Two weeks ago, I completed one of the most gruelling physical tests I’ve endured in my life as a part of my Warrant Officer Candidate School; a 6.2 mile (10km) foot march (aka ruck march) within an hour and 45 minutes with a rucksack weighing 50 lbs (23kg), a helmet weighing 3 lbs (1.36kg), a hydration system (aka Camelback) weighing 4.4 lbs (2kg), and an unslung dummy M4 rifle weighing 7.75 lbs (3.52kg). Altogether, this had me carrying over 65 lbs (29.5kg) for the entire foot march.
The first mile wasn’t bad at all. I’ve done 2, 3.1, and 4 mile versions of this foot march, and none of them were overly challenging. Miles 2 and 3 were also fine, but I did notice a lot of sweating as it was humid out. Mile 4 and 5 had me slowing down a bit, but I was still making good time. Then came mile 6. This is where all the gains I made in the first 5 miles were being cashed in as my pace slowed considerably. Mile 6 is where success or failure happens, and I willed myself to keep pushing despite the exhaustion. My legs didn’t hurt, nor was I winded, but I was exhausted. My energy was gone.
I did have some high-carb gummies to eat, courtesy of my classmate Lauren, but near the end, I was out of snacks and out of energy. What got me through was sheer willpower. In the end, I made it with just over four minutes to spare, and that was enough to pass the event.
At age 53, this was pretty tough. I’d done road marches in the past when I was younger, and they were never this hard on me. The last 10km foot march I did was in August 2019, and while I was worn out at the end, I don’t recall the last mile being as gruelling as this last one was. However, I will say that my legs felt much better this time than the last 10km foot march I did. I’ve been lifting weights and running longer distances coupled with mountain biking, so that extra strength in my legs helped me with my shuffle-run/fast walk in the first three miles which gave me the cushion I needed for my slow last mile.
I spoke with a few senior Chief Warrant Officers after completing this event, and as they were close to my age (all younger with one exception), they all remarked that they would have difficulty completing the 10km foot march the way I did. That made me feel good, and reinforced all the good habits I’ve undertaken these past 5 years. Good food and good exercise pays off.