Andy Garland goes commando
PUBLISHED: 19:36 02 May 2015 | UPDATED: 19:36 02 May 2015
The Radio Kent broadcaster and producer fulfils a life ambition to become a Royal Marine commando, or at least train like one and get covered in mud, just like a real one
The last time it was this bad was in 2002 after I’d just completed the London Marathon. I’d been challenged on the air to complete it by a listener who, as it turned out, was pretty much an ultra-endurance athlete who had just run across the Sahara and the Artic.
This time, however, it was no listener setting the agenda but my colleague Julia George, as part of a feature running through her show this year where we aim to complete one of our life’s dreams.
Coincidentally, the very day we came up with this item I had been driving up Colt’s Hill on my way to work, idly musing that I would never now become a Royal Marine commando, something that at the age of 15 or 16 I was dead set on becoming.
Cue Jules’ mission to turn me, an overweight, middle-aged man, into a lean, mean, well, probably not fighting machine – but you get the general idea.
First port of call former Royal Marine Keith Walkman to explain just what it takes to be part of Britain’s elite fighting force.
Then came an impossible-to-refuse, on-air offer to take part in the Major Series, a 10K cross-country race complete with, and I quote “…deep stench trenches, balance beams, blockade walls, wobbly bridges a freezing ice crawl, oh and not to mention the steepest hills and the thickest woods.”
On the bright side, at least I wouldn’t have to carry 14.5kg in a backpack in the manner of real marines.
I was supposed to be in training, but as usual my attempts were thwarted by what I’m currently calling the dull routine of everyday life.
That, coupled with a bout of severe man flu meant that my preparations were limited to one moonlit session of British Military Fitness at Mote Park in Maidstone.
The portents were not good and so a grey, overcast and windy Saturday saw me bright and early at Eridge Park on the Kent/Sussex border.
Everyone else seemed to be in skintight lycra while I, on the other hand, had opted for an old faded BBC polo shirt, baggy shorts and a pair of football socks that had probably served me well for my last cross-country experience back in 1984.
Soon after the starter’s gun, I was wading through bogs and streams with the shirt lasting all of about five minutes before being literally torn off my back by an errant hawthorn tree.
On my hands and knees crawling under obstacles and leaping over the jumps like a gazelle… was how I imagined it in my mind’s eye, before the reality of the pain and exhaustion began to kick in.
The penultimate kilometre was the worst of all, a constant strength-sapping, in and out of stagnant stream, its sucking boggy mud draining my very last reserves of energy. A tortuous climb to the finish via the ice bath crawl and, bizarrely, a space hopper bounce was capped by a morale-restoring mud slide to the finish.
My overwhelming feeling at crossing the line was one of utter relief at no longer having to keep moving forward, to no longer having to summon up the mental will to simply put one foot in front of the other.
Instead, I stood in the shower for a very long time. I had to; I had mud in places that frankly no mud should ever reach! n