In the latest of our series of elite "Contender" profiles, we interview Royal Marine Commando Sam Cherry. Although relatively new to the obstacle racing scene, Sam is no stranger to the concept, as it is a central part of any Marine's training and selection process. Sam is also a senior instructor at RPCC alongside Rich Pringle. Together they combine combat conditioning with personal training and, as well as being great for all around fitness, they are forming a serious looking team of obstacle course racers. Check 'em out at www.rpcombatconditioning.co.uk. Anyways, without further ado, may we introduce Sam Cherry...
Name: Sam Cherry
Height: 170cm (5'7")
Weight: 70kg (11 stone)
Occupation: Royal Marines Commando
Home town: Hastings
How competitive are you on a scale of 1 to 10: 9, I always have to push myself.
Hardest challenge to date: The Commando Tests.
1st at Warrior Run 2013
1st at Dirty Dozen Race 2013
2nd at London Spartan Sprint 2013
2nd at Cambridge Spartan Sprint 2013
What other sports were you into before you discovered obstacle racing?
Cross country running
I compete in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)
Road racing (Motorbikes) at British Championship level
And I play football for the Royal Navy
Have you always strived so hard to win?
Always with everything I do. I have to give it my all and try my best.
Tell us about these Commando Tests you had to do.
The Commando Tests are taken on consecutive days and all four tests must be successfully completed within a seven-day period. They include:
- A nine mile (14.5 km) speed march, carrying full fighting order, to be completed in 90 minutes; the pace is thus 10 minutes per mile (9.6 km/h or 6 mph).
- The Endurance course is a six mile (9.65 km) course across rough moorland and woodland terrain at Woodbury Common near Lympstone, which includes tunnels, pipes, wading pools, and an underwater culvert. The course ends with a four mile (6 km) run back to CTCRM. Followed by a marksmanship test, where the recruit must hit 6 out of 10 shots at a 25m target simulating 200 m. To be completed in 73 minutes (71 minutes for Royal Marine officers).
- The Tarzan Assault Course. This is an assault course combined with an aerial confidence test. It starts with a death slide (now known as the Commando Slide) and ends with a rope climb up a thirty foot near-vertical wall. It must be completed with full fighting order in 13 minutes, 12 minutes for officers. The Potential Officers Course also includes confidence tests from the Tarzan Assault Course, although not with equipment.
- The 30 miler. This is a 30-mile (48-km) march across upland Dartmoor, wearing full fighting order, and additional safety equipment carried by the recruit in a daysack. It must be completed in eight hours for recruits and seven hours for Royal Marine officers, who must also navigate the route themselves, rather than following a DS (a trained Royal Marine) with the rest of a syndicate and carry their own equipment.
- After the 30-mile (48 km) march, any who failed any of the tests may attempt to retake them up until the seven-day window expires. If a recruit fails two or more of the tests, however, it is unlikely that a chance to re-attempt them will be offered.
Normally the seven- to eight-day schedule for the Commando Tests is as follows:
- Saturday - Endurance Course
- Sunday - Rest
- Monday - Nine Mile Speed March
- Tuesday - Tarzan Assault Course
- Wednesday - 30 Miler.
So how long have you been an active Royal Marine now?
Just over 3 years
Where have your most recent tours been?
This year I got back from a seven month tour of Afghanistan.
Did your training down in Lympstone (home of Commando Challenge) build your appetite for obstacle course racing?
I never knew about obstacle racing then. The marines assault course, Tarzan assault course and the endurance course are a bit like obstacle races. Just always in boots, combats and 35lb kit, which makes it a lot harder.
As an active Marine, do you take part in weekly physical training as part of your job? Do you supplement it with your own training?
Yes at work a normal day would always include physical training, either a run or a circuit in the morning. Then sometimes either one again in the afternoon.
You’ve done amazingly well at the Spartan Sprints, Warrior Run and Dirty Dozen, but how do you think you’ll adjust to the Spartan Beast, which will potentially be 25km?
I think the 25k will suit me. After doing the Warrior Run I still felt really strong after 12k. So I've upped my training a bit, ready for the Beast.
Where are you hoping to place at the event?
I would really like a top three finish. It will be hard but that's what it is all about. It would be good if all the contenders stayed together till the end and had a sprint finish.
Who do you think is your main competition?
Obviously Thomas Blanc. He is a great obstacle racer and he has beat me twice before. Also Jonathan Albon, last year's winner,will have a great chance and Ross Phelan.
What has been your highlight so far of 2013?
Probably my first race at the London Spartan Sprint. I was hoping for a top 20 finish in the elite, then had a great battle with Thomas for first the whole time. It was a great feeling getting second in my first event after not really training. Now the obstacle racing world has opened up for me massively and I can't wait for next year.
Looking forward, what are your plans for 2014 and what events have you got your eye on?
Next year I will be competing as much as I can. Me and my trainer Richard Pringle will be planning our 2014 season after the Beast. Hopefully all the Spartan Races.
Thanks loads for your time Sam!