GORUCK Challenge

By Jon F. Merz

Yesterday, I registered for something I’ve had my eye on for a while: the GORUCK Challenge. This is something different from races like Tough Mudder and others. According to the GORUCK website, “The GORUCK Challenge is a team event, never a race. Think of it as a slice of reality found in the most elite schools in Special Operations. Leadership is taught, teamwork is demanded.”

How do they accomplish this? Simple. You give yourself over to the Cadre – all of whom are drawn from the ranks of US Special Operations units – for “8-10 hours, 15-20 miles, Good Livin'” Spread out over this fun little jaunt, you are required to wear a ruck filled with six bricks (four if you’re under 150 pounds) that weigh about 24 pounds, along with a hydration bladder, a bit of food and other gear. Your ruck ends up weighing probably around 40-45 pounds when all is said and done. Additionally, you have a “team weight” of at least 25 pounds that gets handed around throughout the night.

Oh, and then there’s a log. A big log. And not a Robert Plant Big Log, either.

Push-ups, flutter kicks, buddy carries, bear crawls, crab crawls, and much more fun are to be found as you progress through the event. Rucksacks are never taken off unless the Cadre tells you. They also can’t touch the ground at any time unless permitted by Cadre. Both times and distances have been known to exceed the advertised length.

I signed up for the event happening on October 27th in Salem, MA. Start time: 0100 hours.

And I can’t freakin’ wait. Here’s a slight preview of what I can expect:

When I posted that I’d registered yesterday, I got several emails from folks asking: “Why?”

My simple answer is: “Why not?”

I’ll be doing the Challenge a few days past my 43rd birthday. At the time of the Challenge, it will have been about a year since I started dealing with a bunch of medical issues that fortunately turned out to be nothing serious. But at the time, I thought they were. Being 42 and forced to go through a battery of tests is not fun when every thought happens to be of the fact that your father passed when he was 48. Fortunately, I don’t smoke and don’t seem to have the cardiac issues my late father did. But it still made me think. A lot.

If you read my previous post on Complacency, then you’ll also understand why I want to do this. And if you know about the various aspects of my life – including martial arts – then you know that I take very seriously this concept of warriorship. Herein lies the longer answer to why I’m doing GORUCK. For me, walking the warrior path means that I set challenges for myself – big challenges that force me well out of my comfort zone. GORUCK type training is not something I’ve done in nearly twenty years. I want to see if I can still hack it, quite frankly. It’s not ego, but a genuine curiosity to see whether I can endure a situation like what GORUCK offers and emerge in decent shape on the other side.

On the GORUCK website, they urge participants not to attempt to “overgame” the event through intense training or running themselves into the ground. I happen to dig that attitude since it falls in line with my own thinking and brings up another point about warriorship: you can’t pick the time and place of an emergency situation. They happen whenever, wherever, to whomever. Therefore, you need a general baseline of physical aptitude to work with. The rest, as they say, is all mental.

With that in mind, I’ll be ramping my own physical baseline up but I’m not going crazy-go-nuts trying to ingest all sorts of supplements (which I don’t usually handle well anyway) or somehow turn myself into a superhuman specimen. I’ll be doing my usual walk-runs, mixing in Crossfit WODs, and some endurance marches of my own with the fully-weighted ruck to get myself ready. For those who are interested and want to follow my training, each new blog post out here will feature a rundown of what I’ve been doing. Then on October 27th, we’ll see if the preparation was enough.

I hope it is, because GORUCK also offers some other very cool events. But you’ve got to get through the Challenge first in order to qualify.

So, we’ll see. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my GORUCK GR1 gear bag, and I’m starting to see a few of the other folks signed up for the event. I’m hoping it’s an absolute blast. If you’ve done the GORUCK Challenge before, I hope you’ll say hi!


Note: I’ve been doing walk-runs for about a month now – focusing mainly on time and not distance. Even still, I feel they’ve given me a decent base to build from.

24 July 2012: Registered for GORUCK Challenge. Crossfit Workout for time: 3 sets x 20 reps each push-ups, flutter kicks, overhead press, back-ups, medicine ball throw & catch (20#), flyes (10# & 25# kettlebells) Total time: 18:39

25 July 2012: 44 minute walk-run for 3.75 miles (average pace was 4.7mph)

Nothing too elaborate or particularly challenging yet, but we’ll see how things progress.

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