Monday, March 25, 2013

GORUCK in Review

I am certified.

No, not crazy.  Although I think I've proven that already.  I'm GoRuck Tough!

Instead of drinking myself into oblivion like many people do on St. Patrick's Day, especially in Boston, I completed a GoRuck Challenge.  I guess technically GoRuck was the day before St. Patty's, but it wore me out to such an extent that I didn't celebrate on the 17th because I was too sore and sleepy.

So anyway, what is this madness?  GoRuck is a team-oriented endurance event run by former Special Forces guys.  Each person on the team carries a ruck containing bricks.  The number of bricks is determined by your own body weight.  Team sizes vary per the number of people signed up for the Challenge, but ours was approximately 30 people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities.  Lastly, each team has at least one "team weight" which must accompany them for the duration of the Challenge.  It can be anything, as long as it weighs 25 lbs.  (Case of beer!) 

We started at 0100 on 16 March on Boston Commons.  Over the course of the next twelve+ hours, we trekked to Fenway and then back to Faneuil and then Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution and over to MIT and Harvard.  We did pushups and flutter kicks wearing rucks full of bricks.  We carried railroad ties through Central Square, giant bales of cardboard through the swan boat pond in the Gardens, and each other through Back Bay.  We did the dreaded team push-up, known as the inch worm, where you rest your feet on the shoulders of the person behind you.  By the end, I was low-crawling across the Commons holding a giant orange traffic cone.  There were moments of hilarity and moments of frustration, and boy were those tasty beers that we cracked open the second our cadre told us we had survived!!

What I liked about this adventure was that you do not have to be superman to successfully complete it.  Can't do a push-up with a 20 lb bag of bricks on your back?  Put your knees down.  Cadre will holler at you about it, but the point is to push yourself.  If it's a choice between push-ups on your knees or no push-ups at all, then ignore them and just put your knees down!  Beat yourself up according to your own standard.  As long as you're sore and exhausted and every muscle in your body is shaking by the end, then you have accomplished the intent of challenging yourself.

I also liked that it is team-oriented.  You may be the strongest person in the world, and you could toss me over your shoulder in fireman's carry and run a marathon.  But there will be people on your team who cannot do that.  So you may find yourself carrying the legs of one of your "casualty" teammates while two other people support their shoulders, and you all rotate positions when you start to get fatigued.  It takes at least five people to carry a railroad tie through Cambridge.  It takes at least four to shoulder a huge bale of cardboard and walk it through Government Center.  It also takes the continued effort of your teammates to motivate you to keep pushing, because you want to contribute to the group effort and make it easier for the team instead of harder.  The cheers and motivational words you need to be able to ignore the fact that your arms will probably fall off in the next five minutes unless you put down that tree trunk come from the people who are struggling right next to you.

GoRuck Challenge will certainly teach you a thing or two about your personal physical and mental boundaries.  It will give you a very unique perspective on the places you visit .... I will never quite look at Fenway Park the same since after this event, where I arrived at Fenway at about 3am carrying a "dead" teammate and departed toting a huge and heavy bale of cardboard.  And if you stay upbeat and positive, you will find humorous moments every step of the way: The slack-jawed stare of a cabby driving past your group at four in the morning.  People pulling out phones to snap a photo as a bedraggled and exhausted group of people wearing backpacks crawls on their bellies across Boston Commons.

My favorite?  As we were dragging those awful bales of cardboard (some of which had crumbled apart after the first two miles) to Faneuil Hall, an innocent and confused bystander asked us, "What is this for?"  My teammate cheerfully replied, "Recycling program!"  And off we went.

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