GORUCK Repeat Offender
Story by Tatiana Whitlock
As originally published in Breach Bang Clear
Goruck events are akin to tattoos; after the first one they become down right addictive. Your first event is nerve racking, your family thinks you’re off your rocker, and you know it’s going to hurt. But you do it anyway and the experience leaves a lasting mark.
Folks who have completed Goruck events join a growing alumni of self-proclaimed “rucktards” around the world. It takes a special-breed-of-crazy individual to willingly pay for hours of physical and mental beatdown at the hands of a grinning cadre. While many classes include a mix of LEO and MIL folks, the crowd is predominantly civilian. For most of us it’s the closest we’ll ever get to what less than one percent of Americans who serve in the Armed Forces do every day. It’s a way to surrender self, work towards a goal with a group of complete strangers and prove that you won’t quit.
The first event I attended in Portland, ME was twelve hours of good livin’. Twenty individuals survived the initial two-hour “welcome party” of soul crushing PT on West End Beach and got properly soaked in the Atlantic. Despite a few teammates tossing their cookies on the sidelines, everyone managed to survive this make-or-break initiation without tapping out. The ten hours that followed for Class 551 were a cold, crunchy, endurance challenge.
Cadre Stokes led our mixed bag of participants on a team-building urban tour. We relocated telephone poles, construction debris, tractor tires, and other heavy tidbits across Portland. When the group stopped functioning as an effective team Stokes added weight to our rucks, which were already loaded with twenty to thirty pounds of bricks as well as other required gear and water. My Goruck Echo pack weighed in at just under forty-two pounds, the equivalent of an average five-year-old child.
Three things can never touch the ground in a Goruck event: The American Flag, your assigned twenty-five pound team weight and your ruck. After twelve hours that child-sized pack feels more like a set of twins. Like most Goruck grads as soon as I took home my morale patch, equivalent of a diploma, I was ready to sign up for more.
My second event was with GRT class 1142 in Boston, MA. While walking to the rally point outside Cheer’s Bar in Faneuil Hall I realized I was carrying a black MOLLE-covered backpack filled with four objects wrapped like C-4 in a city where that was a big no-no. Fortunately, nobody noticed. Our team assembled and at 9pm sharp Cadre Adam launched us on a warmup jog along Boston’s Freedom Trail.
One police officer, one sculptor, one chef, nine college rugby players and I made up our team, and we had a lot to learn. Our Cadre knew it and skillfully planned a hazing for the record books. We became intimately familiar with a seventy-yard expanse of the Boston Common and the tepid waters of the frog pond (if you are going to Goruck make sure you’re up to date on your shots). It took more than a few laps of bear crawls, crab crawls, buddy carries, duck walks, and buddy bear crawls before the newbies realized that if we stuck together, held the line and left no one behind, the pain train would come to a stop.
The biggest rugby player in the pack locked with a cramp and was dragging one leg. So the tiniest member of the team low-crawled back up the field to make sure he wouldn’t finish the exercise alone. And the team rallied.
Rugby player: “You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re smiling.”
Me (the little guy): “Hell yes, I’m smiling. Don’t forget, we paid for this!”
Rugby: “You’re not normal.”
Me: “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
Laughter ensued. He didn’t quit.
Finishing an event isn’t a foregone conclusion. One participant rang the bell an hour into the challenge. Challenge events have a 95% pass rate while “Heavy”, an extended version lasting twenty-four hours, has a pass rate of only 50%.
Paver stones, forty-pound sand bags, small boulders and six-foot brownstone slabs in our packs moved across twenty miles of Boston. We developed systems to rotate out “coupons” and named our assigned team weight “Frank”. Humor kept the mood and weight light despite fatigue and missing chunks of skin. Locals contributed to team morale by speculating aloud that we were either SEALs in training or overmilitarized police. A deeply intoxicated man in a business suit sashayed through the commons armed with a bottle of Febreeze and lovingly spritsed each tree he ran into (there are a lot of trees in that park). College coeds flipped their bleached locks and proclaimed “Oh my GAWD this thing is heavy!” when attempting to shoulder one of our rucks, and were dumbfounded when we explained it was our idea of fun.
Goruck events are grueling, gritty, exhausting, leave-nothing-on-the-field kind of fun that makes you earn your way to the finish line. It’s denying the devil on your shoulder who whispers in your ear, “get in a cab and go home”. The camaraderie that results from knowing the person next to you won’t let you fail is powerful and far from the average corporate workplace culture. Somewhere in the process of driving through your physical and mental limits, you catch a powerful glimpse of self-purpose in the context of a greater mission. The view is stunning and you can’t believe you allow the daily rat race to cloud it. So you find yourself online, signing up for another event, in a city you need a GPS to navigate, with complete strangers, to enthusiastically do battle with and conquer your greatest opponent: yourself.