Move it! Move it! Move it!
Sep 26, 2010
LOCAL Mike Szuch, a 51-year-old engineer who keeps in shape by running on his lunch hour, always admired the Marine Corps' reputation for physical discipline.
Yesterday, Szuch got to see how Marines are made, tackling the same obstacle course used by new recruits to one of the world's most elite fighting forces.
He was among an estimated 4,000 people yesterday who braved the eighth annual Boot Camp Challenge. The event is part of Fleet Week San Diego, which pays tribute to San Diego's military.
"A bunch of guys at work egged me on," said Szuch, who lives in Oceanside. His team of mostly middle-aged men hurdled over logs, struggled through push-ups, crawled under rope nets and ran a three-mile loop around the Marine Corps Recruit Depot -- all in the hot sun -- as 50 menacing drill sergeants barked orders.
Szuch finally made it to the finish line, his gray T-shirt soaked and his knees caked with sand. "I feel great," he said, dabbing his face with a towel. "I'm ready for a shower and a cold beer." The event is comparable to the 6.2-mile World Famous Mud Run at Camp Pendleton. It gives civilians a taste of the 13-week boot camp that 19,000 Marines complete at the depot each year. It attracts triathletes, people from other military branches, yoga moms and desk-bound office workers. Part of the appeal is the intense atmosphere, with the drill instructors terrorizing participants into completing the course.
San Diego resident Tiffani Nielsen said she signed up because she needed a motivational boost. The 29-year-old graphic designer said she misses the coaching she got on her college track and soccer teams.
At the obstacle course, Nielsen scrambled over log barricades as Staff Sgt. Lance Weier stood over her and barked: "Run! Run! Run! Run! Get over the log! Get! Get!" "I feed off of that," Nielsen said afterward. "I need to be pushed."
Nielsen ended up winning her women's division. "I really liked it!" she said. But she was also thinking about post-challenge refreshments. "I'm going to go have a steak sandwich and some orange juice."
MCRD recreation director Brent Poser, who organizes the event, said it builds community ties in a town important to the Corps. San Diego is one of just two U.S. facilities where recruits are trained to be Marines. The other is Parris Island, S.C.
"We are a vital part of San Diego, so we want people to come in and see what we do in a friendly environment," Poser said.
Szuch said he gained a deeper level of respect for the military: "I'm really proud of the Marines, of what they do."