“What’s up, weirdos?” was the greeting that Gary, Chris and I got when we rolled up to a park
in Georgetown Friday night wearing 30-pound backpacks, head lamps and reflective tape. We
were there for the Go Ruck Tough Challenge, and Ruckers call each other weirdos. We didn’t
know that; we thought the guy was just pointing out the obvious.
We also didn’t really know what the Go Ruck was, except that we carried weights. Gary
thought it would involve touring DC at night, listening to “an army guy” tell stories. I thought it
would be an obstacle race (a la Tough Mudder). Chris had done enough research to know we
were both wrong.
The Go Ruck was not a race. It was a team endurance event. Sixty men and women
committed to a 12 hour, 12 mile hike, carrying a weighted backpack. Along the hike we would,
as a team, also carry a variety of other objects. These ranged from a 25 pound metal
ammunition box, to a 140 pound sand bag, to our own team mates. Along the way the group
also made site-seeing stops to enjoy some DC monuments and attractions, such as:
– The “welcome party” at Rose Park, where we got to know each other by doing thrusters
and caterpillar push-ups.
– The Georgetown waterfront, where we enjoyed commando crawls and runs up the
stairs from The Exorcist.
– Crossing the Potomac into Virginia (via bear crawl).
– The Theodore Roosevelt Monument, where we braved the icy (and not exactly clean)
Potomac to do push-ups into the water.
– Back to the DC side of the river with a light jog carrying 12-foot long tree trunks, and lots
of box jumps up stairs.
– The Lincoln Memorial, where we paid tribute by lunging from the reflecting pool up to
the big man.
– The World War II Memorial: a burpee running relay.
– We crab-walked to the Washington Monument, just in time to see the sun come up over
the Capitol Building.
– Another light jog to the White House for pictures. Really just pictures – it was nice.
– Our final stop was Rock Creek Park, where we enjoyed the morning sun and refreshing
burpees – in the stream.
Participants had a range of physical fitness. Almost everything was scalable based on size
and ability, except for the time duration. But most first-timers went into the event with about 6
weeks of training. We went into it with only our experience at 410 CrossFit to prepare us.
Here’s how that felt:
At CrossFit, one of the ways we talk about measuring our fitness is our General Physical
Preparedness. Our strength and conditioning workouts are “constantly varied functional
movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains,” and they are
designed to help us take on whatever random challenges life might throw at us. The Go Ruck
turned out to be a great test of our physical preparedness. We had a wide variety of surprise
tasks, in an unfamiliar setting and format, with the unfamiliar burden of a weight on us. Our
training at 410 had us ready.
Remember slogging through the Open Workout 16.5? That’s what Gary means when he talks
about “mental toughness”. When the urge to sit down and give up threatens to overpower you,
keep going. At 410, we all know that feeling. We’ve been faced with one set of “impossible”
and seen that we could do it: in five sets of “next to impossible” or ten sets of “difficult.” The
mental toughness we gained at 410 allowed us to choose finishing over giving up.
Accomplishment over rest. Over and over through the night.
The thing that made the Go Ruck special – that made it an accomplishment to be gained
rather than a trial to be endured – was the team effort that went into it. A team effort was
physically required for many of the challenges. For instance, no one person was lifting that
tree trunk. And no one person was carrying that 140 pound bag of sand for long. We could
accomplish these challenges only if everyone was willing to say “I’ll help” and also “I need
help.” Our general physical preparedness and our mental toughness was not enough to carry
the load. We needed to act as a team.
We’ve had many chances to work as a team at 410 during partner workouts. More
importantly, we regularly act as a team to cheer each other on, to bring each other through the
toughest workouts. The Go Ruck was a challenge in this sense more than any other. More
than our leg strength or stamina, it tested our willingness to work for the good of many rather
Do I think everyone should try it? Absolutely. Will I do it with you when you do? Let me think