Just woke up the day after the first-ever Australian GoRuck Challenge, sore all over. Aching from top to bottom, from my shoulders and traps as tight as steel cables, down to my toenails, which may or may not drop off. I’ve used MapMyRun to work out the distance we travelled – roughly 29km throughout central Sydney. I’ve recounted the story to my horrified girlfriend – fireman carrying a 97kg fellow rucker plus both our packs down Macquarie Street being one of the day’s low points. I’ve logged onto Facebook to congratulate my fellow ruckers and join the private GoRuck Tough group. What’s left to post-mortem this truly epic experience? This blog post, which could help future ruckers prepare… or opt out.
In the lead-up to the GoRuck Challenge, I soaked up as much information as I could find. Hopefully this account adds to the information out there. It certainly isn’t intended as the be-all and end-all, but just my experience, with some advice for any would-be ruckers. I found several blogs particularly useful, and I will include links at the bottom. Check ‘em out.
Review and advice
How hard is the GoRuck Challenge? Could you do it? Was it worth it? These are probably the questions you’re asking; they’re the ones I asked myself. The answer to the first question is: very. Very, very, very hard. By far the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve done two Adventure Races, one half-marathon and a Tough Mudder. None of them would stack up against the GoRuck Challenge.
Put it this way: Tough Mudder took me roughly 3.5 hours. This took nearly 12. Imagine going through the Tough Mudder three times in a row, all with a 20kg pack on your back, not to mention the 12kg Team Weight, partner carries, flutter kicks, walking lunges, push-ups, bear crawls and inch worms. Then compound it with the fact you are running through crowded city streets, passers-by asking what you’re doing, taking photos and getting in the way. Exhaustion, dehydration, indecision, embarrassment, injury – it’s all in the mix. The GoRuck Challenge is not easy.
I first heard about GoRuck from a couple of training buddies at Inner West CrossFit in Sydney. Soon after, me and a mate were at the pub and we decided to sign up (the half dozen beers we had just drunk helped us clinch the decision).
That gave me about three months for specific training. I focused on pack runs. The advice from smarter people than me is not to run with the pack during training – just walk – otherwise you risk injuring your knees.
Was this training necessary? Yes, running fitness is going to play a big part. Getting used to the pack on your back too. In retrospect, I could’ve thrown in more varied training with the ruck. Overhead squats maybe. Lunges could have been good. Push-ups definitely. During the Challenge, flutter kicks were a killer (FYI, this is where you lie on your back, feet six inches from the group, legs dead straight, and alternate moving your feet up and down. On multiple occasions, we had to do at least 100 without letting our feet touching the ground).
You should also experiment walking with the pack on your front. Try it with one strap. Carry it by the handle for a time. Borrow a buddy’s ruck and do some runs with one on the front, one on the back. And definitely, absolutely prepare yourself for partner carries – fireman carries and piggybacks.
Fitness will play a huge part in your ability and appreciation of the Challenge. I’m not super-fit for running events, but I figured I’d be OK. I do CrossFit four to five times a week, as well as riding my bike regularly. In the months leading up to GoRuck Challenge, I added in some fast-paced distance runs (generally the 7km Bay Run loop), walk/jogs with a 15-20kg loaded pack. I also threw in some 400m sprint repeats for good measure.
I was possibly one of the fitter participants in our Challenge, but it was still a bloody tough slog. There were moments toward the end of the day when I truly wondered if I could make it. I would do a 20-metre partner carry, then drop to a knee, panting, trying to think happy thoughts, knowing I had maybe 10 seconds before I had to stand up and do it again. And again. And again. For the next kilometre. But I didn’t cramp (thank you, Hydralyte tabs!), and I never felt like I was at risk of any real injury or total collapse, for which I thank my training regime.
Considering the punishment, was it worth it? The real question is, why do it in the first place? That’s the question mates have been asking me over the past few months. What kind of idiot shells out a hundred bucks (plus hundreds more for kit) to put six bricks in his backpack and run around Sydney? The short answer is: this kind. I did it to test myself. I train heavily, but what am I actually training for? A huge driver for me was to put this fitness to the test. CrossFit positions itself as a training protocol for General Physical Preparedness (GPP). After my first GoRuck Challenge, I can’t fault this claim. While there are more useful applications for GPP – fireman, policeman, join the military – it’s hard to imagine a better civilian test of GPP than the GoRuck Challenge.
There is also the self-reflection aspect. Learning about yourself. How you function in a team. Whether you are capable of rising to the occasion. I get this. The Challenge pushed me past way, way outside any realm of comfort. Forced both to rely on my team mates and to lead them. There were times when I could have given up. There were times when I felt I could motivate others to push through the wall. I’m sure my fellow ruckers felt the same.
Was the GoRuck Challenge worth it? Yes, absolutely yes. But treat it with respect.
If you want more specifics about the gear I used, click below.