One new experience I wasn’t expecting to take on during our week at Center Parcs was Paintballing. It is an activity that has always interested me but I’ve never had the opportunity to do it. I was even jealous when a couple of 10 year old Brownies had told me they’d done it! My friends are not the type to do it, and neither are James’, and I was worried about the two of us going locally and ending up tagged into a stag do group or bunch of annoying 15 year olds. Doing this at Center Parcs seemed a great idea as everyone would be small groups joined together.
On our first morning at Elveden James spotted Laser Tag on the screens showing all the potential activities.
“They do paintball here too,” I naively pointed out.
And it was quickly settled that we would book up paintball for Thursday morning. I spent most of the week with a slight panic in the back of my head about this activity. The pain of being hit didn’t worry me, just my natural fear of making a fool of myself. I wasn’t a good shot in Call of Duty and I never put myself forward so I didn’t know how I would do in this situation.
The morning of the paintballing arrived and I, somewhat instinctively, wore about 5 layers on my top half. (vest, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, hoodie and waterproof.) This proved to be vital in avoiding disturbing looking bruises. My bottom half I only wore jeans and would consider wearing tights and my running leggings underneath next time as I gained some colourful wounds on my legs. I already bruise easily so the marks were very distinctive.
Anyhow, I’m getting ahead of myself, being as prepared as I could be we headed off to the outdoor activity centre. We got signed up, put our belongs in a locker and sat waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. I quickly realised I was the only girl among us. The majority of the group was made up of friends, brothers, and a father and son, the ages ranged from a 12 year old boy to 50+ military wannabes. As the groups did not split evenly we were a team of 8 against a team of 6.
We were briefed on safety and how to handle the guns and were taken out to have some practice shots. It was easier that I expected, but also scary having to remember to switch the safety on and off. In one game I ran into battle with the safety on.
The teams were sent to separate bases and the first game was to get one member of the team to the other team’s base. I’m not going to lie, I did very little in the first game! I wanted to see what other people did and at first our whole team spent their time in hiding. I tried a few shots but wasn’t very successful. Our team won this game as the wannabe military sergeant ran the field to reach the other base first. Phew, I needed a break!
Second game was the same but we swapped ends. This end seemed to have much less cover and was more of a struggle. James and the Sarge decided to run forward and I was told to cover them. Hah! I tried but James was hit as he dived for cover and the Sarge had nowhere to hide but a tree and was quickly picked off. I was alone! (Well, the others on our team were to the left of the field and I was standing in full view of my fallen teammates and felt I had to make a move.) I tried to copy James, and I did. My first hit was to the top of my head. I dropped behind the barrels and felt another hit to my arm. Headshots don’t count but I knew from the pain in my arm I was out so I raised my arm and off I went. On closer examination the paintball hadn’t exploded on my arm and I could’ve continued but I was happy to have left. James wiped the paint from my mask and we waited to start the next game.
Game three was capture the flag. In the middle of the arena was a red and blue flag and the one that was raised after 10 minutes would decide the winning team. Our team were instructed it was a good strategy to wait rather than run for the flag first, and I guessed the other team was told the same as no one went for the flag early on. Someone had to make a move and we started by raising the flag, soon after the blues raised theirs which dropped ours. Somehow James was out and the instructors started counting down from 20. The blue flag was still raised and none of our remaining team members were making a move! I had to go for it.
10, 9, I ran from my cover and was relieved to be upright rather than crouching as I had been for the last 10 minutes,
8, 7, I headed towards the middle of the arena,
6, 5, I felt shots around me as someone was trying to pick me off,
4, 3, I raised my arm out towards the rope,
2… HIT. I felt the pound against my upper arm as someone had hit their target. I was out. I slouched forward in frustration at just missing the rope. I raised my wounded arm and left the arena.
The instructor praised my run as I left and James said I did well. If only I’d taken up running a little earlier in the year and maybe I’d have made it! I was happy with what I’d done though especially as no one else was making a move.
The final game was an all out brawl. No more hit and your out. If you still had ammo at the end it was a waste. This game was designed to have people feel the pain of paintball, and yes we certainly did! This game is about getting the ‘bomb’ out of your side of the arena. The ‘bomb’ is a football and it was just a case of locating it if it was inside your half and kicking it across. But with pain.
At first we struggled to find the ball, it had made its way into our half but no one was moving. The Sarge went for it first and kicked it into their half. On running back he complained of being ‘too old for this’ and told one of us younger ones to go. The ball rolled back to us and I cheered on James to go and reluctantly he did and kicked the ball back over into their half. At this point most of our team, including myself, were out of ammo and had nothing to defend ourselves with. The opposing team had an awful lot left and were happy to stand just at their side, shooting at the fools who came toward them, and kicked the ball back with ease.
James hadn’t even made it all the way back to cover before the ball was in our half again and I ran past him as I took my turn to take the hits. Now, as a child, I spent many a Saturday afternoon kicking a football around with my brothers, I even attended a football training weekend run by coaches at West Ham and Leyton Orient, but I was out of practice and this football wasn’t fully inflated. I kicked it once and it wasn’t far enough. I was already being hit but couldn’t head back without finishing my task. I ran forward and kicked it again. This time it headed sideways. ARGHH! I went after it and kicked it across, still being pelted with paintballs, then turned back and went to meet James. After one final teammate ran to kick it back we had won!
I was knackered, covered in bruises and too confused to figure out how to put my gun back into the rack, but was proud to receive praise from James and the Sarge for my run. I always knew the pain wouldn’t bother me, but getting stuck in was my biggest trouble but I managed to take it on. Perhaps being anonymous in as much as wearing a mask helped. But I really enjoyed it, and if we return next year Paintball will be the top of our list.
P.S. This does not show off the full amount of hits we acquired!