It had soon come around, despite it being three months into the year, it soon seemed to be time to tackle the British Military Fitness Major Series event at Bramham Park. Ahead of us was 10k of mud, water and obstacles to test us physically and mentally. As it was at Bramham Park it was going to be familiar ground given that I had done Total Warrior there for the previous two years but the course was going to be different and given the Military slant, it was destined to be a challenge.
In the run-up to the big day, things had been going well. Since the start of the year I had been trying to keep up with the Run The Year 2017 challenge which meant completing 5.5 miles per day either running, walking or on the cross trainer. That had been going well and I had managed to stay on target which had meant my activity levels had been good. There was still some room for improvement and despite keeping up with the mileage, I hadn’t done much running which could come back to haunt me but the focus had been on losing some weight and getting in a better position to be able to take on the course.
To get the Dan Rhodes Foundation off to the best start, I had tried to recruit some people to join me but by the time the day arrived it was just going to be Charlotte, Dan and I. As we got closer to the start, I started to get more nervous and wondered how we would get on. For some reason I always feel like I’m not ready the near the start gets but it was soon time to join the other people in our wave in warming up. As the British Military Fitness instructor bellowed his instructions as we stretched and moved around in preparation for what was to come.
Before we knew it, the time had come and we headed off through the plume of green smoke to take on the course. The first challenge was in the Basic Training Zone where the guys from British Military Fitness zone got you to complete 15 press ups, 15 squats and then 15 burpees. It was only a couple into the burpees (not one of my favourite exercises anyway!) that disaster struck as I felt a spasm in my lower back. I immediately tried to get up and struggled to my feet where I tried to stretch it off. It felt as though someone was sticking a knife in my lower back but we were only just getting going so I had to press on. I jogged after Charlotte and Dan, trying wilfully to keep up but even walking was proving to be a struggle as my back started to stiffen. After heading under the camnet crawl, we made our way downhill with Charlotte and Dan stopping periodically to wait for me to catch up. The hill was steep and slippery but we soon made it down to the bottom where we would head along by the river.
We kept going through the thick mud and cold water as we went through the Marine Zone and towards the Barbed Wire Crawl where we had to get up close and personal with the mud and stay under the barbed wire. The mud was thick, deep and smelly and you had to keep moving otherwise you could easily get stuck. The mud continued for a while and then it was time to take the plunge in Marine Training where you had to get over and under barriers that were in the water. As you got in you could feel the cold and the prospect of going under was not a pleasant one. We made it over the first barrier and then had to go under the next two. We held our breath and ducked under, it was freezing! The final barrier was quickly passed as we started to acclimatise to the cold.
We pressed on with me bringing up the rear as Dan and Charlotte were ready to speed ahead but in true military tradition they didn’t want to leave anyone behind. After more trekking through the mud it was back into the water on the Vanishing Bridge which was made up of a number of floats that you needed to step on to try and get as far across the water as you could. With all the grace of a hippo, I jumped across a couple of the pontoons before splashing down in the cold water. After wading through more water and mud it was another steep haul uphill which was quite treacherous due to the mud.
Wright’s web was the reward for getting to the top where you had to fight your way through the ropes between the trees. By now my back was causing me even more discomfort but there was no way it was going to stop me getting to the end. After a short crawl through another camnet we had to throw our grenades at the enemy before pressing on. We passed the point where you could turn off for the 5k route and pressed on past the halfway point. We seemed to have been going for quite a while and we were still only at halfway!
After another camnet crawl we headed into the rifle range where the water cannons drew an amazing squeal from Charlotte! Thankfully, the water didn’t cause any lasting damage and we walked on to the minefield which was more up and down and also included the waterfall, which proved to be the highlight of my day. It wasn’t because of the obstacle but as we were wading through the water, the ex-serviceman who was marshalling was asking about our tshirts so we told him that we were trying to raise awareness of mental health issues for the Dan Rhodes Foundation. As I climbed out of the water to crack on he came over to me and said that it would be nice if we could live in a world where charity wasn’t needed but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. He went on to say that he suffered from PTSD and thanked me for trying to raise awareness as he shook my hand. That small act made my day and made me even more determined to get to the finish. It’s often the smallest things in life that make the most difference and even though it was only a short exchange it left a lasting effect.
Creasey’s up and overs were next followed by the Postman’s Walk which I was surprised to make it over as it took some balance and strength to hold myself upright on the two ropes. The cargo net followed which was challenging at the top due to the shape but was a nice obstacle. The best obstacle was yet to come which was Sander’s Slides which were a face-down slide down a watery slope and was really good fun. A trip through the Haybale Tunnels meant that we were on the final stretch and there was just one more obstacle before the finish.
There was one final drama before the end as I caught me leg getting over a fence and went tumbling through the air in front of the people who were leaning on the wall watching but to top it all off, I got cramp in my calf and couldn’t get up which Charlotte found hilarious! The A-Frame was the final challenge before we all crossed the line together. It was a triumphant end to the course where we had accomplished our mission and made it round. There were times through the course when I didn’t think I was going to get to the end but thanks to the support of Charlotte and Dan, I made it to the end. I felt bad for holding them back but we all enjoyed the course and crossing the line together. The encounter with the ex-soldier made all of the pain worthwhile and after we had our finishing photos taken it was time to head home to rest up before the next event.
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