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Royal Marines Commando Tests

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The four Royal Marines Commando tests are the culmination of the longest and hardest basic military training in the world. Consisting of extreme endurance events and gruelling assault courses, they are designed to push recruits to their absolute limit.

But before recruits even reach the tests, they would have endured eight months of daily exercise while mastering all aspects of professional soldiering. Royal Marines PTI and fitness author, Sean Lerwill, makes this point when he tells us that:

‘Despite being the tests that will earn them the green beret, the Commando tests are just the last in a series of tests placed strategically throughout Royal Marines training to ensure that each Recruit is picking up the necessary physical and psychological fitness along the way, to give them the best possible chance at the Commando tests,’ (Royal Marines Fitness Manual).

It's worth pausing to reflect on Lerwill’s last remarks. The Commando tests are as much a battle of physical fitness as they are psychological toughness. Fitness alone doesn’t get you through the 30 Miler. When your feet burn from the blisters and your entire body aches from the previous seven hours of forced marching, it’s grit and determination that get you over the finish line.

But the pain and suffering are worth the reward. Those who pass the tests, and the many challenges along the way, earn the right to wear the coveted green beret: a symbol that represents the Commando status.

Royal Marines Commando tests

In this article, we will take a closer look at the four Royal Marines Commando tests. We will review the requirements of each test including a range of relevant fitness attributes that can improve a recruit’s chances of achieving the set standards.

Furthermore, the tests are also accompanied by an overview of the best training methods. This section aims to outline how to develop the requisite fitness levels in preparedness for the test.

However, this section makes for more interesting reading than instruction for the simple fact that the eight-month-long Commando course serves to prepare recruits physically and mentally for the tests.

Royal Marines Commando tests quick finder

Overview: 2.5-mile cross-country run across Woodbury Common followed by a 4.5-mile road run back to the Lympstone training centre. The endurance test concludes with a 25-metre shoot. Recruits must hit six out of 10 targets.

Overview: Speed marching (run-walk) 9 miles in a squad formation while wearing full combats including 21 lbs of webbing and carrying an 11lb rifle.

Overview: Traversing a series of obstacles which are interspersed with short sprints. The course must be completed in 13 minutes or under.

Overview: Walking and forced marches for 30 miles across Dartmoor. Recruits wear full combats and, in addition to the obligatory 21 lbs of webbing and 10lb rifle, they also carry a daysack containing food, water, and essential safety equipment.


Royal Marines Commando tests #1: Endurance course

Royal Marines Commando Tests #1: endurance course.

What the test involves: 2.5-mile cross-country run across Woodbury Common followed by a 4.5-mile road run back to the Lympstone training centre. The endurance test concludes with a 25-metre ten-target shoot.

It’s open to opinion, but the endurance course is arguably the most challenging of the four Commando tests. It begins with a 4.5-mile speed march to Woodbury Common. (This ‘extended warm-up’ is not mentioned in the Royal Marines Fitness Manual.)

Recruits run in threes until after navigating the sheep’s dip – a tunnel submerged under water. Wringing wet and already gore-bespattered from the first section of tunnels, recruits must complete the remaining distance on their own.

Once they return back to camp, which must be done in under 72 minutes, recruits are straight on the firing range. Even if they complete the Endurance Course inside the time, if they miss six out of 10 targets, they must do it all again!

Attributes for the Endurance Course

Aerobic endurance – cardio – is the most important physical attribute needed to survive the endurance course. From start to finish, recruits run (roughly) 7.5-miles. They do this clad in combats while carrying 21 lbs of webbing and a 10lb rifle. The test is made all the harder by the fact that recruits are covered in mud and wet to the bone.

Mental toughness is almost as important as cardio fitness. Navigating some of the obstacles along the endurance course route requires nerves of steel. The infamous smarty tunnels seem barely broad enough to accommodate a small person. To make matters worse, they are half-filled with filthy water and usually clogged with recruits. The clay-like mud that comprises the ‘crocodile pit’ is so thick that recruits sometimes emerge bereft of their boots. And Peter’s pool is so cold that it snatches your breath away when you need it the most. Getting through all this is about grit as well as being fit.

Related: Build awesome whole-body strength >

Royal Marines Commando tests #2: 9 mile speed march

Royal Marines Commando Tests #2 9 mile speed march.

What the test involves: Speed marching (run-walk) 9 miles in a squad formation while wearing full combats including 21 lbs of webbing and carrying a 10lb rifle.

The 9-mile speed march is comparatively straightforward. By way of example, for about seven of the seven and a half miles of the endurance course, you run solo. You set the pace and, from the final smarty tube to the road section, you have to navigate a section of woody paths. And it is possible to lose your way.

In contrast, a PTI sets the pace for the entirety of the 9 mile speed march. Recruits must merely maintain the pace. You’re basically taken on a sightseeing jaunt for 9-miles, which takes place on flat roads.

The most challenging aspect of the 9 mile speed march is the incessant and highly irritating fluctuations in pace. Also known as the ‘concertina effect’, a body of recruits moves like a living slinky.

If you’re at the back of the slinky, a fate that befalls those who are tall, you’re constantly playing catch up. The moment you get in step and harmonise your pace with the squad, the slinky suddenly opens up and you have to make a mad dash to catch up.

But it’s only 9 miles!

Attributes for the 9 mile speed march

Cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance are the two essential ingredients for a successful 9 mile speed march. The pace is slow and methodical (and periodically interspersed with shuttle sprints if you’re at the back of the squad). Cardio enables you to maintain a consistent output while muscle endurance helps ease the burden of the additional load that you must carry.

