BEFORE candidates for the Parachute Regiment – motto Ready for Anything – get to wear the coveted red beret, they have to complete a 10-mile march that will make or break their career in the airborne forces.
The route across several steep hills and streams is the final test of endurance after 23 weeks of preparation at the Infantry Training Centre at Catterick Garrison.
If successful their training is complete and they are posted to Para bases in Cardiff or Colchester. But many fail and although 11 women recruits have attempted the course, none has ever made it through.
So Army chiefs were stunned yesterday when 700 people turned up for the first Paras10 event, which allowed members of the public to march the same route and see how they measured up as potential Paras.
Everybody completed the march, even though finishing times did vary from as little as 62 minutes to more than three hours – and raised more than 40,000 for two charities: Help For Heroes and the Airborne Force Charity.
Event organiser Maj Sam McGrath, who is also responsible for parachute selection for the Army, said: "The reason we introduced it this year is that for the first time since the Second World War Two all parachute regiments are out of the country in the same place at the same time – Afghanistan.
"We wanted to do something to help our mates fighting abroad and the families of those who may not come back."
The course involves both running a race and then strapping on a 35lb rucksack and boots.
The event is now to be held every year – next year on September 13, when places will be available for up to 1,500 people.