The Opinionated Manager

learning to trust my own opinions and expertise

Run Forest Run!

The Boys of Sea PatrolWhen you think of the Australian Defence Forces, what do you think of?  I am guessing that you think Army.  And if that thought took shape as a person, I bet you are thinking tanned, fit, strong bloke wearing khaki camouflage gear.

Now, if I said, Navy, there are probably two lines of thought: Is that the one with the boats? or, if you were a fan of the TV show Sea Patrol, you might be thinking tanned, fit, strong bloke wearing grey camouflage gear.

And if I said Air Force

Oh dear.  I know it’s poor form to laugh at your own jokes, but I did get quite a giggle out of that.  Of course NO-ONE thinks about the Air Force.  But, to get back on track, if you were to think of the Air Force probably the best you could do is conjure up an image of Top Gun tanned, fit, strong Tom Cruise wearing ray-bans.  (And yes, I know that the movie was ACTUALLY a Navy movie, but it’s still probably what you’re thinking of because of all the jet planes and stuff.)

And now I am going to shock the heck out of you: Mild mannered, struggles-to-do-a-pushup, wuss-bag ME commenced my career as an Officer in the Royal Australian Navy.  So I can, with some authority, burst your bubble and let you know that there are a heck of a lot of not-tan, not-fit, not-strong blokes and gals in the Navy.  In fact there’s a whole variety of different people that serve in the Forces, just kind of like in normal life.  I definitely fitted into the incredibly average mould.

However, the one place in the Navy where you will find a consistent group of hard-core, muscled-up, fitness-crazed men is in the Clearance Diving Teams.  Strength and fitness are an integral part of the work of Clearance Divers, and as such it plays a huge role in their professional life.

Back when I was 22 I was attached to one of these teams in order to provide logistics support.  I was this team’s first female Logistics Support Officer.  Did I mention that Clearance Divers are all male?  So unfit, tubster Katrina was posted to a unit made up completely of gym-junkie guys.  I stuck out like a sore thumb, and never really fit in.  The guys were all very nice and polite to me, and I got on with my job no dramas.  But one day each week was a NIGHTMARE.

The Team would always commence their day with a fitness activity, but every Friday morning the support staff were expected to participate.  Probably in the Divers’ heads, they scaled down the activity to fit with the not-elite fitness levels of the support team, but in reality every Friday morning was an exercise in humiliation for me.  If I was lucky it would be a friendly game of touch, and I could get by for the most part running vaguely up and down the field as far out of the way as possible, but without fail at some stage a sailor would feel compelled to include me, and with a solid Here Ma’am pass the ball to me at which point (if I caught it) I would run randomly for a couple of steps before being tagged or lobbing the ball wildly in the direction of anyone.  All game I would be chanting under my breath Please don’t pass to me. Please don’t pass to me.

The pinnacle of this humiliation, however, was early in my posting, when the Friday exercise was a run through North Sydney.  It was a convoluted route along the bay, following gorgeous winding roads around Blues Point, up and down hills, in and out of tiny lane ways…  actually I am kind of guessing at the route because I couldn’t keep up with the pack.  I had to stop strangers on the street and huffing and puffing ask where the group of running men had gone.  Sometimes before I could say anything people would nod sympathetically and just point – the look of desperation and degredation on my face made words redundant.

After about 20 minutes I was completely lost.  I eventually found a street that I recognised and started walking back to base.  I was crying a flood of tears brought about by the shame, self-pity and physical hurt I was feeling, only to have to quickly wipe them away and plaster my face with a smile and a series of cheery nods as the pack passed me in dribs and drabs on their way back.  I think I bit my lip so hard that it bled.

I laugh about it now – it is one of the funny stories that I tell about my time in the Navy.  I like to get a laugh out of my embarrassments – and Oh God, there are many – but writing this down does bring back the dread that I used to feel heading in to work on Fridays, and the pain of the humiliation, but thankfully, also I remember the triumph and strength that I felt every time that it was over.  I was not beaten.  I had survived again and again, and I would always go on surviving.  Knowing that about myself is a gift, and is worth the pain.

Linking up today with The Lounge being hosted over at Falling Face First , Blogs and Pr, and Thankful Thursday hosted by Francesca Writes Here


20 comments on “Run Forest Run!

