The GORUCK Challenge Ruined My Life
For those that don’t know, the GORUCK Challenge is an event based on Army Special Forces selection training and is run by all former special forces personnel from all branches of service. Participants have to carry a brick-filled backpack (ruck) during the entire event. It’s the brain child of former Green Beret Jason McCarthy and really started as a way to show that his backpacks (they now have a whole line of packs and other gear nevermind a menu of different types of challenges) could take a beating and be no worse for the wear. It quickly evolved into its own thing with a cult-like following… and it ruined my life.
I got in what most would consider early in the movement. My first “GRC” class was Class 066. The classes are numbered sequentially from the first one onward. They are up over 1,000 now. Classes are also more structured now and hold close to their 12 hour deadlines more often than not. They are objective-based with the class needing to meet certain time hacks throughout the course of the challenge. Back in the early days, it wasn’t quite as structured. It was just a straight up ass kicking that you had no idea how long it would go on for. Class 066 lasted around 17 hours. We had no objectives. We had no time hacks. We were given tasks to do and were forced to come together as a team or be punished. The only objective was to make it to a point where the cadre decided it was over. In this case, we started out with co-founder Brian as our original cadre and then Jason McCarthy took over half way in. Some team members are still bitter towards Jason thinking he was unnecessarily mean. I am forever thankful for him pushing me to a place I’d not have willingly went.
I say it ruined my life because it forced me to change my perspective on my own limits. At the time, I was just an OCR racer and had a 4 mile OCR the following weekend. It seemed so easy by comparison that I carried my brick-filled ruck on my back, shotgunned a beer every mile, AND carried a kettlebell in my hands just to make it “fun”. I would have thought it impossibly hard just a week earlier. Nothing changed physically. It was only a mental change that allowed me to do it with such ease. We can rationally say “I see how that is so”, but until you have an experience from which to draw from, it’s hard to put it into practice. Things are just flat out easy now. I signed up for my first marathon not being intimidated by the distance at all thinking “psh, it’s going to be over so quick”.
I was injured last year and as part of my rehab I decided to race a half Ironman triathlon… after not biking for years… and never swimming outside of summer fun as a kid… and I had 8 weeks to train… Most people work up to a half Ironman. I jumped into it as a fun way to rehab an injury. While racing it, I was even thinking of ways to do it wearing my trusty brick-filled ruck. I was stumped on the swim portion. Hell, I decided to do a full Ironman, and I settled on Lake Tahoe because it’s one of the hardest IM courses in the world and done at altitude. I needed a hard course just to make interesting. I’m not saying this as any sort of badass, which I’m not by any means. I’m saying it because of the perspective change I had the night of my first GRC. I think everybody is more than capable of such changes.
Obviously I’ve benefited greatly from my GRC experiences, and I say it ruined my life with tongue in cheek. It does take a little of the luster out of things though. I KNOW I can meet any challenge. It’s just a question of whether I want to bad enough or not now. That’s a great thing, but it’s also kind of like riding roller coasters after you realize you are completely safe on them. It’s a fun ride, but that thrill is muted if not gone. Still, I am very happy, life is better, and I’m a better person from this perception realigning experience, and if the fanatical devotion of other GORUCK participants (GRT’s) is any measure, most feel even stronger about it than I do. I’d recommend trying one for yourself.