I completed the Royal Marines Commando Challenge 2018
Posted on October 19th 2018 by Amy Murphy
Well, it’s done!! On Sunday I ran, walked, crawled and most importantly, completed the 10k “Courage” Royal Marines Commando Challenge! I can’t honestly believe it! For the last 12 months I have been working towards and thinking about this day and now it’s been and gone, it feels so surreal!
Surreal as it may be, it was an absolutely epic day!
Imagine this if you can, being scared of something that you have read about but never seen, fearing the unknown and the uncertainty of what lies ahead, knowing that you are going to put yourself in a place of real discomfort, you are going to be cold, weighed down by water and mud from head to toe, you are going to crawl through pitch black tunnels on your hands and knees, and then you are going to have to run across county, over undulating ground – rocks, sand, mud, gravel, stones - which has been drenched by 12 hours of continual rain and yet at the same time, you know the realisation of the situation is that you have volunteered for this!!! It’s a cocktail of emotions that, when I was standing at the start line and the lady to my right was counting down the 5 seconds to my turn to go, I really didn’t know how to deal with.
When I arrived at Bicton Park on Sunday morning and walked into the registration tent, I felt about 20ft tall as I pinned my pink “184” race number onto my front and couldn’t help but allow myself to be swept along on the wave of nervous energy that was literally bouncing off the walls. I chatted with a few of the serving marines, welcomed their words of encouragement and had my photo taken in front of their RIB, all the while the butterflies were going nuts in my stomach and my muscles were already burning from the Marine PTI warm-up.
3…2…1..GO! And I was off, I started out at a good pace and felt myself fall into a false sense of security as I found myself running along a country lane … on tarmac … piece of cake, right! This is what I have been doing for months. I can run on the road no bother. As soon as I started to feel a little burn in my legs from the gradual hills, it was a right turn and then I got my first view of the Common; a sprawling landscape of heather and bracken and trees and shrubs and hills, oh yeah, and mud! I can remember saying to myself “pace yourself up the hill Murphy” but my enthusiasm got the better of me and I belted up the first hill like I was being chased by the Devil. I paid dearly for that mistake as my breakfast left my stomach in a most ungracious and un-lady like series of wretches that gave me a stitch and left me shaking! That’ll teach me!!
No sooner was I running on an empty stomach than I encountered the first obstacle – the Double Tunnels. From the outside they didn’t look too bad at all, but as soon as I was no more than a few feet in I was completely engulfed in darkness, my knees were screaming at me from the stabbing pain of every movement as they took my weight over uneven ground and gravel. And when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I headbutted the wall where the tunnel took its first turn to the left – this hurt. And then I headbutted the wall again where the tunnel took a second turn to the right. And at this point, first obstacle in, I was in the dark, on my own, with a pounding head, a fragile stomach and I was ready to admit I’d bitten off more than I could chew. When I finally saw daylight ahead of me, all of a sudden, my knees didn’t hurt, my head stopped pounding and I managed to scramble my way out of that tunnel with a little bit of speed. When I found my feet, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was on the verge of tears, my heart was racing - I wasn’t prepared for that tunnel – and any hopes I’d had of being broken in gradually or gently completed evaporated at that point.
If I am painting a bleak picture of my experience on the Commando Challenge, its because it was bleak! I don’t know what I thought I was signing up for, but it wasn’t this! Maybe I thought Marines were going to carry me round the course, or softly-softly encourage me and help me through every obstacle; within the first 25mins I was so out of my comfort zone I may as well have been on another planet all together.
I plodded my way through the mud to the next obstacle – Peters Pool; it looked more like a river to me than a pool, but I psyched myself up and waded into the water grabbing the rope to keep me upright; three of four steps in and I was up to my waist in water, by the fifth step the water was up to my chest and I was now completely soaked! Somehow, I managed to pull myself out of the pool – river – and started to jog towards the third and my most feared obstacle – the Sheep Dip.
As I jogged towards it I could hear the Marines shouting “Go on 3” and the cheers of fellow participants as another one made it through the tunnel full of water. By the time I reached the obstacle I was already soaked from head to toe but now also covered in mud where I had slipped and tripped my way along the muddy path – a tiny part of my brain was actually looking forward to getting back in the water and getting this mud off me! Yeah, that didn’t last long! As I walked into the water filled ditch I said to the Marines “just get me in and get me through the tunnel really quick – don’t stop ok”. But as soon as my palms touched the underside of the tunnel roof I froze – I was up close to a tunnel no more than 5 or 6-foot-wide, but filled with dirty muddy water. A Marine had hold of me and I heard him say “ready” but I couldn’t move; he did a count down from 3 and said “go” but I just couldn’t move – I couldn’t take my eyes off the tunnel full of water in front of me. A Marine in uniform standing on top of the tunnel called out to me “lets just do it now ok” and I am not sure if it was his “no nonsense” tone of voice or the fact that I was starting to get really cold, but this time when the Marine holding me said “on 3” I just went; I pushed myself down into the water and stretched my arms out in front of me desperately searching for the Marine at the other side to find my arm and yank me out – to which, he did. My head came out of the water and I blew out the breath I’d been holding and pushed out the only word I could gather to portray how I was feeling “F**K”! I was relieved and proud of myself for doing it, and at the same time cold to the core and zapped of all energy but knowing that I’d have to get moving to get warm. Honestly, my whole self was dealing with a cocktail of emotions and conflicting physical feelings somewhere in between keep going and just stop!
This blog has the risk of turning into a bit of an epic minute-by-minute recount of the 2 hours and 34 minutes I spent on Woodbury Common, so before we get there, I’d better cut to the chase!
The Royal Marines Commando Challenge was the hardest, scariest, best thing I have ever done and now, from the comfort of my armchair, in the warmth of my PJ’s, with a nice glass of Sauvignon in hand, I am happy to admit that doing the challenge pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and safe place and made me dig deeper into myself than I have ever had any need or desire to do before now. As I write this I am getting that 20ft tall feeling again, because despite the tears (and there were a few) and the bruises and the cold and the mud, I bloody well completed the course. I wasn’t the fastest, I probably was one of the slowest, but I don’t care about that – I didn’t give in and get myself taken off the course and back to the safety and comfort of the registration tent; I dug deep, I fought the panic when I thought I was lost and by myself, I told myself I wasn’t cold when I was shivering from head to toe and I found the strength to complete the 10k and I have never felt more proud of myself than I do right now!
I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who has sponsored me and, just as important, everyone who has believed in me - you know who you are – you have known the personal challenges I have faced in the last few months and you have maintained your belief in me when I had none in myself. My heart could burst with the love and gratitude I am feeling towards you and everyone else who has encouraged me, supported me and sponsored me! You are the real hero’s in this story!
So what now …. Now I start training for RMCC 2019! I have a time to beat and I want to conquer that Sheep Dip, I want to dominate the water and crush the gravel and rocks and stone, and I do want to be one of the fastest. So, Marines, Woodbury Common, mud and tunnels … I’ll see you in October 2019!
You can still sponsor me here too!