I am not normal, at least by most classifications of the word. I mean, what person with sane thinking would venture out at 1:00 in the morning in November only to crawl, run, and drag myself through the mud and muck of Philadelphia? Did I mention this was with a former Green Beret Cadre on an unknown trek with 6 bricks in a GORUCK backpack lasting 13 hours and covering 26 miles? Oh yeah, this has been my 5th time in the last year.
What I am describing is known as the GORUCK Challenge. It’s an event for people who aren’t afraid to test themselves. I will give the general disclaimer that the event is not for everyone, but I whole heartedly believe everyone, at least once, should attempt a challenge.
What is the Challenge?
It has been said many times in many ways, but basically it is an event where you are in a “class” of 30 people. The term class is fitting as you will learn more about yourself and others than you ever thought possible. Your class will be led by a former special forces individual called a Cadre. The whole event has deep ties with the military as the founder, Jason, was a former Green Beret. Everyone wears a GORUCK ruck, as they design the toughest and most durable, made in America bags you will find on the market today. Your ruck will have 4 to 6 bricks in it and you will carry it for the entirety of the challenge. You will all have to work together as you are carrying/dragging logs, laying in water of all varieties, crawling through mud/grass/gravel and bear crawling/crab walking into oblivion. You will not know the route and details are not forthcoming. Don’t expect this to be like a mud run or 5K, this is a team event and it takes every individual to become one in order to finish.
“Doin’ it. doin’ it, doin’ it well”
The Meaning Behind the Challenge
I chose to partake in the challenge because I was looking for, well a challenge to test my mental and physical grit. Did I have what it takes to get myself out of a situation when I was tired, cold hungry and at the edge? Luckily the GORUCK Challenge managed to answer all of those questions and then some. Under promise and over deliver is a common theme.
A year ago I started with the NYC challenge in November at 7AM. I remember how nervous I felt while some guy pulls up in a car only to reinforce why I should be so nervous in the first place. Jason came out with a huge smile on his face and looking at all of us shivering knowing what were in for. I laid in a central park bog doing push ups and flutter kicks, I carried logs from Central Park to the Hudson River, I got in the East River for more flutter kicks and push ups, I buddy carried guys through Time Square, I barely
finished as my knees screamed in pain and I was delirious after covering 17 miles in 8 hours. And I did it all 4 more times with a smile on my face. Philly, Rehoboth, NYC on 9/11 and Philly again. Each one different from the last.
I love the GORUCK Challenge. I love it all. Call it masochistic, call it insanity, I call it Good Livin’. People always ask, “OMGZ WHYYYYY?@!@!@?”. Is it because of the people? Is it because I love seeing what I can overcome? Is it because of my respect for the military? Do I look at it as a time to hang out with friends? Yes. And more yes.
The first reason I love the GORUCK so much is because of the Cadre. Jason was the first Cadre I had the pleasure of meeting. Really awesome guy and pushed me to the absolute limit on two and a half of the 5 challenges I participated in. Jason is super focused and makes sure everyone works as a team. I owe Jason a beer just because he started this amazing company that I can enjoy with many of the friends I have made though it. If more business owners had the insight and genuine mind-set Jason does, work would really not be work. I respect this man in the highest possible way and look forward to seeing GORUCK grow in the future. Favorite quote of mine is when we had just finished running up South Street in Philly and Beaux had been leading us to that point and had to catch a flight home. Jason comes out of no where and said, “I feel great and don’t feel tired, you guys must not be tired either, let’s go, Indian Runs.”
Beaux was like a fire cracker from the moment we met him. He is a genuinely nice guy and also one of the funniest. For the half of a challenge I had with him, he made us work hard while cracking jokes and watching us suffer at the same time! I look forward to having more challenges with Beaux in the future!
For two of my challenges I have had Brian, a marine turned Green Beret and another great guy. He brings a ton of knowledge and a meticulous attention to detail to each event. He genuinely cares about each person participating and makes the challenge an informative and insanely difficult feat. He makes the experience a fun one and a time to grow together. As the lead Cadre, I am pumped to see what he brings to the table for the future challenges. I am grateful for his knowledge and the service he gave, as all Cadre did to our country.
These guys are my heroes plain and simple. They are the most humble guys on the planet, but I really look up to each and every one of them. They have pushed me to be a better person in the challenge and out! I am looking forward to experiencing a challenge with each of the other Cadre: Lou, Joel, Walt, Patrick and Dan.
“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast…is that hard to understand?”
These challenges bring people from all walks of life. I have run with people who are active duty marines to women who are barely 120 pounds. I had the honor to run with a former Green Beret who was injured in service and was blind in both eyes from shrapnel. The different personalities and people from all walks of life really make the challenge what it is. I have never met so many interesting, cool and real people in one place.
There are many people who put up a front to deal with everyday life, well, the Challenge changes all of that. What I really love is that I could be running with a Wallstreet banker and by the end, we are all on the same playing field. The cockiest person doesn’t stand a chance when they try to be a “stud”. I have made more friends through the challenge than anywhere else in my life. We all work together and get through the trying times and celebrate our victories. This is where when I said earlier, “Everyone should attempt one”, come into play. We all want to have everyone finish, we will carry you if need be. There is no room for egos and people check their baggage at the start point.
The people in these events just don’t stop. Many GORUCK TOUGH members do laps at many of the mud runs. Some do multiple challenges in a weekend followed by a 100 mile + hike. They all share the same crazy mind-set I have and we all enjoy our big spoonful of Good Livin’. I also know each and every GORUCK individual would have my back in a moments notice and I theirs. We support and help each other no matter what. GORUCK became a family and I am proud to be a part of it.
Q: “What are you training for?”
I have seen the many different faces of each city the challenge was held in. Some people like to stay in their own hometown, but I must encourage you to get out and try some place new. GORUCK will give you a tour of your city you have never seen before. How many people have waded through the run-off of the Schuylkill river behind the art museum? I don’t think many. I have run down the beaches in Rehoboth while seeing old embankments past the dunes. I had the chance to go around NYC at night, twice, while onlookers scratched their heads. I got to see the WTC site, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Rocky steps like I never thought I would.
What to Take Away
If you are reading this hoping to find out intimate details of the challenge, I won’t be able to help you. The best part of the challenge are the “surprises” along the way. I will submit a seperate post on preparing based on the packing list and “training” regimen I follow.
This challenge is all mental, this is a test of how far you as an individual are willing to push yourself. I think many people would be surprised to see how far they can go before breaking. Let me tell you, it is a lot farther when you have your teammates with you. My one piece of advise is to do everything together. Everything.
I guess in the end, normalcy is overrated.