Challenge Yourself — GoRuck

Throughout 70’s Big’s history, we’ve put an emphasis on entering and training for competitions (1, 2, 3, etc.). Today’s world is one where a person can wiggle through life without any real confrontation, any real challenge. The biggest challenge they face may be waking up on time in the morning or where to eat for lunch. Men and women of today may never subject themselves to something that really tests their mettle.

Signing up for a competition — whether it’s powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, strongman, highland games, judo, mountain bike racing, or whatever — forces a person into an uncomfortable situation. Not only will they be graded with a very specific standard, but they will be in direct competition with other people. Many people immediately think, “I’m not good enough to compete,” and “I’m not gonna win, why bother?” These comments usually arise because of fear; the fear of failure and the fear to put oneself in a vulnerable position. This would be enough of a reason to compete; it forces a person to confront their fear.

Yet competition inherently teaches many lessons; in essence it builds “character”. Character isn’t something your grandpa rambled about, but the foundation of what makes a person. Competition is comprised of victory and success, but also can be riddled with defeat and failure. It helps a person enter a realm of competitiveness, a place where people are actively trying to do better than others. It even allows situations where they can win in sloth, or lose with intensity. The competitive arena knows no bounds, and it asks the competitor: can you perform to your maximum potential today? That is why we urge you to compete; you’ll never achieve your full potential training alone.

Despite the benefit in most sport competitions available to us, there’s not anything that truly tests the potential of the mind. Yes, anxiety builds before hitting your opening snatch in weightlifting, but that’s very different than finding the will to continue when the body simply wants to sit down and have a nap. Enter the GoRuck Challenge.

The GoRuck Challenge was created by former Army Special Forces soldiers and is a team event that includes carrying a pack mixed with other, uh, festivities that lasts at least 10 hours and covers at least 15 miles. The cadre for the challenges consist of various SOF personnel, and the training is said to be similar to a day in Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). It’s not exactly a “road march” in the classical sense, but partipants carry a ruck that weighs 30 to 35 pounds of bricks (not counting water or snacks). Sounds fun, eh?

A picture from a San Francisco GoRuck Challenge

To most civilians, it may sound insane and unnecessary. But today’s warriors not only must be able to endure physical pain and stress, but they also must endure copious amounts of mental stress (which is no doubt exacerbated by the physical stress). Completing a GoRuck Challenge isn’t merely a physical obstacle to overcome; it’s a lesson in mental toughness. And that’s why it’s good for you. No where else in your life will you subject yourself to getting wet, muddy, and tired for several hours, and then consciously decide to keep doing it for several more hours. Running marathons or sitting on a bike can’t replicate the feeling of 40 pounds straining on your back; that weight is a constant reminder that each step you take is a victory. Note that the GoRuck Challenge isn’t designed to weed people out and make them quit, but instead aims for the team to work together to complete the course. The GoRuck Challenge is a fantastic way to test your mettle.

The coolest thing about the GoRuck Challenge is its location; they are held in most major cities in the U.S. and are now creeping out internationally. The original location was Washington D.C., and the challenge took participants through downtown and past all of the U.S.’s famous monuments. The constant reminder of American sacrifice in the American Revoulution, American Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and current wars is an inspiration as participants pay tribute to each monumnet. In other cities, participants will visit major landmarks or monuments during their quest through the night (most challenges start at 9:00 PM and end in the early morning).

A rucking challenge wouldn’t be complete without a ruck, and GoRuck specializes in tested, life-time guarantee rucks. These rucks were designed by SOF personnel for SOF personnel and are being used around the world this very second. Note that these are un-framed rucks, and are more like assault packs instead of ALICE or MOLLE frames (and you can get one that is “book bag” sized for every day carry).

Jeremy and I are signed up for the GoRuck Challenge that starts on Friday, June 15th at 9:00 PM. I’m told that this date is special because all of the cadre are being brought in for the weekend (that’s probably both a good and bad thing for us). In any case, I encourage anyone in the region to join us that weekend as it’ll be a joyous jaunt through D.C.’s monuments followed by copious ale consumption (beer is the official GoRuck beverage). If you’re looking for a unique physical and mental challenge, then this is for you.

If you’re interested, then check out the GoRuck Challenge website. If you have questions, you can, of course, ask them here, but the folks at GoRuck are really nice and will help you out (but search their site first). They have some other cool events, like this mountaineering course (pre-req is to complete a standard GoRuck Challenge). Check the shop to see all of their gear.

