On a normal day, in the first month of training before the cross-country competition (which is the most prestigious and hotly contested one in NDA), as a cadet you would cover the following distances:
- Wake up and run/cycle to the drill square/PT fields which are up to a km and half way and then back once these are over.
- Run around 3–5 km on the PT field or do an equivalent amount of drilling in the drill square (which is way more exhausting).
- Have breakfast and then run/cycle/carry your cycle above your head to classes which are maybe a km away.
- After every period, you do not have the new lecturer coming to your class, instead you run between classrooms in different buildings which are a little less than a km apart. So six times between seven periods you run to a new classroom.
- Did I tell you appointment cadets and drill instructors will be lurking at every corner and junction to make sure everyone is running. And they’ll randomly select cadets and make them do push ups or lift their cycles (the very heavy atlas gold line super with a carrier) up and down a few dozen times or sprint a few hundred metres etc during this transit. By the one you reach your classroom you’re a sweating mass of fatigue and conk off to sleep. This is repeated every 40 mins, seven times a day, everyday of the term except Sundays and holidays. There is always a sense of urgency, going between classrooms is more like an exercise in escape and evasion.
- You finish your classes, have lunch and within 15 mins will be back to drilling or doing PT in the Sqn depending on which of those tests you haven’t passed yet.
- At 1500 hrs, the entire Sqn will muster and move out for cross country practice. Depending on the mood of your seniors you’ll run anywhere between 15–25 Kms over small hills and roads at a very respectable pace. On Sundays, you have something known a time-route which is a timed practice of the actual route. You better do well in the time route if you want to spend your Sunday in Pune on liberty instead of rolling endlessly in front of some senior’s cabin.
- Thereafter, there isn’t much running. However, remember that if you’ve to go anywhere including to the mess and back for dinner, you go running.
Running is the most important part of training at NDA. If you’re a very good runner (the top 1%), you’ll generally breeze through training.
This fixation with running is so fanatical that a strange phenomenon called Running-on-the-spot has evolved in NDA. When the Academy is broken off after any function in the Auditorium, a bottleneck is created as there are only four exits for 1800 cadets. As you wait in line to exit, you are not supposed to stay still, you are supposed to be Doubling/Running-on-the-spot. Basically you make all the actions of running without covering any distance. The cadets appointments will be all around you shouting and ensuring the same.
Then there are camps which have navigation exercises wherein you cover more than 50 Kms carrying 25 kgs in a night.
There are other games competitions happening throughout the term once the cross country is over. The only time the Academy slows down a bit is once the end of term creeps in, that’s roughly the last 20–25 days of the term starting from the final exam to the Passing Out Parade.
Written by Kiran Rahul, Ex Army officer on Quora.