I probably would not make the best Marine. At least that is what I found out Thursday morning.
Six Marines from the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in Parkville teamed up with Central Maryland Rehab and Central Maryland Fitness at the YMCA Hill Family Center in Westminster to host the fourth annual Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test, where civilians are encouraged to see if they are physically fit enough to pass.
"First, it's about the physical activity — it's important to control obesity and illness," said Todd Herring, director of Central Maryland Rehab. "And it's about exposing people to the Marines. The Marine Corps brings a level of respect and what physical fitness can achieve other than sports."
The three-part test includes an 880-meter sprint, an ammo canister overhead lift and the maneuver-under-fire mission test, which would easily make a Crossfit challenge look like a skip in the park on a sunny day with rainbows and unicorns in the sky.
The Marine Corps tests their service men and women twice a year, said Staff Sgt. Dylan Murray, who timed the drills. Between January and June, Marines have to successfully pass a physical fitness test, and they must pass a combat fitness test between July and December.
To pass the combat test, a male marine has to run the 880-meter sprint in under 4 minutes, 13 seconds; complete 33 overhead presses with the ammo canister; and complete the mission test in under 3 minutes, 58 seconds.
I've been working out pretty consistently for the past 10 months or so, and even did my first 5K race last month, The Baltimore Women's Classic. I can chest press about 85 pounds and squat 150 pounds. But none of the weightlifting, cardio, boot camps or Zumba classes could have prepared me for the Marine Corps Combat Fitness Test. At least not mentally.
First, we watched a group of 5- to 12-year-old YMCA campers participate in a modified version of the Marine test.
Some of the campers had no real interest in the test. One even pouted through the overhead lift. But many of the kids finished the test with ease. Some even got a little competitive and dared one another to pick up a heavier weight.
The campers had a ball completing the modified tasks, which were cut in half to the insane experience I had set myself up to endure.
I thought, if these little kids can finish this activity, I definitely could.
I lined up for the 880-meter sprint beside Kyle Coale, a 16-year-old male Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps senior at Winters Mill High School, and two male YMCA camp staffers.
"Ready, set, go," yelled Herring.
I saw one of the camp staffers sprint out ahead of me, but I was surprised after a few seconds when no one else flew by me.
I kept a good pace. I can run an 11 minute, 16 second mile if I push myself. We finished the first lap on the track, which started on pavement, but quickly turned into a rocky dirt path and into a grassy field.
But on the second lap, Coale shot past me. I found out later that he ran cross-country and the 880-meter race was his sport.
I finished seconds after Coale at just over six minutes; a surefire fail by Marine standards.
I got a few seconds to catch my breath and we were back at it for the ammo canister lift.
The green ammo canister was full of sand, weighing in at about 30 pounds. The objective was to do as many overhead lifts as you can in two minutes.
With one of the camp staffers as my counter, I kept up a pretty good pace in this challenge, trying to remember to breathe. But upper body has never been my strong point. I could not even do a real push-up until a few months ago.
Just five seconds before the task was up, my biceps felt like they were on fire. I threw the ammo canister to the ground.
"Forty-four," yelled the camp staffer, who was keeping count.
I passed that portion of the test. Ooh-rah?
Now, if I was not already tired and hot with the sun beaming down on me, the Marines, of course, kept the hardest part for last.
The maneuver-under-fire test is a complex agility and strength test. On the count of three, you hop up from your belly and sprint to a set of cones, then drop down into a belly crawl, where you drag your body down the field while laying in your stomach. The baby crawl, on hands and knees, is next.
Then you hop up and zig-zag between cones, only to meet your partner, who has been "injured." You pick up the injured Marine and drag them a few paces, then throw them over your shoulders and sprint back to the start.
You then grab two 30-pound ammo canisters and zig-zag up the field to a simulated hand grenade, which you have to launch at a target. Finally, you grab your ammo canisters and sprint back to the starting line.
Laying on my belly on the cool grass before my turn, I was thinking, "I can do this — it can't be that difficult."
The sprints and zig-zags went fine, but as I kept pulling up my pink workout pants, I wondered what it would have been like to run the drill in combat boots and pants, like a real Marine on their fitness testing day. Or even worse, to be in the middle of a combat zone with 150 pounds of gear on including a helmet, flak jacket and real bullets and ammunition to restock the weapons trying to fulfill a mission.
"It's job simulating," Murray said. "Your mission is to get to the battle, while staying low and send out the supplies."
The "Marine" I saved was 10-year-old YMCA camper Meghan Spratt. Performing squats on a rack is one thing, but running down field with a live body over your back is quite another.
Even with the yelling and pushing from the other Marines on the obstacle course and group of campers yelling "Go Ms. Davis" on the field, I still stopped on the course multiple times, finally finishing at 4 minutes, 16 seconds.
I was a mere 18 seconds short of passing the test. I finished winded and in some state of physical and mental shock.
"Walk it off, walk it off," yelled one of the Marines, as I made my way to the cooler to get a drink of water. I was partially surprised I did not faint. But once I caught my breath, I thought, "Is this it?" I was ready for more.
Over the last few years, I have become pretty competitive when it comes to working out. I am open to trying new things such as Dragon Boat Racing and aerial yoga.
I wished I had passed all three of the tests. But, the Marines can count on me coming back next year to try again.
Coale finished the final test in about 2 minutes, 30 seconds. But, he threw up his breakfast within minutes of finishing.
For Coale, the test was insight into what to expect in Marine life. Once he finishes his senior year at Winters Mill, he said, he plans to enlist in the military alongside a childhood friend through the buddy system.
"There's warrior blood in my family," said Coale, whose father was in the Navy and uncle fought in World War II. "The military has always been my dream. I want that brotherhood."
I nodded. There's also warrior blood in my family.
I was taught how to make a military bed with hospital corners from my father, who spent some time in the Navy. My uncles and grandfather also spent time in the military. And I had a great uncle who did two tours in Vietnam.
You may think you are in great shape, but get out on the field with a Marine for the combat test and let me know how you feel afterward.
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Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or email@example.com.