Well, finally made it to July and the Para’s 10 in Colchester. After travelling down the night before the day started with breakfast at 07:00 and weighing of my bergen. After the events at Aldershot and learning my bergen was 10lb over the minimum weight I was eager to make sure this one was fine. After checking with my new digital hand held luggage scale it read 36.6lb. Thats all I needed to know. With another 4.5lbs of water to carry onboard I was fine.
Arrived at the RV point in Colchester. Headed down to register, get my race number to affix to the bergen and timing chip for my boots. Once all was ready I got down to the bergen weigh station to get the simple but all important chalked X mark on the bergen which signified I had met the weight requirement of 35lb without my food and water.
Now time to check my feet and ensure they are prepped and ready. Sorting out the feet and the toenail on my right foot comes off, leaving a very raw patch of skin. A little gauze and plenty of tape to ensure it doesn’t come away should do it, then a coat of my favourite lubrication around the feed then on with the socks to ensure the only movement in the boot is the top layer of the sock and fingers crossed for the day. With two river crossings the feet are going to get wet anyway so I needed to ensure I would not end up with blisters.
Time for a little more water and find some shade. At 09:30 its 24’C and no cloud, this is going to be a hot one.
10:40 the call goes out for everyone to the start line for a Para’s warm up ( running on the spot, running knees up, jumping jacks, speed running on the spot counting down from 10 to 0 etc, by the time the warms ups done you feel like 2 miles has been run already.
Everyone around me now checking their bergen, straps, chest harness and timing watches for their own pace, with a little banter thrown in, especially amongst the serving and ex serving troops.
At 11:05 and 27.5’C the artillery guns go off to signify the start and were are off. only 10 miles to go. Head off across the common, cut left through the barracks and continue on the tarmac for a mile and a half with a continuous steady incline. head off into the woodland track. Meanwhile the Para’s decide to start running some exercises, nothing stops here event for the run. A few guys all camo’d up pop out of the trees and run across into another field where they engage fire with their “enemy”.
At mile three, I face the first water crossing. All manned by 3 Para, approaching we are instructed to run hard, knees high and jump up onto the opposite bank, which I duly do and to my amazement powered through the water. Just as i’m readying myself to jump onto the bank one of the Para’s fires off his weapon, I’ve never jumped so quick in my bloody life.
The other side of the water was a boggy area of grass that was leg sapping but only lasted half a mile. This then opened up onto a field area that was that formed a square mile run around, out the other side onto another incline and head down the the waist high water crossing at mile five. The silt at the base sucked in your feet and the smell alone made you ensure you didnt fall in. By the time I got to climb out around a hundred had already gone before and the bank was just slippery mud so it was more a scramble against sliding down than anything else. Again designed to sap a little energy out.
At this stage I was feeling good. pacing for a sub 2hour finish and at halfway I was at 59 minutes, the only thing I was struggling with was the head. with the bergen on my back I was struggling to cool off. With no breeze or rest bite from the direct sun I was starting to cook.
By Mile 7 I was cooked , pace dropped significantly and was becoming more a mental challenge than physical. The physical was on the way out. By Mile 8 I had seen 10 people in front of me staggering and being pulled from the event by the Para’s who were marshalling. I was asked some questions at mile 8 and thankfully only had a jerry can of water upended over me.
Half a mile later I headed back into the barracks and knew I only had 1.5 miles left. The tarmac ground at this stage was hard work on the knee’s and shin’s and I was really suffering. My target time of 2 hours had gone and it was all I could do to focus on one foot in front of the other. I started counting 1,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4 in my head to get some sort of rhythm into my stride and give me something to focus on.
My 9 came thankfully but I still had the overpass to run over ( this seemed like the mother of all hills now).
As I exit the barracks I see the common, 200 meters of incline to go the the finish. The traffic was held back by the police and
I was spurred on a little by a nice young man hanging his head out of his car window shouting “get a f….ing move on” I turned and saw him smiling wearing the Burgundy T shirt of a Para :-).
I finally cross the line in an official time of 2h19 minutes absolutely bloody exhausted. When I crossed the line the temperature was a lovely 29’C, god only knows what my internal temperature was, I was spent.
My wife took the picture of me trying to fall asleep with the ice cream 5 minutes after the finish, Thanks.
It was a very well run and organised day, will be back next year to finish under the two hours. Now time to get training again for the SAS Fan Dance challenge ( 15 miler over the Brecons) on July 20th then Para’10 in Catterick in September.
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