Fuck, Craig thinks as he splashes through a puddle; soaking his socks yet again. He guesses he has already completed around half of the prescribed 6 miles and although he wasn't struggling, he wasn't enjoying it either. The Sergeant obviously picked the hardest terrain possible and Craig could feel it in his ankles as he leaned forward and began to power towards the crest of yet another rise in the trail. The bergen on his back jarred his spine every so often and he could feel the bruises that would no doubt appear later.
All of his training group were keeping up with him but the banter and encouragement had died away after the first mile or so, to be replaced with a chorus of heavy breathing, grunts and the sound of booted feet pounding on the mud. The only variation is the occasional curse as someone stubs a toe or runs through a puddle.
"... So, what... happens if... we don't finish the run?" Alan asks as he catches up to Craig and matches his stride.
Craig grins. "They bin you, or Brooksie... sticks his size tens up your arse."
Alan chuckles breathlessly and they both lean forward slightly as they begin to tackle another rise in the track.
Reaching the summit, Craig looks behind him and spots Robert - the biggest built member of his squad - struggling, he can tell the man's breathing pattern is ragged and his face is a bright hue of red as he fails to take in enough oxygen. He cuts his stride length and lets the rest of the small group pass him until he is alongside the massive man.
"Don't try to reply to me, save your breath," Craig pants, Robert nods jerkily. "... cut your strides down and breathe in through the nose until your lungs are full, then slowly release it through your mouth."
Another nod and Craig watches from the corner of his eye as the pace slows a fraction and Robert's chest expands slowly. Listening carefully, over the sound of his own breathing, he hears the other man's breathing grow less and less laboured and the footsteps settle into a consistent rhythm.
"Aye, thanks mate," Robert replies as he slowly releases another breath.
The trail slowly begins to descend; taking some of the strain off of their muscles with less effort required to keep the pace up. Craig's pack stops chafing him so much, but the pain from the damage already done does not diminish.
The next twenty minutes passes by with only the sound of Robert and Craig's footsteps and breathing reverberating in their eardrums. Craig's mind, detaching itself from the physical situation, continually wanders back to the texts from his ex. He can't believe her cheek, but more so, he can't believe he is considering talking to her. His resolve to ignore her weakens a little more as memories of their time together flash through like a highlights reel. Gulping, he tries to redirect his thoughts; focusing on how she had told him she had been cheating on him for months - and this less than a week after he found his brother swinging from that tree.
Bitch, he thinks as his resolve strengthens again and his hatred for her surges throughout his body.
The rage bubbles for the next ten minutes when suddenly Joe, Sarah and Liz's faces pop to mind and he smiles; remembering Joe's various antics, Liz's bitng sarcasm and Sarah's warm smile. He shuts out all thoughts of home as he rounds a long lingering bend in the path and can see familiar ground ahead.
The small group give a ragged cheer and a slight increase in the pace sees them cutting down the distance with every moment, all bruises forgotten, the soaked socks and trouser legs a memory of the past as they see the end of their current ordeal approaching.
They reach the end, all their instructors standing with grins as the majority of the finishers collapse to the ground panting and groaning. Craig grabs Robert before he can throw himself onto the grass.
"Stay on you feet and walk around slowly, warm yourself down and regulate your breathin'," he whispers as the larger man rounds on him in confusion and frustration.
Robert gives a shy smile and nods, the rest of Craig's group follow his lead and they all walk around the grassy area on the edge of the scrubland they have just come through. Within a few minutes they are all stretching off to prevent their muscles tightening or straining. The Sergeant stands and walks around everyone there, he catches Craig's eye and gives him a smile and a wink. Craig's mouth flickers for a moment and he bows his head in acknowledgement.
"Right ballbags, time for breakfast, you have an hour then I want you at th' obstacle course," yells the Sergeant, who then chuckles darkly at the groans he receives in response.
Craig silently turns in the direction of the mess and walks off; he has never been so hungry in his life.