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Royal Marines Athletics Championships, Exeter Arena, 24th May 2017


Following its successful revival last year, Royal Marines and attached ranks from units across the Corps once more massed at the Exeter Arena to run, jump and throw their hearts out at the Royal Marines Athletics Championships in May.

It was encouraging to see a vast number of newcomers in attendance to try their hands at the various different events on offer, as well as a smattering of the more established RM/RN athletes competing alongside and offering their expertise. Stand up and take a bow Rich Reeks, who if he wasn’t throwing something, jumping into/over something or running somewhere ridiculously quickly, was coaching others on how to throw things, jump into/over things, and how to run places at a rate of knots!

The first event on the track was the 400 metre hurdles, a gruelling test of speed, endurance and technique, all of which were demonstrated in spades by 42 Commando’s team captain and UPTI, Sgt Ads Sperry, who took the first medal of the day.

Meanwhile, in the field the hammer throw was underway and attracting a large crowd, no doubt all were keen to learn a thing or two from international decathlete, Mne Rich Reeks, who’s demo throw was so impressive that it won him the first of his many gold medals that day.

The 3000m steeplechase offered the unique opportunity to get some respite from the hot sunshine that we had been blessed with, and take a nice refreshing dip in the oggin once every 400m. Some were obviously feeling the heat more than others, opting to go waist deep in the water jump as opposed to the one foot wet, one foot dry method favoured by winner, Cpl Dusty Miller.

Mne Ginge Wright is never one to do anything the easy way which always makes for entertaining racing. The gun went and Ginge took the 800m out at a furious pace, a fraction too furious as it turned out as 30 Commando’s Nick Lyster was able to move out from his slipstream as they rounded the top bend and emerge victorious in the sprint for the line.

In the jumping pit, 40 Commando’s Tommy Waite was finding that sand provided a much more forgiving landing than ice following a winter season with the bobsleigh team. He and CTCRM’s Ash Dougan enjoyed a bit of friendly rivalry in the long and triple jumps, going home with one gold and one silver medal each.

All ten lanes were occupied for the 100m final, an exciting spectacle for those watching but as it turns out- an epic for the timekeepers and track judges! 42 Commando’s Ciaran Chartier was crowned RM Champion.

Meanwhile, in the field, the omnipresent Rich Reeks was busy coaching and competing, securing a clean sweep of all the throws as well as the high jump.

Upset of the day was delivered courtesy of Mne Alan Chetwynd in the 5000m, which was actually as advertised this year under the watchful scrutiny of RN Athletics secretary Ginge Gough who has put on one or two events of this sort before and crucially can count past 10 accurately! Alan had travelled to Exeter all the way from RMR London, taking a day away from his regular employment, and had spent the time prior to the race stood trackside, stopwatch in hand acting as a timekeeper. Had there been medals for being a good egg then he would have already scooped that! There was barely time for a quick warm up before the runners were called to the start line, the gun sounded and Mne Chetwynd proceeded to take on the pack of established Royal Navy representative athletes that massed at the head of the field. The pace was already high but after the first kilometre an injection of pace tore the pack of favourites apart and Alan went on to win by a considerable margin before warming down and heading back off down the M5 and M4 home.

Ginge ‘the best pace is suicide pace and today is a good day to die’ Wright was back on the track to bring the curtain down on the individual events in the 1500m and found himself embroiled in a tussle for the win with Cpl Henry Lort of CTCRM, the former edging past the latter in the final few strides to the line.

Commando Logistics Regiment had built an unassailable lead by the time of the relays but like the previous year, the fight for the final placings and CGRM’s trophy points was nip and tuck. The Riches Cup is awarded to the winners of the 4 x 100m relay and as the rest of the teams were assembled trackside for the pre-race brief, holders CLR were conspicuously absent…the mystery was soon solved though as the team emerged from the changing rooms sporting skintight, Lycra Union Jack onesies. Narrowly avoiding being disqualified for crimes against fashion and/or decency, the team’s aerodynamic gains helped them to victory although none of them are now allowed within 300 feet of a school any longer.

The final event was the 4 x 400m relay, and fittingly the day ended as it had begun with Ads Sperry crossing the line first for 42 Commando.

A thoroughly enjoyable day was had by all who took part, the camaraderie and determination displayed by all showcases the Royal Marines at its very best and the championships will return at a similar time next year.