What to Expect: GORUCK

Maybe you’ve heard people talking about GORUCK, or perhaps you noticed some folks doing stadiums or shuffling along at your last 10k carrying what appeared to be really heavy backpacks, and you wondered what the deal was.

GORUCK is a rucksack producing company founded by a team of Green Berets, and they’ve taken their knowledge and military experience to create events that provide any athlete with the types of challenges and training a soldier would face (although, of course, without quite the same ramifications if things don’t pan out).

goruck challenge

Photos courtesy of Emily Rollo, Cat Ferris, and GORUCK

While there are GORUCK events focusing on firearms training and serious expeditions (like mountain climbing), the events that have been really popular among the ruckers I know are the Challenges, which consist of rucking (putting weight on your back and walking). There’s Light (rucking for 4-5 hours and 7-10 miles — this is recommended as an intro), Tough (10-12 hours and 15-20 miles) and Heavy (24+ hours, 40+ miles). All challenges consist of you being part of a team (or class) led by a Special Operations Cadre who pushes his class to overcome obstacles (and there are obstacles) together. Everyone stays together, no matter what, making this as much about being part of a team as about pushing your personal limits.

There are also other, less intense events, like a Fun Ruck (try typing that three times fast!) and Kill That 5k, all designed to encourage people to dip their toe in the rucking community. And that’s smart, because from what I’ve seen, once you get involved, you never look back.

While I haven’t participated in a GORUCK event, I’m lucky to have a number of friends who have (yep, I’ve got a pretty badass crew), so to get more of a personal take on what it’s like to be out there, I invited my friends Emily and Cat over for wine, snacks and some rucking awesome girl talk. Here’s what I learned about what to expect at a GORUCK event.

What to Expect at a GORUCK Challenge

  • You can find one near you. There are different levels of challenges, and they’re everywhere.
  • DFQ. You can quit, but you won’t. “DFQ stands for ‘Don’t f*%#ing quit. You could do so at any time, but all missions are based on real-life experiences,” says Cat. So, when you know that you’re carrying a log through a river because your cadre had to carry an injured buddy through a war zone, you find yourself pretty motivated to keep going.
  • Be ready to sniffle. “You’re probably going to cry,” says Emily. “It’ll happen both during and at the end. And that’s okay!”
  • You’ll also laugh. Need proof? Just look at those pictures above — most are pulled from Cat and Emily’s real-life GORUCK adventures.
  • Leave the ego behind. You may find yourself swallowing some pride for the good of the team, because the order you must put things in for a challenge is 1) Team, 2) Teammate, 3) Self.
  • You don’t have to be fast. Speed won’t count — it’s all about endurance.
  • You won’t be alone. You’re never, ever by yourself, and you won’t leave anyone behind. “Not to pee, not to tie your shoe. You stay together,” says Emily.
  • No room for embarrassment. You’ll leave your comfort zone far behind and you’ll stop being embarrassed, says Cat.
  • It’s about more than just you. You’ll find the strongest sense of commitment to a team you can imagine. “You cannot let your team down,” says Cat. “Hitting a wall at Mile 21 like you do in a marathon is a luxury you can’t afford. If you get to a point where you don’t want to take it anymore and you leave, you leave your weight behind for your team to carry.” (Depending on the Challenge you’re doing and your own body weight, that amount of weight can range anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds.) And when you remember, as one cadre mentioned, that “you’re all eating the same sh!t sandwich,” it might make it a little easier to keep going. You might be tired, but so is everyone else!
  • Don’t overdo it, badass. “Don’t carry more weight than you need to just because you can — at some point during the challenge, someone else will end up carrying it, so you’ll just screw up your team,” says Emily.
  • Get ready to navel gaze. “You’ll learn a lot about yourself and truly experience growth,” says Cat. When you have to decide whether to give up or push through, you find out what you’re made of.
  • You’ll find all kinds of people there. Because GORUCK is a company founded by Green Berets, they support veterans and actively work to get them involved in the community, but many different people from all walks of life participate. And at the end, you’ll have a chance to hear real stories from the veterans — participants and cadres.
  • You don’t need a lot to get involved. A backpack (naturally they recommend a GORUCK brand one, but you can show up with whatever you like), the proper weight for your Challenge and bodyweight, hydration, light, money (in case you need to catch a cab home), and just a few other things are all that’s truly necessary. (Well, determination is probably also a smart thing to bring …)
  • Expect the unexpected. “It’s always new, always different,” says Emily. The obstacles your team will overcome are generally based on your cadre’s actual experience, so one Challenge might involve more water, another might include more time on the ground. You just never know.
  • You can prepare. Both Cat and Emily found that CrossFit-style workouts were really helpful in preparing for a GORUCK Challenge, and both also strongly recommended training with a group (although this video will give you a little information about how to train, too!).
  • No, really — you can prepare. Once you find an event you’re interested in, click through (for example, I clicked through on a GORUCK Light Challenge taking place in October in Tampa, Fla.) and it’ll give you a link to the Facebook event page so you can coordinate with your team on training. So, even if you’re really not sure what you’re getting into, you can be sure that you’ll be among people who know exactly what’s up.

Is this something you’d ever try? I never thought it would be my thing, but I have to say, when I talked to these ladies about it, I definitely felt the itch. It’s so inspiring! Kristen

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  1. Deanna Perkins says:

    This seriously looks like a blast!! My husband and I did tough mudder and enjoyed the team work that happened between complete strangers…this definitely takes it to a completely different level, but one that I believe we’d truly enjoy. So yes, I’d definitely give this a try…but I’ll probably have to wait a couple of years.

  2. Cassie says:

    This is something I would definitely do! Looks nerve racking!

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