Self-discipline is an essential attribute when running as part of a squad. Strong runners can struggle to stick at a slow pace. Trying to race or push the pace makes life harder for the squad as it sends the step out of whack. In addition, forcing the pace puts more demands on less physically able members. This can result in the breakdown of the squad. As the saying goes, you’re only as strong as your weakest member.

Related: Want limitless aerobic fitness?

Royal Marines Commando tests: Tarzan assault course

Royal Marines Commando Tests #3: Tarzan assault course.

What the test involves: Traversing a series of obstacles which are interspersed with short sprints. The course must be completed in 13 minutes or under.

The Tarzan assault course is considered one of the hardest military assault courses in the world. Not only does it test every aspect of your fitness – strength, power, muscle endurance and aerobic stamina – but in places it’s also technical. For example, a recruit may possess the fitness attributes to complete the course within the time, but if on the day they fumble the cargo net, miss time the monkey bars, or lose their footing on the beams (or their nerve on the ‘death’ slide or 30-foot wall climb) they may not make the 13-minute cut-off.

Though it takes less time to complete than a generous pre-workout warm-up, Lerwill maintains that ‘for many the Tarzan Assault Course is the worst test of all.’ This is because it ‘requires maximum effort for the entire time,’ (Royal Marines Fitness Manual).

Attributes for the Tarzan assault course

A combination of strength, power, muscle endurance and aerobic stamina are essential. The course opens with a zip wire – ominously called the death slide. There are no safety wires or harnesses. Throwing themselves out of a small turret suspended 30-foot from the ground, the only thing that stops recruits from falling to a most gruesome demise is their grip strength. Once they safely touch down, the following series of obstacles require explosive power and sustained muscle endurance.

Unlike the other Commando tests, which are conducted at a sub-maximal pace, the Tarzan ‘requires the pace of an 800m runner, but with obstacles on the way.’ Thus, ‘it is a true heart and lung burner’ that ‘produces a lot of lactic acid in the muscles’ which is why the ‘feeling of wanting to be sick on completion is not uncommon,’ (Royal Marines Fitness Manual). To keep driving forward when your legs feel like lead and your stomach is in knots takes a lot of self-determination.

Related: Do you dare take on Mighty Murph?

Royal Marines Commando tests #4: 30 miler

Royal Marines Commando Tests #4: 30 miler.

What the test involves: Walking and forced marches on the flats and downhill for 30 miles across Dartmoor. Recruits wear full combats and, in addition to the obligatory 21 lbs of webbing and 10lb rifle, they also carry a daysack containing food, water, and essential safety equipment.

The 30-Miler is the penultimate Commando test. It is the last major hurdle that stands between a recruit and the green beret: being crowned a Royal Marine. The duration of this single test is twice that of the previous three – combined! For up to 8 hours syndicates of recruits accompanied by a member of their training team, walk, jog and run across the undulating terrain of Dartmoor.

In addition to being the most arduous test, Lerwill identifies another unique characteristic of the 30 Miler. Prior to embarking on the endurance course, Tarzan, and the 9 miler, recruits have already had a taste of these tests. ‘Recruits have actually run the whole course with their kit and been timed, so they know roughly where they are with the test,’ (Royal Marines Fitness Manual).

Not so with the 30-Miler. Every mile beyond the ninth is uncharted territory and thus a step into the unknown. The majority of the recruits will never have covered such as vast distance in a single stint. This makes the 30-Miler a real test of both the body and the mind.

Attributes for the 30 Miler

The 30 Miler is a test of pure aerobic endurance. To cover the distance within the maximum time allowance of 8 hours, recruits are required to jog and run the flats and downhill sections and walk (at a fast clip) uphill. Other than a couple of short rest breaks, where recruits replenish with a nasty pasty and glug of super-sweet tea, the team is constantly on the move.

The psychological demands of the 30 Miler are not exclusively a consequence of the distance and relentless pace. Standing on the start line at 4:30 am carrying up to an additional 60lbs of kit on their person, recruits are wearied by the cumulative effect of the previous three Commando tests, protracted periods of sleep deprivation (about 8 months), and time in the field. Thus, when they step off, they are anything but fresh and well-rested.

Related: If you can Row A Marathon, you might have what it takes to complete the 30 Miler.



In this article, we’ve reviewed the four Royal Marines Commando Tests. As well as an outline of how each test is conducted, we’ve also considered a range of essential physical and psychological attributes.

If you aspire to become a Royal Marine, it’s important to know the challenges that stand between you and your goal. This knowledge serves two useful functions.

First, it enables you to begin preparing for the rigours of Commando training. While being super fit and determined won’t guarantee you a ‘green lid,’ it certainly will improve your chances. As the saying goes, prior preparation and planning prevent poor performance.

Second, an understanding of the long and arduous journey that all prospective Marines must make, removes surprises. The psychological shock of an unexpected test can negatively impact performance. If a recruit gives anything less than 100 per cent during a fitness test, the possibility of failure increases.

This is a risk best not taken when we consider that a ‘recruit is only allowed to fail one Commando test, and only once.’ Failing a second time results in the recruit being back-trooped and having to retake all the tests again including the three-week-long pre-test field exercises.

Related: Can you pass the Royal Marines Fitness Tests?


Never be without a workout

royal marines commando tests blog concludes with the Hungry4Fitness book of workouts.


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at

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