On a very hot night in July 2011, Class 047 of the GORUCK Challenge gathered together to begin. The GORUCK Challenge is a team event, created by Jason McCarthy, a former Army Special Forces and the founder of GORUCK. He shaped the Challenge after the training that the Green Berets go through on their Assessment and Selection.
If you were to search online, you would find the following from Jason when asked what to expect: “yeah bring a rucksack with bricks in it and a Green Beret will lead the class from start to finish. Want some additional information, here ya go with a smile: Details not forthcoming.”
Yeah, not much out there. The Challenge has “no set distance, no set time, no published route, no finish line, and no prize money”. 10-12 hours, 15-20 miles. 40lb of bricks on your back.
I signed up for the Challenge as a way to push myself to recover from two+ years of physical therapy after an IED almost killed me. Having this as a target pushed me to go over my own physical limitations. However, as Jason would tell you, it’s all mental. The biggest hurdle was to overcome your own demons.
We started at around 2200 hours (10pm), with Jason laying down the rules: rucks never touch the ground, you never walk unless I tell you, and, oh yeah, you better make my times.
It was like being back in the in bootcamp, but with a twist. So much fun!
We began running, in formation. Two lines, always keeping the ability to touch the man in front of you. Then Jason would say “Go!” and the last two people would have to sprint all the way forward to the beginning of the formation. Pay attention or pay.
He would say “Go!” and we would go sprint. However, over time, as we were not yet a cohesive unit, space began to form in between us. Jason stated: “your system sucks!" and “You better figure it out”. But we didn’t. So, off to play baseball we went.
Jason found a baseball field and for three hours we bearcrawled and lowecrawled from base to base to base. It was our Welcome Party. And it sucked! We were not only carrying our heavy rucks, but we had a Pelican Case with 100lb of sand in it, and a GORUCK GR2 with more crap in it, about 70lb of it.
And on we went. Into the night.
At some point the sprinklers came alive and it was awesome. We needed a bit of coolness, in the heat of that night. Three hours of baseball followed some more runs in formation. We did, apparently, screwed up again. So, in came the logs.
Logs. Yes. Two massively heavy and hard to carry logs.
If you have never done Log PT in your life you don’t know what’s like. You need a team effort to do it right. If one person is not carrying his or her weight, the whole team suffers.
We carried those logs for hours and miles. It took us a bit to get the system right, but we got it. We rotated and those not under the logs would help carry the packs of those under the log. Eventually we got it just right.
We covered a lot of distance. Visiting many places in Chicago.
And downtown we ran into a lot of characters, including this guy taking a bath in one of the fountains. He looked at us as we were just nuts, which... well, we were...
Eventually morning came… Still carrying the logs along with the Pelican Case and the “Bitch”, as we called the GR2 with crap.
We ditched the logs after Jason agreed that we had the system perfectly tuned to his liking, only to make us run again for time. And, of course, we didn’t make the time. You never do.
So, push ups, overhead squats, lunges, and sprints were in order. It was painful, but we pushed thru. However, not being satisfied with the results Jason told us that we had lost “strap privileges”, meaning, we couldn’t carry our rucks on our backs anymore. We had to carry them by the top handles. Man those things were heavy!
And more runs in formation. But, there was a catch: when Jason would say “Go!”, we didn’t sprint forward, we were supposed to pass the rucks forward, in a rotation. We sucked at it! It took a while to get it right, so we carried those suckers by the handled for hours.
But, we finally got it right. Just in time to get into the beach.
It was hot and we were short of water, so Jason - pictured below in his “I’m having so much fun and you are not” pose - made us do water drills. For time. In and hour of the water and into formation. Don’t make his time, back into the water for more.
We covered a lot of distance across the beach.
Jason in his "We are having fun!" pose...
At the end of the runs and drills Jason found another pair of logs… And he said: “well, what do you know! Coupons for the team, get those logs up!”
So, back to carrying logs.
At this point the team was working well together so we did good! After so many hours of punishment, you didn’t care any more, you just did whatever, with a smile.
We are all smiling!
And we moved the logs again… Distance!
We finally approached a heavily populated part of the beach, so Jason made us drop the logs.
Jumping into the sand, we made us fireman-carry each other. Half the team would carrying the other half for 200 yards, then switch and back the 200 yards. We did this until we got the timing right.
Making us go into formation again, Jason called it. Class 047 was done!
Oh it was awesome. 15 hours and over 20 miles covered.
We made it back to the starting point, slowly walking and chatting. There, we got cold beers, and Jason delivered an awesome speech, followed by the coveted and earned GORUCK Tough patches.
I made it! We made it!
This was one of the most amazing experienced I had had outside the military. It pushed me to get back in shape, and overcome my physical and mental limitations, and it made experience again something I haven’t since the days with my unit: camaraderie.
The GORUCK Challenge showed me that 30 strangers can become a team overnight, and you can begin to trust each other. And in doing so, great things can be achieved.
Thank you Jason!