COLCHESTER soldiers took on each other to find out who is the fittest.

Army medics took to a West Mersea beach in a testing 8km assault course.

It saw 100 men and 16 women race in full battle gear on obstacles and sand groynes at the beach near to Seaview Holiday Park on Friday.

The medics, from 16 Air Assault Brigade, based at Colchester Garrison, are part the Army’s rapid reaction force, which means they could be deployed at any time.

The first man across the finish line, in just below 29 minutes was Lance Corporal Chris McMillan, a Royal Engineers electrical engineer.

The 26-year-old said: “Running on sand is harder than it looks and, without being complacent, I’m very proud to have won this event.

“I’m a keen runner and put a lot of effort into training, both what we do as a unit and in my own time.

“If you’re not fit enough you can’t do the job we do, it’s as simple as that.”

Pte Kimberley Preston, a combat medical technician, was the first female soldier to finish in just over 35 minutes.

The 20-year-old, who represents the Army in sprint and triathlon, said: “Fitness is really important for us as a unit.

“We would deploy on operations alongside the Parachute Regiment and we have to match their high standards to be able to keep up with them on the ground.”

Lt Col Philip McNee, the medics’ Commanding Officer, added: “The beach run was a tough event but every member of the regiment put in an outstanding effort, showing the strength of their spirit as much as their fitness.

“As troops within 16 Air Assault Brigade, physical fitness is one of our top priorities.”