Survival of the fittest in PARAS’ 10 challenge
- Credit: Cpl Jamie Hart
Civilians and military came together to take on a gruelling airborne forces fitness challenge in Colchester.
A record entry of more than 1,000 people took part in the PARAS' 10 charity challenge round the garrison.
Competitors take part in the 10-mile run, either as a cross-country race in trainers or as the P Company Challenge, wearing boots, trousers and carrying a 35lb rucksack - with the target to finish within 1hr 50mins, one of the key fitness tests for the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces.
The tabbers and runners were set on their way from Abbey Field by the firing of a 105mm Light Gun of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery.
The route took them through Merville Barracks and Friday Woods over the same hills and water obstacles crossed by soldiers on training runs.
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Around the course, troops firing machine guns and throwing smoke grenades added to the atmosphere.
First runner across the line was Barry Frost in a time of 1hr 7min 25s; first female runner Alice Curtis in 1hr 14min 30s; Ben Howe was the first tabber in 1hr 23min 8s; and Marie-Claire Caiger was first female tabber in 1hr 38min 49s.
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The event attracts a mix of soldiers maintaining their fitness and civilians wanting to test themselves against a genuine military challenge, with people travelling from across Europe to take part.
Gary Coville, who runs a marketing company, tabbed across the finish line an agonising 20 seconds past the 1hr 50min airborne standard.
The 52-year-old from Weybridge said: "I'm gutted, but this was a really tough event - much tougher than I expected.
"It's warm today and the terrain, which is up and down and through water and mud, makes its really hard on your legs.
"With gunfire and soldiers encouraging you in that robust military style out on the course, there's a real character to this event. I've done lots of other obstacle races like this, but Paras 10 is more real."
Profits from entrance fees raised money for Support Our Paras, which supports Paras and their families who are in need, but runners were free to collect sponsorship for any charity.
The PARAS' 10 has been run at Catterick, where paratroopers train, since 2008 and runners have so far raised more than £1.5m for a wide range of charities.
Support Our Paras director Stephen Cooper said: "The PARAS' 10 is an authentic military challenge that allows people to challenge themselves against the rigorous fitness standards expected by Airborne Forces.
"It's been a hot day and it's a tough course, but I hope that everyone has been able to enjoy it and should be proud of themselves for taking part.
"It's great to have had a record entry, which means more money raised for our work supporting paratroopers in need.
"I thank everyone who's taken part and lay down the challenge to people to get involved, whether to better their time or try it for the first time."
For more details go to the PARAS' 10 website.