Many people spend their Fourth of July watching fireworks in their lawn chair while eating potato salad. It’s certainly one fine way to celebrate Independence Day. In fact, this was pretty much my Fourth of July tradition in years past. But this year, I did something completely different.
This year, I took on a challenge. Specifically, a GoRuck Challenge.
GoRuck is a company started by a former military member. He created gear (rucksacks, hats, clothing, etc.) inspired by the gear he carried while in the military. To go along with the gear, the company began producing events and giving a portion of registration fees to the Green Beret Foundation, a group which supports wounded Special Forces members.
There are different types of GoRuck events (Light, Challenge, Heavy, Scavenger, etc.) that vary in time and distance. Before this first Challenge, I had done two GoRuck Light events.
Throughout any GoRuck event, you wear a backpack with bricks in it along with your water, snacks, ID, cash for a cab (should you quit), and any other gear you want to take. For a Challenge, if you weigh less than 150 lbs., you take four bricks, over 150 lbs., six bricks.
GoRuck events are not races, they are team events. You show up as individuals and slowly (and sometimes it takes a while for this to happen) become a team. As a team, you are stronger than any single individual. It isn’t about you. It is about the person to the left or right of you.
The whole event was hard physically and mentally. Everyone struggled at some point. When someone struggled or got close to breaking, the team rallied around them, encouraged and supported them into staying. Most ruckers are strangers, yet they are willing to help and support each other in the spirit of true camaraderie. Your mind will play tricks on you and tell you that you can’t continue. You have to fight those thoughts. Your body will want to stop, but you have to push yourself to keep going beyond the pain.
GoRuck events are designed to push people to their breaking point, very similar to boot camp training or basic training in the military. The breaking point (or breaking points) are different for everyone. Some people dislike cold weather, getting wet, or being dirty — while others might break from the physical demands of the event. Inevitably, to put it lightly, the events are going to make you feel uncomfortable. The phrase “growth happens just outside of your comfort zone” definitely applies to GoRuck events. Each person has to move beyond their pre-conceived limitations and become mentally and physically stronger.
Each GoRuck class is led by a special warfighter known as your “Cadre.” This person might be an Army Green Beret, Navy Seal, Army Ranger, Air Force Airman, or a Marine. The Cadre brings their personal stories and training to the class so each event will be a completely different experience. There is no set time and no announced course. It is up to your Cadre and what he thinks the class needs. You show up at an assigned starting point and follow instructions until you are told “you’re done.” And remember, the Cadre wants to test you and your limits.
Here are some statistics from the Challenge:
– We started at 9:00 pm Friday evening in downtown OKC and finished 10:30 AM Saturday morning in the same spot we started
– The duration of the event was 13 ½ hours of rucking covering 14.1 miles.
– 48 people started, 46 finished. The oldest person to finish was 71-years-old. The youngest person to finish was 17.
– Two individuals dropped from our class – they reached their breaking points.
– Six females participated and all six finished (Yes!).
I won’t go into a ton of details about all that we went through in the GoRuck Challenge. I want you to find out for yourself. I think the mystery of what you do in a Challenge is a big part of the mental challenge itself. A quick summation would be: buddy carries, carrying four wood telephone poles for over 8 hours, a ton of PT exercises (bear crawls, flutter kicks, holding feet 6 inches off the ground, pushups, mountain climbers, lunges, squats, duck walks, 8 count pushups, burpees, reverses bear crawls up a hill, sit-ups, low crawls), wading in really smelly water, getting yelled at by our Cadre, and touring all over Oklahoma City, all while wearing a backpack of bricks. Sounds awesome doesn’t it?
One particularly memorable moment was while doing flutter kicks and pushups, Bricktown’s fireworks show went off above our heads. Colorful explosions really distract you from the pain.
Always Earned, Never Given
There is a great sense of accomplishment once you finish. No one is given a patch, it is earned. It is a little patch, but it might as well be a banner of gold because you are so proud to have it and to show people.
I did this crazy thing! I could have stopped, I could have walked away but I found out that I can handle anything. If I can take on this challenge and survive, I can do anything because my spirit can’t be broken. I am strong. Confidence in my abilities is an awesome thing to have!
If you’re reading this and even remotely curious if you could do it, know this: you can and you should. Maybe this Challenge isn’t for everyone, but it is for everyone who is interested in seeing what they’re made of. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and you’ll join a group of extraordinary people who know that they are capable of incredible things.
No one is unchanged by the experience. It is a test of character, willpower, fortitude, courage, mind and body. I had a ruck-tastic Fourth of July.
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