After the event, the recruits went to the mess hall and lined up for food. With a plate in front, Steve sat down and could feel swelling over his left eye. He felt sick, but it was important to eat because the next event was after lunch. After only a few minutes, Corporals entered the hall and shouted to get outside. The recruits ran to the parade square and lined up. The test in the afternoon would be a ten mile battle march in full gear. With orders to get ready, they ran back to the barracks. Sitting on his iron bed, Steve packed kit into his webbing belt and an assault pack. Pulling the straps over his shoulders, he clipped the belt together and put the assault pack onto his back. He grabbed his rifle and helmet, then doubled to the parade square. The kit was heavy and the battle march had to be completed within one hour and fifty minutes for a recruit to pass. Failing this event would mean an automatic fail for the whole course. This was the big one.
Corporals arranged the recruits into a long line in twos. Steve was beside a friend and nodded as a Sergeant brought them to a run. The pace was fast as they ran out of the military depot and along a road. The event involved a mixture of running and walking at pace. About half an hour in and Steve had fallen back from the main group, as did many of the other recruits. It began to rain. A Sergeant ran up to Steve and screamed in his face.
“What are you doing back here Nobody?!? You should be up there with the others!! Put some effort in or you’re gonna fail.”
Steve looked around at the four nearest recruits lagging behind. The Sergeant was right. Things had to change. A Corporal with this group of stragglers ordered them to a run in the hope of catching the others up. As they ran, something changed for Steve. He breathed in and out, and prepared himself. The Corporal brought them to a walk, but Steve gritted his teeth and continued to run.
The Corporal shouted. “Well done Nobody, that’s more like it!!!” He turned to the other recruits. “Look at that man ahead. When you get kicked off this course, just remember him running like a real soldier!!”
Steve continued running despite the pain. His legs were in agony and his lungs burned, but he kept going. Closing his eyes, he pushed on until his head span. He was not sure how long he ran for but, when he slowed to a walk, he turned to see his old group of stragglers way in the distance. Swinging one arm as his other hand held his rifle tucked into his webbing, he quickened the walk. With a deep breath, he ran again and went past several recruits until he saw the main group immediately ahead. Steve sped up and rejoined the group over the last few miles and reached the end within the allotted time. It was the most difficult thing he had ever done. Everything seized up from his chest downwards. The recruits who passed stood on the parade ground until the training staff wrote their times down on a clipboard. When they were allowed to rest, Steve fell to the ground and crawled to the grassy verge, sobbing in pain. He could not remember eating later on, but fell into a deep sleep as soon as he had cleaned his kit.
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