First published in the Western Morning News and Devon Life
While two Commandos ran 16.64 miles a day, every day for 100 days, their comrades collectively climbed hundreds of metres of rope or lifted thousands of tonnes of weight, while another swam for miles under water.
The 1664 Global Challenge comes to an end on Wednesday, August 2, at Buckingham Palace during a ceremony to be officiated by the Duke of Edinburgh which was announced this week as his final royal engagement.
The challenge, which epitomises what the Royal Marines do best – using their physical prowess for the greater good – is a fitting end to Prince Philip’s royal duties; His Royal Highness was appointed Captain General of the Royal Marines on June 2, 1953, in succession to the late King George VI.
The 1664 Global Challenge, named after the founding year of the Royal Marines, is set to raise around £70,000 for the Royal Marines Charity while raising the profile of the Corps in the public domain.
The challenge kicked off in April and has involved two Plymouth based Royal Marines, Corporal Will Gingell, 33, and Corporal Jamie Thompson, 31, running 1,664 miles in 100 days.
As the pair has run their way around Great Britain, they have been joined by a team from every Royal Marines unit which has also staged their own challenges.
In its penultimate week the challenge was hosted by the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre (CTCRM), and while the running team took to the streets around East Devon, a group of around six PTIs set about scaling 16,664ft of ropes a total of 555 times between them in six days – on top of their day jobs of putting recruits through their gruelling training regimes.
Earlier in the summer, Sgt Matt Burley, who is a PTI at CTCRM, supported the effort by swimming 1,664 lengths, or 34 miles, underwater over 10 days. In 164-length batches, holding his breath, the 33-year-old used a rope to keep him submerged, only taking 30 seconds to regain his breath between lengths.
Sgt Nick Bonds, 37, one of the PTIs involved in the rope climbing stunt, said: “We’re proud to have done our bit to support the challenge. Every one of us has a connection to the charity; Afghanistan is still very raw for many of us and we all know people who have been hurt or are still suffering because of things that happened there.
“It’s been tough; we fit in the rope climbs in between regular training so may have come in to the gym from a hard session, already pumped.”
The inaugural challenge took place in 2014 and involved a team of five Commandos, led by Capt Sam Moreton from Exmouth, cross country skiing, sailing, cycling and running more than 3,000 miles taking in Norway, France, Spain and Great Britain, raising circa £400,000 for the Royal Marines Charity.
This year’s event has been an international effort with marines based in America and elsewhere staging events in support. A team aboard HMS Ocean in the Middle East between them lifted the equivalent 21,000-tonne weight of their ship in their onboard gym, and ran 10,000km (their distance back to the UK) on the deck.
Other individual efforts include Lieutenant Colonel Aldeiy Alderson from Brigade HQ in Plymouth, who ran 100km in 12 hours wearing his lovats and polished boots.
The corporals concur that they have been getting stronger and faster as each day has been ticked off, and it’s been their comrades who, running in their boots, have set a slower pace to keep them in check and prevent injury. After their morning runs, the men spent the remainder of the day resting, eating, and adhering to an alcohol ban.
Cpl Thompson, said: “The first 30 days we had a fair few aches and pains, but then we seemed to break through a barrier and have been getting stronger and feeling no different at the end of the runs to how we do at the beginning.
“The support from the lads running with us has made it possible; not only for keeping us at a steady pace so we don’t get injured, but because of the humour they’ve brought.”
Cpl Gingell, added: “At first parts of my body ached which I never knew could hurt from running. The hardest bit has been not being able to do much other than rest for the rest of the day and not going out in the evening!
“The support from the public has been amazing, especially in the South West where there are a lot of units based; the support we’ve had along the way has been hugely motivating.”
“The challenge was a good way of doing something entirely different from our everyday jobs and something no one had done before while supporting a charity that benefits all of us.”
Challenge founder Lieutenant Colonel Gary Green, who is based at Lympstone, added: “The greatest success, in addition to the fantastic amount of money raised through the generosity and support of the public, has been getting the Royal Marines out into the public eye.
“And the challenge has involved the whole Corps’ family so has brought everyone, including cadets and reservists and Second World War veterans together.
“It’s all come down to the Commando Spirit – every single person’s efforts have been tremendous, whether it’s the two corporals running all 1,664 miles, the guys supporting them every day, or those taking on individual challenges, they’re all showing the Commando Spirit, doing what they do best, which is achieving extraordinary physical feats, and I’m proud of every one of them.”
The Royal Marines Reserves unit in London will bring the five month challenge to its conclusion passing the baton to Prince Philip.