Ballymoney man John Shackles has taken on a formidable real life Royal Marines test of endurance by completing an arduous training exercise designed to test the military’s most elite force.
The annual Survive The Yomp offers participants the chance to take on the ultimate challenge all Marines must complete in order to achieve the coveted green beret by completing the 30-miler over the original yomping ground of the Royal Marines.
62-year old John, has undertaken this challenge not once but twice, this year completing it in just under eight hours with his sister Elizabeth.
“I did it last year,” explained John. “A friend of mine, Chris Johnston, is an ex-Marine and he asked me to join him so I signed up. I started training for it and have maintained that ever since.”
John is no stranger to training hard, having spent three years in Afghanistan mentoring the Afghan Intelligence Service.
“I didn’t want to be there working with regular soldiers and not be fit enough so I made sure I always trained,” added John.
“It’s an amazing experience to be part of the Yomp, you meet so many different people. This year, Chris was unable to take part and I did it with my sister. We met two guys there, one had lost an arm and a leg and he completed it in seven and a half hours. There was another lad who had suffered severe head injuries when he was blown up in Helmand who took part with his father.
“I was delighted to help raise money for The Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund. I have worked alongside them in both Northern Ireland and Afghanistan and they are a cut above, they are extraordinary men.
“It’s a very humbling experience to be part of this challenge and its the Royal Marines way of letting people see a little glimpse of what they do. When you do the Yomp you have a group of marines with you and they are fantastic as they keep you going and keep you focused.
Having completed this gruelling ensurance test twice will John put his feet up and take it easy?
“My sister and I are organising a team for next year. It’s an honour to be part of something like this and be able to help the Marines at the same time.”