbing on the forearms. I’m using weightlifting gloves to protect the hands and need to make sure that I have long sleeves to protect from chaffing on the arms. I also need to be careful of balance because when you're running on two legs, you're more or less completely balanced but with crutches, not so much. Over 13 miles, I need to keep my posture firm and gait regular or I could be all over the shop. 

What's been your longest training run so far with the crutches?  

Probably no more than five miles.  I mean, I’m okay with technique, I'm reasonably happy with that. It's just about cardiovascular fitness and I've been really trying hard to keep that up, because on crutches at speed I know it’s going to start to tell after 5-10 miles. Using crutches that’s no-man’s land for me. We'll see what happens! 

Obviously, you've been through commando training, so do you think there's anything you’ll take from that when you hit ‘the wall’? Or just anything over years of running that will help you to get through? 

Well, that’s a very interesting question because as a runner, an athlete, whether it be middle distance or long distance, you know that when you're injured you simply stop because it's the sensible thing to do. Commando training is different because that's about attaining battle fitness. That means if you get injured, unless you have broken your leg or something, you are trained to work through an injury. During marine training, I knew men who had broken feet and were still doing 30 mile yomps over Dartmoor to get their green beret, but then part of that mindset is determination. So there’s a certain amount of that which I hope will carry me through. Any Royal Marine will say that facing up to life’s challenges is ‘a state of mind’ so I'm hoping that same attitude will sustain me. And I AM running in my Green Beret, so that will give me an added energy and hopefully an extra turn of speed!.  

Is this an event that you've done many times before, the Brighton half?  

Yes, Brighton is where I come from. So I think this is my 20th Brighton half marathon. I've done 45 half marathons altogether and I'm up to over 50 marathons since 1996, I think. I missed one Brighton half marathon, which I did around the flight deck of the ship in the South China Sea in 2021. 

Your run is in memory Bob Hawkins, whom you got to know back in the 1990s?   

Yes, on HMS Brilliant (the television series) in 1995. I got to know Bob very well, he was one of my stars on the series. Everybody knows Bob Hawkins from HMS Brilliant; Bob was a great character. He wasn't afraid to voice his opinions, which made him great friends and sometimes got him into trouble, but Bob was Bob - a legend and the Navy’s a poorer place without him. But we became great mates and we never lost touch. Indeed, it was through Bob that I really got the access I needed to make Britain's Biggest Warship, the three series on Queen Elizabeth (aircraft carrier).  I knew Bob was going to be the ship’s first 1st Lieutenant when she was still in build and on her initial sea trials, I was trying to get access to the ship and to get the commission from the BBC. It was a very difficult time because I had to persuade the MOD and the Navy it was a good idea and at the same time persuade the BBC it was going to be a great series - so Bob was absolutely central to that, because he put in a very good word for me with Jerry Kyd (HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer at the time), who I didn't know. I think Jerry went to Bob and said, ‘Who is this Chris Terrill character?’ and Bob said, ‘Friendly forces, sir.  He’ll tell an honest story, but he’s on our side.’ 

Had you already had the idea for the series and then you realised that Bob was in that job?  

Yes, he joined the last few dots for me. I went up to Govan in 2009 to see the Princess Royal cutting the first steel for HMS Queen Elizabeth and I thought then, what a great story to follow her construction through to going to sea. I couldn't get any broadcaster to take it – it’ll take too long, they said, and why should we be interested in a warship that’s not actually doing what warships do – going to war? I said, ‘No, no, it's about the people. It's about the construction, it’s about the first sailors breathing life into her, because a ship is nothing without a ship’s company.’ Eventually, they started to see the sense of that idea. The Navy also got it, but it was Bob who made it happen from the inside.  Then I filmed him again, on board.


He was just the most fantastic officer who was able to engage with and win the trust of everybody from senior commanders to young ratings going to sea for the first time.  A good officer never hides behind their rank and Bob never did. His memory will be around for a long time in the Navy because he was and remains an absolute legend. 


We want to thank Chris for giving us this really candid and moving interview and wish him the very best of luck with his Brighton half marathon on crutches.  To sponsor Chris, please visit: Chris Terrill is fundraising for Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (