The Paras 10 TAB – Catterick 2013

The scenario: you have been dropped by parachute behind enemy lines and are ten miles from your target. You and your team must get there quickly carrying all you need to complete the mission.

Every year, the Parachute Regiment challenge the public to complete it’s 10 mile ‘P company challenge’ event in the same conditions and carrying the same weight as the young lads seeking selection for the Paras. The only difference is that you don’t carry a weapon, unlike this guy…

Military people call this activity a TAB – Tactical Advance to Battle – the skill of moving quickly into position to engage the bad guys. Would-be paratroopers must get ’round the hilly, challenging course in 1 hr 50 minutes or less – that is a pace of one mile every 11 minutes. If they make it they qualify to wear the famous maroon beret – they become a member of one of Britain’s elite fighting regiments.

Dan Cawley, Andrew Lowes and myself took up the challenge at Catterick Garrison on September 8th this year. We had trained hard, running big hills and long routes several times a week during the hot days of July and August. We got accustomed to running in army boots, combat trousers and carrying a rucksack with 35 lbs of sand inside. ‘Train hard – fight easy’ was Andy’s motto (he’s an ex marine). We were well prepared, and knew we could run ’round the course – but we were not sure if we were fit enough to pass ‘P company’.

On the day we joined 665 others doing the P company challenge as well as 300 people running it without weight. The terrain was less hilly that our training runs; but with longer climbs they were just as challenging. Andy and Dan left me behind in the first half – maintaining a 10 minute pace in the hope of having 5 minutes in hand by the half-way point, but I caught them at mile 5 and we were together from there to the end.

Shortly after, we caught the Para who was doing the race at 11 minutes per mile as a pacemaker for the rest of us. He had blue balloons on his Bergen, so we couldn’t miss him. From that point, I knew that, If I kept him behind me, I would pass ‘P company’.

It was a struggle, he kept passing me because I was pretty exhausted at the end, but we did it and we all got home in around 1 Hr 45 minutes. The other two guys were slightly quicker than me – Dan by only one second! Here are our times:

Andrew – 1hr 45min 08sec (148th overall)
Dan – 1hr 45min 40 (155th overall)
Dave – 1hr 45min 41sec (156th overall and 10th veteran – ie over 50 years old)

What really pleased me – apart from passing the challenge (they said I was too old to join up, by the way) – was that there were over 500 fit people behind us! That was very satisfying.

“You don’t have to be superman to pass P Company; you just need to be prepared to dig deeper than the ordinary man in the street”

Corporal Chris Carlin – PTI Parachute Regiment