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In the Marine Corps we have a tendency to put a lot of emphasis on our fitness. We believe, and are quite possible correct in our thought, that we have the hardest fitness standards than any other branch. We like to compete and brag about high scores. In fact, most Marines even attach a higher regard for fitness test results than for job performance or even rifle qualifications. Marines can be so ingrained into our culture that they don’t even realize that while physical fitness may come naturally to some, others of us have to work hard at it to maintain. To those of us growing up in the Marines, we don’t realize how much harder our fitness is to maintain until we reach a certain point.
I believe I have reached my point of realization that I am no longer as young, or as fit, as I used to be. We like to joke around and say anyone can pass a PFT (Physical Fitness Test). We tell each other we could walk the 3 miles and still finish in the allotted time. I found out that is definitely not the case a couple days ago when I ran my PFT for this year.
When I was younger, I never really had to PT (Physical Training) much in order to stay in shape and able to pass my PFT. Because it has usually been a simple matter for me to maintain a good score on my PFT, you can imagine why I felt I didn’t need to PT regularly in the last year. That was a huge mistake on my part and I don’t know how I managed to not completely ruin my career because of it.
Leading up to this week’s PFT, I waited until 3 days prior then decided to go do a mock run to “make sure” I was on track. Needless to say, I was not. I finished that run in 32:37, and for my age group I have to be below 28:00 in order to just be able to pass. Now starts panic mode because I love my job, and I am not ready to leave the Marine Corps. A failed PFT would certainly mean a denial of reenlistment and future promotions for me, effectively ending my career. The next day I went out and ran again in an effort to do better. I did better, but still was unable to run a passing score, coming in at 30:55. The next day I was sore and I felt that running again would only make things worse for the next day so I used it as a day of rest. All day I was stressed out about my run time the next day.
Finally, after a sleepless and stressful night, it’s time to head to the PFT field and face whatever happens. Pull-ups and crunches pass by without incident, although I do wish after-hand that I had trained more and done better on them, and then the time came to line up for the 3 mile run. Time starts and I begin running, trying to gauge how much energy to expend up front so that I can finish and pass my test. I’m doing good for the first quarter mile, then my legs start to feel heavy. I push through and after another quarter mile I began leveling out and running smoothly. At the halfway point I begin feeling the effects of running more and have to push even harder to keep going. I push until I make it to almost 2.5 miles and then I can’t take it anymore. My heart is trying to beat out of my chest and I can’t get enough air into my lungs. I start walking just enough to slow my heart and my breathing a little and then I take off again. This continued for just over a quarter mile, a steady cycle of walk, run, walk, run. With just over 1/8 of a mile left I take off, resigning myself to finish the rest of the way at a run. As I get closer to the finish line I hear the time keeper yelling: 27:45, 46, 47…… I start to panic, and with that I gather what strength I have left and sprint as hard as I can. As I cross the finish line, I hear him yell 27:58 and I double over trying to catch my breath. I barely passed my PFT with only 2 seconds to spare.
Now you can understand the title of this post a little better. This was my wake up call. I can no longer afford to be careless when it comes to my physical fitness. As the old saying goes, “Complacency Kills,” and it almost killed my career. And now I am stuck with two options as I see them: start PTing regularly, or get out.
One of my favorite things about being in the Marine Corps is getting the honor of leading Marines. As a Staff Non-commissioned Officer (SNCO) I am responsible for being able to lead a group of Marines for any task we may be called to handle. If I cannot maintain and pass my PFT, then I don’t deserve the honor of being placed in charge of other Marines. My Marines deserve someone who can run at least a 1st class PFT and can set an example they will be proud to emulate. I cannot very well look a Marine in the eye and tell him that I expect him to achieve that which I don’t push myself to also achieve. I will not become a hypocrite and I will not expect the bare minimum out of myself or my Marines. So again that brings me back to my two options: I either get out and recognize the fact that I have served as long as I have; or I push myself to do better, PT regularly, and improve my physical fitness to meet my own expectations and NEVER again allow myself to come so close to failing a PFT.
My new PT regimen has begun. I am doing something everyday to improve myself, whether it be runs, sprints, or circuit courses. The first Marine Corps Leadership Principle is to know yourself and seek self improvement. I know myself and I know that my biggest shortfall is my physical fitness. I will seek self improvement, I will run faster, and I will be a Marine that deserves and rates the Title just as much as everyone else.