A real-life Walter Mitty who launched a worldwide endurance race on his reputation as a former Royal Marine has resigned – after it emerged he was never in the military.
Richard Lee, 31, boasted of serving with the Royal Marines mountain troop as he built the Spartan Race series into a multi-million international business.
In one interview he said: “The Death Race was very tough but if you have done a couple of years of training similar to the Marines you will be surprised by what you can actually do.”
But now it has emerged the former £26,000-a -year King’s School Ely pupil never wore the green beret and LIED about his time in the mountain troop.
Mr Lee has admitted that he enrolled in the Officer Training Corps but never qualified after he dropped out through injury.
His deceit was exposed by the The Walter Mitty Hunters Club HQ, an organisation run by former servicemen who investigate people who falsely claim they served in the Armed Forces.
A spokesman said Mr Lee’s actions “insult the hard work and reputation of our armed forces”.
And the group accused Mr Lee of exaggerating his military career to build the British arm of Spartan Race which had a turnover of £2.5million in 2012.
A spokesman said: “Richard Lee was using the spirit, determination and hard graft needed to be a Royal Marine to seek his product, the Spartan Race, which the ethos of the race is all about.
“People like Lee insult the hard work and reputation of our armed forces. They use lies to gain advantage from the inspecting and by doing so give a misleading impression.
“The Americans have a law against it. It’s called stolen valour and we would like to see such a law in the UK.”
A former Royal Marine of 25 years, from East Devon, said: “Royal Marines officer training is universally recognised as being the most arduous military training in the world.
“Royal Marines are of an extremely high calibre and a lot of people who start the training don’t make the grade, so anyone going round masquerading as a Royal Marine when they’re not, are undermining the Corps’ values.”
Mr Lee made claims in the media about his military career – with many publications referring to him as “former Royal Marine Commando.”
Speaking to race website muddyrace.co.uk in November 2013, Mr Lee said: “When I was at university I was in the University Training Corps and that put me through university.
“After this I went into the mountain troops in the Royal Marines for about three years but I broke my leg which meant I left.”
Speaking to a national newspaper about an American endurance event in July 2009 Mr Lee was described as an “ex-Royal Marine”.
But it has now emerged that he only completed a brief stint in officer training in 2007 at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon.
Mr Lee, who is engaged to Canadian Selica Sevigny, who heads up Spartan Race in Quebec and Ontario, has now stepped down from his role as UK director.
CEO Joe De Sena yesterday said: “Richard and I spoke at length regarding the inaccuracies surrounding his status as a Royal Marine, and ultimately, Richard and I concluded the only honourable thing for him to do would be to resign his position.”
A statement from Spartan Race on its official Facebook added that the organisation does not condone “stolen valour” however long somebody trained for.
It read: “Spartan Race does not condone stolen valour in any form.
“Whether someone trained with the military for one week or four years, they cannot be characterized as something they are not.
“We wish to apologise again to all those around the world who worked so hard to earn proud distinction serving their countries.”
Red-faced Mr Lee offered his “deepest apologies” to all those that have served for their country.
In a statement on his Spartan Race blog he said: “I was wrong, I am sorry, and I want to apologise for the fact I allowed it to be publicised that I had passed out from CTCRM as a Royal Marines Commando Officer.
“From 2001 to 2004, I was in the Officer Training Corps, which sparked my interest in joining the Royal Marines.
“In 2006, I went through selection to become a Young Officer in the Royal Marines, and after being selected, I commenced training in 2007.
“During the 18-month course, in 2008, I broke my kneecap. After surgery and rehab, I was told to take what is known as a “Back Batch” where you re-enter training with the following year’s batch during the same period of training.
“In the interim, as my desired career path was to become a mountain leader, I was permitted to attend relevant courses.
“I was due to complete my training in 2009, but when I returned to CTCRM, the Medical Officer determined that the damage that I sustained to my knee had not healed sufficiently, and I would not be allowed to Back Batch a second time.
“This was a huge blow, as even from a young age, I was inspired by family members who were in the Royal Marines.
“I have the upmost respect for members of the military, and even during my own time training, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.”
He added: “To all those who served their countries, past and present, please accept my deepest apologies.”
A Ministry of Defence source said an investigation was being carried out into Mr Lee. But an MoD spokesman yesterday said there had been no criminal wrongdoing.
Walter Mitty is a fictional character from James Thurber’s 1939 short story ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ who imagines himself as a war hero among other fantasies.
A regular soldier who pretends to be in the SAS is now known as a ‘Walt’.
The 2013 film ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is a re-working of Thurber’s story, directed and co-produced Ben Stiller who also stars in it.