A Look Back At The Recruit Obstacle Race

A recruit’s first days at RMC are horrid enough, but his bewilderment is soon increased by the strange tales of what is to come. Soon, the chuckles and strange stories heard from the other years make him ponder the events to follow, such as charges, boxing, harriers and especially, the obstacle race. This ancient ritual originated over eighty years ago and once completed, proves the recruits worthy of wearing the red-striped CSC trousers. Formerly, the entire affair was designed and constructed by the senior year, but recently the second year have served as the builders for the senior scheming. Near the middle of October of this year, Fort Frederick was proclaimed out of bounds for recruits. This, plus the sight of second year work parties disappearing into the Fort after classes each night, made it all too clear that the obstacle race was not far off. At this time, the second year launched a propaganda campaign telling of the vicious tragedies of last year’s race, and the probable ones of this year’s. Just enough hints leaked out to make any recruit wonder and worry.

After several postponements, the fateful day was finally chosen: October 31 some Halloween party. Fortunately for us, the hopes of the cadet wing were not fulfilled when the thirty-first did not bring gale winds and sleet storms. The day was, however, overcast and quite cool. By 1615 hrs., the entire recruit class was assembled on the edge of the square in front of Fort La Salle where some members of the other years were giving precious words of advice and encouragement to the recruits of their respective squadrons. The Commandant then wished the recruit class the best of luck and fired the gun to start the ordeal. Immediately, the Square felt the pounding of enthusiastic feet as the mob sped across the Square and around the far end of MacKenzie Building. The pack spread out as it moved behind the academic buildings, the library and finally to the edge of the bay.

Here, the first and one of the most difficult obstacles was encountered, and it proved to be the beginning of the end for many. A boulder was to be carried in frigid, waist-deep water for approximately seventy-five yards. This done, the next task was to overcome the outer wall and reenter the college grounds. At this time in the race, some wished they were climbing over that wall in the opposite direction. After a short dash, we met a tire suspended about eight feet above the ground. After helping each other up and through the tire, the melee moved on, one by one to a second wall, that of Fort Frederick. Although ropes were provided for the ascent, the grease on them rendered them next to useless. Once inside the Fort, the fun began, first came the Martello Tower moat filled with an intricate network of barricades, ropes and barbed wire. Also included in the moat was a fifteen foot greased pole and an oil pit in which each of us was dunked. After leaving the moat, we raced up one of the steep Fort Frederick slopes and down the other side to be greeted by a second oil pit. This one was covered with logs, and each recruit had to crawl along the logs, completely submerged in oil, to the other end of the pit. The powerful fire hoses which pelted us after this were somewhat welcomed, as the water washed some of the oil out of our eyes and ears. Next, came a belly-crawl over rocks and gravel under a canvas, back up the slope where we were again drenched with fire hoses. A short, winding jog brought us to a horrifying sight – a greased slide into a pool of mud and oil! Everyone, however, braved the ordeal and moved on to another crawl over rocks and boards under a canvas, this time down-hill. A twenty-five yard stretch of low hurdles followed by coils of barbed wire especially hazardous for those not wearing their glasses was the next hindrance. Finally we were headed towards the gate of the Fort and to what many thought to be the end of a grueling race. But the half-smiles of relief starting to appear on some faces were soon turned into gazes of despair as before us, on the edge of the football field, lay a pile of potato sacks. These were the implements for the hardest and most fatiguing part of the course – a one hundred yard sack race.

However, we soon found ourselves crawling over the finish line, completely exhausted, where we received hearty congratulations and a handshake from the Commandant. The class of ’65 completed a difficult race which required their very best efforts. John Adams showed that necessary extra bit of effort to win. After the race was finished, hardly anyone appeared to have enough power to carry himself to the dormitories, but later that evening, we all seemed to muster enough strength to take an active part in the traditional “lids off.” This ceremony proved to be sufficient reward for the endurance test completed earlier in the day.”

Special thanks to E3161 to Victoria Edwards for the submission of this article.