Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Test Without a Rope

The rope would have done me in.

Like the wall that nearly prevented me from passing the Bochan Maslul (army obstacle course), a twenty-foot rope threatened to ruin my Bochan Lochem. Used to evaluate the physical fitness in the top IDF units, the Bochan Lochem includes a 5 km run, maxing out on pull-ups and dips, and climbing a 20 foot rope without the use of your legs. For weeks my squad had included rope climbs in our daily workout. And for weeks I had never once succeeded in making it to the top without help from my legs. With the Bochan Lochem only days away, my only hope was that gravity would miraculously turn on its head and sweep me up the twisted twine.

The Bochan Lochem was to be administered by a brash new fitness officer. Days after arriving in the unit, his reputation was sealed when he led us on an early morning run. Coming on the heels of a tense all-nighter, the run was welcomed by no one. Even less welcoming was the nonstop instructions of the fitness boss-- arms should be at a 70 degree angle... The ceaseless chatter finally drove one guy to shout, "How about you just shut up!" Of course, the officer was too into his own verbal flood to hear the words that finally succeeded in waking (and cracking) us up.

Someone was apparently conscious enough during the run to report back to our commander that the fitness boss had voiced his approval for running shirtless. Our commander was not pleased. Okay, he finally agreed, from now on you can run without your shirts. But perhaps I should utilize the same guideline my commander applied when I was a trainee. He had us lift our shirts, my boss concluded with a smirk, and allowed the rest of the squad to decide whether a soldier looked good enough to run around topless.

Nearly everyone doffed their shirts a few days later for the 5k run of the Bochan Lochem. With all the guys that had joined the unit in November 2009 taking part, the race was a lot of fun. My squad embarrassed the competition, claiming twelve of the top fifteen spots. The best part of the run was having one of my best friends unexpectedly pass me during the final half-mile. I loved the statement he made by running a race no one suspected him capable of pulling off.

The rest of my love was reserved for the new fitness boss. Surprising everyone, he imperiously announced that the rope climb would not be a part of the Bochan Lochem. My joy was boundless as I cranked out dozens of pull-ups, eyeing the sinister rope whose clutches I had barely avoided.

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