Saturday June 23, 2012
Longest Day: Civilian boot camp
By REVATHI MURUGAPPAN
The 25-hour Longest Day programme saw participants doing drills that tested their mettle.
IMAGINE testing your physical and mental limits for 25 hours straight. Sheer torture, no?
Not for Daing Danielfitri, though, who took on the challenge simply because he was the only Malaysian invited to participate in the Longest Day programme organised by Chief’s Original Bootcamp (COBC) in Sydney, Australia in April.
The Longest Day is a fitness programme for civilians run by a team of elite ex-military trainers.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I had seen a documentary on the US Air Force Pararescue Jumpers, but that was it. To me, it was an honour to be invited, and I jumped at it,” confesses Daniel, 27, who came away with a torn ankle ligament.
Founded by Jim (aka Chief) and Emily Brabon, the Australian-based COBC has been setting the standard in military-inspired outdoor fitness training since 1991. According to COBC managing director Emily, the Longest Day was created to give civilians an insight into the level of physical and mental fortitude required to be a Special Forces soldier without having to commit to military service.
“The recruits are all from COBC and were nominated by their local lead instructor, having met all physical and motivational standards that are required,” she says.
A total of 52 men and women started the challenge, but only 35 finished, including Daniel, who, along with two other local partners, happens to be a COBC Malaysia master franchise holder. The Longest Day, which started last year, continually evolves each year and is based on training programmes from different special forces units from around the world.
Interestingly, Daniel’s background lies in taekwondo. He began classes at six years old, and by the time he was nine, he had won his first medal at the International Islamic University competition. After that, he continued winning medals and caught the eye of former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, who sponsored him via Bakti to pursue his training at the Taekwondo World Physical Education Professional Training Institute in South Korea in 1996.
At the institute, the youngster was selected as the first non-Korean to be part of the Korean Little Tigers Team and demonstrated his talent at the World Cup Taekwondo in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. More medals poured in when Daniel was in the national team but he eventually retired as a competitive fighter in 2007 to focus on nurturing the younger generation with his Taekwondo Academy, established in 2003.
After the establishment of the academy, Daniel has produced three national-level athletes for the SEA and Asian Games. Armed with a sports science degree from Universiti Malaya, Daniel is currently focusing his attention on boot camp training.
Since he was hand-picked by Chief to participate, how could he turn it down? The affable lad was already fighting fit and had nothing to lose.
“I arrived at the place and saw four instructors lined up. They knocked on the bus door, yelled and swore at us to get off the bus. There was a line, and they warned us that if we crossed the line, there was no turning back. All of us stepped over,” recalls Daniel.
Pride was at stake, and so the challenge officially began.
The pack had to run over a mile to the camp, and if their distance was not within an arm’s length of each other, they had to do push-ups. On their beds, recruits found a small packet of food comprising biscuits, baked beans, corn, jelly and a water bottle. That’s all they had to last them 25 hours.
Daniel had no chance to even lie down before the instructors started screaming at all of them. Out ran the recruits. They did flutter kicks, grunts and 1.5-mile (about 2.5km) runs on undulating terrain. It was go, go, go all the way.
“I remember I was number 40 out of 52 in the run. A lot of women beat me!” Daniel says, sheepishly. “We had to jump into a muddy lake in full attire, including our shoes. If you wanted to get out, you had to dive in and grab a fistful of mud to show the instructors as proof. Those who managed to get out had to do flutter kicks until the last person emerged from the lake.”
The cycle repeated itself, and while Daniel was coming out of the lake, he tripped and fell. Within an hour, his ankle swelled to the size of a tennis ball. After a few rounds of activity, the recruits would head back to the “parade square” where a doctor would examine them for injuries. Upon checking Daniel’s foot, the doc delivered his verdict: Daniel had to withdraw.
Shocked, Daniel was at a loss for words.
“I remember thinking I had come all this way. There was no way was I going to give up after two hours. The pain was unbearable but I insisted on continuing. The doctor bandaged my ankle and relented,” he recalls.
The punishing activities continued. Running with 22kg sandbags, a 3.5kg “rifle”, crawling into narrow crevices in a dark cave, obstacle courses, etc.
“Honestly, I wanted to give up. I kept telling myself to keep going for a few more minutes, a few more minutes ...”
At the first 15-minute break, Daniel exhausted his food supply. By this time, a handful had already given up and crept into bed. Dirty, sweaty and fatigued, Daniel persisted. Night had fallen, and the Chief threw a challenge – if anyone could beat him in the 1.5 mile run, they could sleep for a few hours.
No one could. Hence, they continued the punishing regime. For Daniel, the absolute killer was when they were asked to do rescue training with a heavy dummy on a stretcher. They had to carry the victim for 5km and if they dropped the stretcher, they had to add another 5km. By this time, drained and hungry, he was ready to call it quits.
“The instructors kept enticing us to give up! Again, I told myself to stay on for another minute.”
In the middle of the night, the remaining recruits had to write a 500-word essay on why they wanted to be there.
“Can you believe it – there we were, mentally, emotionally and physically tired, and we had to write in the dark. I could barely grip my pen!”
Morning came and the recruits found themselves crawling in mud while holding rifles. They jumped into a lake, did some drills, carted boats out of the lake and walked to the parade square.
“I cried as I carried the boat,” he admits. “I couldn’t take it anymore. What the heck was I thinking when I said yes?”
Those who threw in the towel earlier began clapping and whistling as the pack trudged into the square. The programme was finally over.
“The final evolution incorporates the toughest attributes of all the activities completed over the previous 22 hours,” says Emily. “We find that this was the toughest on the participants. But all participants should be extremely proud of what they achieved whether they completed six hours or the full 25.”
The COBC has a ranking system within the programme, and for his effort, Daniel was promoted to Staff Sergeant. The instructors told everyone “Good job”, got onto the bus and left camp!
After a hot shower and breakfast, Daniel spent a few days in Sydney before coming home to Malaysia – and falling ill. He’s still nursing an ankle injury, but in spite of that, he tied the knot with his college sweetheart earlier this month
Now that he’s gotten a “promotion”, what does Daniel think of the most gruelling programme he’s taken part in?
“Never again,” he says.