  1. Kim
    May 30, 2013

    Oh God – RUNNING! My worst nightmare. I feel your pain. I used to be a Surf Lifesaver and the Run-Swim-Run training sessions always killed me. An exercise in humiliation indeed when I was always back of the pack. A 15 year old girl with spindly legs can’t really cut it against those muscly 18-year old swimmer guys. I didn’t mind SO much though… the view was nice. 😉

  2. Tegan
    May 30, 2013

    I was shuddering just thinking about running. Even when I was fit I couldn’t run comfortably, we just didn’t mix, ever. The touch game pretty much summed up my entire school PE experience too lol.

  3. Ness
    May 30, 2013

    I don’t think I could be motivated to run even if I was being paid to do so. I am tragic. Sounds like it was a very interesting experience for you, though. x

  4. Dude I am so impressed that you can find a silver lining in that. If it was me I would have been consistently late to work on a Friday! Or sick! And at least one Friday a month I would have been seriously PMSing!

    • Katyberry
      May 31, 2013

      You’ve got to find a silver lining in everything – they’re always there. I like to laugh about it now, but writing this did bring back the memories and made me recall that heaviness that would weigh upon me – particularly that need to pretend everything was OK when I would be feeling so crushed

  5. Oculus Mundi
    May 30, 2013

    Sport. Broken out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. If I had been involved in this debacle, they would quickly have asked me to help give out water on the side lines 🙂

  6. Robomum
    May 30, 2013

    I used to run andI’d love to get fit enough to do it again properly but that is something I’d NEVER do. You’ve got guts!

    • Katyberry
      May 31, 2013

      I have always been a crap runner, but now I can barely run 800m, so I look back on those days as my version of super-fit!!

  7. This will seem naive but I thought you had to have a certain level of fitness to be in any of the armed forces. It actually put me off because I didn’t think I would ever be that fit! Now I think I could do it if I tried. I cant believe the run in Sydney is one of your funny stories – would’ve been my nightmare!

    • Katyberry
      May 31, 2013

      There is a minimum standard of fitness required, but it varies for the different services, and in my experience in the Navy (10 years ago), the most physically active I was, was during Basic Training. They flog you to death then! But the rest of the time there was an annual fitness test, and maybe occasional group PT sessions. You were pretty much left to your own devices, but that said, most operational roles are quite active – you are on your feet for a lot of the day, lifting and carrying etc, you just didn’t have to be the lean mean fighting machine that you see in movies!

  8. HomeleaLass
    May 30, 2013

    He he that’s so me as well. 🙂 I’ve tried running but it just doesn’t mesh with me. Yoga is my idea of exercise. I think you’re brave, tough and strong for fronting up every week.


    • Katyberry
      May 31, 2013

      Or perhaps I was just young and stupid!!
      One of the things about the Defence Forces is that saying no, or just not turning up doesn’t even cross your mind as an option, you just get on with whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You can see why the Defence Forces would need to instil that kind of obedience in its people, but obviously there is a pretty huge downside to that kind of turning off of free-will.

  9. Me
    May 31, 2013

    Thanks for dispelling my idea of who worked in the army, navy and air-force !!! LOL Funny how that is the perception but the reality is so very different – I know when I went to my brothers passing out parade, I couldn’t believe how much over weight, unfit officers I saw there !!!
    Have the best day and a great weekend !

    • Katyberry
      May 31, 2013

      Oh yes, there be some BIG BELLIES in the Navy! But for most jobs peak levels of fitness aren’t the be-all and end-all, so I am not trying to demean those people, it is just funny because I know that it is so different from the image that most people have.

  10. Judy Thornton
    May 31, 2013

    Knowing yourself is definitely a gift! So many people can benefit from it!

  11. That doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. But sometimes you don’t know your own strength until you’re uncomfortable like that. Thanks for linking up 🙂

  12. What a wee legend you are! Thanks for sharing and I can almost feel your tears of humiliation but you know what I reckon you’re a legend for doing it – very brave indeed! Bet there were some lovely bods to help pass the time also! Emily

  13. mamagrace71
    May 31, 2013

    Man, imagine having to do that for…work!!! But good on you for seeing the positives and sticking it through. As they say, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

  14. This Charming Mum
    May 31, 2013

    Oh gosh I would just never have the discipline for the armed services! I’m glad you got some positive life lessons out of your experiences.

  15. Slapdash Mama
    June 1, 2013

    Oh my God. I just cannot even..the horror. I would have been weeping too. I seriously sometimes have sort of nightmares that I will be forced into joining the armed forces somehow. Honestly it would kill me. KUDOS TO YOU my dear for surviving x

I love hearing your opinions and experiences, so please comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on May 30, 2013 by in Personal Development and tagged , , , , .

Follow me on Twitter

Blogs and PR
%d bloggers like this: