Second Lieutenant Sam Westlake writes from the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, with another update on his progress at P Company.
Morning arrived after an uneasy night’s sleep. The 26 men still on the course were quieter than ever this morning, shuffling back and forth from the wash room deep in thought. Today was the day of the Log Race and the Steeplechase – only about 35 minutes work, but we would be hanging out for the duration. Like Speed Play, however fit you are, the log hurts. Teams of 8 or 9 compete against each other dragging a log round a 1.8 mile course. If your team is lucky enough to have a ninth man, there will be a front runner who instead of holding the log by a handle, drags from the front with a long rope wrapped around the body. The front runner cannot hide, the rope must be taut at all times, pulling the log up the hills and through water-filled ditches. With 26 competitors, there were 2 front runners this morning – it just so happens that there are two Parachute Regiment officers on this course.
“Press-up position down… stand-by… go!”
The three teams charged down the track to the waiting logs. It was a quick start to the first hill and there was not much between the teams. Gradually they spread out and the familiar pain of Log Runs set in. With fresh legs behind me I found myself sprinting to keep the rope taut, and on downhills it was impossible to get away from log as its weight pulled the team. It was on the uphills that I felt most effective. Similarly the team slowed down when we went into the freezing water and again I found myself dragging the log harder than ever. We were about three quarters of the way round when we lost a man; removed by the staff for not working hard enough. At this point I was called back to replace him. Soon after we lost another man. The race ended with a 100m sprint to the finish and by this point the seven of us still on the log were giving every thing we had left in our hearts, legs and lungs to reach the finishing point. It’s a man test.
There’s plenty of time to rest, eat and drink before the afternoon event. The Steeplechase is probably the toughest event to get maximum points on. The race is 2 miles long with an assault course at the end. Finishing in under 19 minutes will get you 10 points, but for every 15 seconds over that you lose a point. I’ve run it a few times now during my time in Catterick and it can be good fun. Running it under timed conditions after a morning with the log is horrendous. The lighter, faster men on the course seemed to do better on this event, while those of us who favour 10 milers struggled. What made it worse was that at points in the race where I felt at my worst, a strategically placed photographer would be there to capture all the pain in a picture. The Steeplechase is hard work and was a fitting conclusion to the day.