32 thoughts on “Challenge Yourself — GoRuck

  1. 10 hours to cover 15 miles with a less than half-weight ruck (standard infantry load being 90 lbs.)? Those “festivities” must be long and rough, since a bog-standard slow-pace 15 mile road march should take less than 4 hours. Guess they’ll have you stop and do log drills or something?

  2. “No where else in your life will you subject yourself to getting wet, muddy, and tired for several hours, and then consciously decide to keep doing it for several more hours. Running marathons or sitting on a bike can’t replicate the feeling of 40 pounds straining on your back; that weight is a constant reminder that each step you take is a victory.”

    As an avid outdoorsman, I’d venture that backpacking with a heavy rig in harsh weather is actually in that same ballpark of a mental toughness challenge.

  3. I checked out their website yesterday when I saw something Justin posted on the FB page. I was really bummed to see that it came to Houston in February, and I missed it. I’m considering the Austin adventure in coming up December… I’ll have a 4 month old baby at then but the in-laws live near Austin so it may be doable.
    @ DaveN, Cloud; y’all game for the Austin GoRuck?!

  4. @Gumbo I hear that. I’m an Eagle Scout and the trips I endured as a kid in the scouts built more character than any sport I ever played.

    I’m a little confused about the GoRuck times. Is it a nightime thing? I already bought a ticket to my favorite event of the year: which starts the next day at noon and would be an excellent way to cap off a brutal night of rucking. Yes you read that right, it’s the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ (bacon) festival.

  5. Great post.
    I did the Tough Mudder here in VA this past fall with a team of fellow CrossFitters, and it was a great time.
    It was brutal, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I hadn’t seen it through.

  6. Really want to do this, but I’m a little hesitant because the investment (if you decide to get a ruck too) is well over $400. That part kinda sucks. Everything else looks awesome.

  7. I will probably not be doing this because of a jacked up ankle and I just wanna say @Maslow- bro we got lunch during the 70s big seminar and it didnt even come across that you were an Eagle Scout- me too my man!

    In all seriousness I think that the perilous treks I took as a young lad have helped me solidy my mental fortitude as a man and I unequivocally say I feel comfortable sleeping outside in the adirondacks in a hammock with an axe and machete by my side with not a care in the world balls deep in the moose river plains because of it. Let me just say that I think scouting is definitely one of those things that has been pussified by American culture and that in my troop we did it right- guns/ fire/ learning to cook and camp like men. So before anyone hates on scouts, if you didnt like it, it was probably the lame ass adults who ruined it for you.

  8. Justin,

    You had an earlier post that mentioned including a ruck march in a training program.

    I am curious how you would program rucking into some sort of LP program.

    Also, is there going to be anything published officially that came from the working group you did with the SF/Infantry community?

  9. I haven’t posted in a while, but doing the goruck challenge is something I have been considering. I am also in the DC area so I might see you there. What do you think of this training template to prepare for it:

    Monday – Squat, bench
    Tuesday – clean + conditioning
    Wednesday – rest
    Thursday – Squat, Press
    Friday – deadlift + conditioning
    Saturday – Ruck + PT
    Sunday – Rest

    Also, if you have an interested in army SF, I highly recomend reading “Chosen Soldier.” I just finished it, its very insightful.

  10. Heard about GoRuck a few weeks ago from a CCT, thought it sounded pretty cool. Hopefully I’ll be on my way to basic when this D.C. event comes up though, oh well. I’m definitely gonna do one in the future.

    Also Justin, are you still available for a consult? lol

  11. This sounds awesome. It seems like there are a bunch of these type of races popping up around the country. There is a whole spectrum, from adventure racing to GoRuck. Mud runs like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. Short obstacle courses like Metro Dash.

    However, I just learned about the coolest/weirdest one, ‘Run for Your Lives’, where Zombies chase you around a 5k obstacle course. Not the reverence or mental challenge of GoRuck, but good practice for the upcoming apocalypse.

