For 100 years, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (MCRD) has been taking in American citizens and transforming them into U.S. Marines. Just north of the San Diego airport, MCRD has served as one of two locations for Marine Corps basic training, also referred to as “boot camp.”
During the vigorous 13-week training, recruits are taught discipline, core values and information essential to becoming a U.S. Marine. One of the most well-known aspects of basic training is its harsh physical demands, obstacle courses and noisy drill instructors trained to shape recruits into more confident and successful Marines.
MCRD hosted their 21st annual “Boot Camp Challenge” on Oct. 21. Civilians were able to enter the base and participate in a basic-training-like experience. According to the event’s website, the challenge was a 3-mile race through different obstacles used to train Marine recruits at MCRD and featured over 60 Marine Corps Drill Instructors there to motivate and push participants along the way.
According to MCRD, around 1,000 runners signed up and participated in this year’s race. Each participant received a t-shirt and a participation medal. The event began with an opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m., followed by the actual race starting at 9 a.m. After all finished, the top three were rewarded with medals during the award ceremony that took place at 11 a.m.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said in a video for MCRD, that he “can’t think of San Diego without MCRD, without this nexus to the Marine Corps,” and that “it’s just a really cool opportunity. I hope more San Diegans going forward will choose to participate in the Bootcamp challenge.”
Jessica Dan, computer technician and employee at Point Loma Nazarene University, placed third in this year’s race.
Dan explained that during the race, drill instructors would shout at the participants to stimulate what it is like as a Marine recruit in basic training. They were there to keep participants in check, motivate them to finish and enforce a sense of discipline.
When it came to the obstacles, there were a variety of different courses for participants to complete.
“The first mile is just running, while the second mile consists of different obstacle courses like logs, high walls, trenches, nets and tunnels,” Dan said. “The obstacle courses are definitely tough, but it’s fun to get the experience.”
Dan and her family have participated in the challenge for the past 10 years. Her sisters have won the Boot Camp Challenge before, but this was her first time making the top three. Their family, including sister Abigail Dan, participate in different races each month that have helped Dan prepare for the challenge and keep her physically fit.
“Running together definitely brought us closer together as a family,” Abigail said. “We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We learned when to push, encourage and motivate each other.”
Dan has put in the effort to stay physically fit and prepared for each race.
“The training I’ve been doing, getting more into weight training and intervals when running, has helped overall,” Dan said. “I tried to push myself to my best ability throughout each course, so I’m really glad I got third. It’s motivating to keep participating in the challenge.”
For Dan, the most enjoyable part of the challenge was getting the chance to experience what it’s like for recruits at MCRD. Getting yelled at by drill instructors, jumping over logs and climbing the high walls is an experience Dan only gets once a year.
Dan mentioned that while the experience is enjoyable, it’s a challenge.
“The six-foot walls are really tall, you need a lot of upper body strength to get over and it’s quite a high jump on the other side. Sometimes just keeping up a good running pace between obstacle courses can be one of the most difficult and tiring parts of the challenge,” said Dan.
At the end of the race, participants were given their finisher medals as a reward for completing the challenge. The drill instructors also get their time of recognition for their hard work and motivation throughout the challenge.
“We all gathered at the lawn and waited for all the drill instructors to come running in,” Dan said. “It’s neat to come together and cheer for them.”
Dan was presented with her medal for third place and met up with the U.S. Marine Corps Commanding General, Brigadier General James A. Ryans II.
Dan and her family were grateful for the opportunity to come on base and participate in the challenge.
“It was a joy to see that Jessica won third place in her age division. We were all so happy for her, it was an answer to our prayers for one of us to place. All her hard work of walking 10,000 steps around campus, running after work and doing some weight training has paid off,” Abigail said.
In the end, Dan mentioned that it’s a unique experience that she looks forward to each year and is a fun way to support San Diego’s military.