  12. I did Goruck Challenge Class 007 in St Augustine FL in December of 2010. The Goruck motto is “under promise, over-deliver”.
    The times of 10 hours and 15 miles are estimates, typically very conservative ones at that.
    My challenge started at 7 pm on December 29 at the fort in St Augustine. I had six bricks in my ruck due to a couple of people having not shown up and us having to carry their bricks as well as our own (Jason originally supplied the bricks for the classes) Air temps were in the 40’s and within ten minutes of starting Jason (Goruck Founder) had us on our faces in the nasty intracoastal mud doing pushups with faces into the water. To make sure we were good and soaked and muddy we rolled over and did flutter kicks in the water as well. (I had checked water temps online the day of the challenge-49* for the Atlantic and 51* for the intracoastal. ) We then did indian runs to Vilano Beach, a distance of five miles or so and repeated these calisthenics in the crashing and numbingly cold surf. Now that we were nice and wet and sandy Jason found us a “log” to carry. It was a tree, a waterlogged heavy as shit tree. It took all 22 of us to carry that “log” some distance over the next hour or so. Brutally heavy. Having completed our log pt Jason led us on indian runs back to St Augustine, pointing out various historical locations along the route. We passed through the city while doing buddy carries through the bar district (always good for some comments from the drinkers) and headed out to Anastasia Island where Jason proceeded to lead us in a bit of trespassing through a beachside RV park so that we could, yet again, access the freezing waters of the Atlantic. Crab walks into the crashing surf were the highlight of this bit of ocean PT, with other fun stuff thrown in for good measure. We then proceeded to do indian runs to the tip of Anastasia Island, either in the sugar sand or in the ebb and flow of the surf in ankle deep water. When we reached the tip of the island Jason pointed out the great view of the city lights in St Augustine in the distance, and then pointed out that we had to go back the same way we had come-through the sugar sand and surf. We made our way back down the island, through the RV park and back onto the road. At that time many teammates were limping pretty badly and vocally contemplating quitting. Jason decided that due to the injuries the pace was too slow and as such we either had to sacrifice teammates by calling a cab and sending them on their way, or we could carry them to the finish (which was an unknown distance/time/location) away. There was no choice but to carry them. We carried the four or five of them at least 3 miles at which time Jason informed us that half of our team would have to be carried to the finish line-a quarter mile away over the Lions bridge leading into downtown St Augustine. We loaded up and headed for the finish, carrying our own ruck, an additional person and their ruck the last grueling steps. There was a huge sense of comradery as Jason distributed our “Goruck Tough” patches (always earned, never for sale). The experience certainly taught me a few things about myself, and more importantly, what a team can accomplish when they decide to work together.
    Just sign up and do it, you’ll understand.

  13. Indian runs are where the guy at the back of the column has to run to the front. Then the next guy in the back goes, and so on, and so on. Sort of a built-in sprint interval while you march.

    The more I think about this, the more I fail to see the point in paying some dude to tell me to do stuff I already did for my DIs and RIs back in the day. Still, though, Austin is nice in December…

  14. Keeping with the military theme, I’m going to a long A.I.T. in the near future. I’d like to be able to lift as much as possible while going to class and maintaining PT standards. Would you recommend your S&C 2.0 program for my situation? Thanks in advance.

  15. This looks like XFIT LARPing like the SEAL challenge Rogue Fitness posted on YouTube.

    Why not join the military and grind through all the drudgery leading up to SF selection or Ranger School or BUD/S and then do the real thing? The reason people don’t rush to do the real thing is the possibility of failure – 90% fail or never get to training – and ending up in some boring/miserable job in the military for the balance of their enlistment. Also, one day of hardship is nothing compared to 6 months-4 years-longer of sleeping in the field, lacking amenities, missing family, and following BS orders.

    Jeez, San Francisco is just full of the people depicted in this photo – dabble at this, dabble at that – never work at something truly hard like building a career, a family, or a life.

    This type of activity looks stupid, lacks purpose, dignity, and introspection, much like every other XFIT activity.

  16. I second RD’s question about modifying existing LP type programming or just specific programming examples when doing extended aerobic activity. My wife is training for a full marathon in June and lifts and I basically suggested that she do your female intro 2x a week program (RDL, squat, bench, press, etc) on days she does shorter runs. I remember in one podcast for a guy who had several miles of unit PT every week you advocated running and lifting on the same days as possible to provide full recovery days, I’m assuming the same advice holds here?

  17. People will pay to do Indian runs? I got paid to do them and I never want to see them again…

    Something like this sounds mentally challenging in a fun way, however I’d have to make sacrifices I currently care more about finaly pulling 500lbs and not running and doing pushups for 10 hours.

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