Event Recap: Goruck Tough 9/11 in New York
Event: Goruck Tough
Location: New York, NY
Distance: 15 miles
Date: September 10, 2016
WHAT IS GORUCK?
Goruck is a business with many facets: they manufacture military-grade backpacks, cast iron weight plates, apparel, sandbags, and more. The company has hosted thousands of events since its inception in 2008 and in 2015, more than 100,000 people participated in a Goruck. Until recently, Goruck has two main headquarters, one in Seattle, WA and another in Jacksonville, Florida. The company recently enlisted Newgistics in Hebron, Kentucky to handle its shipping and is moving all operations to what will now be its sole H.Q. in Jacksonville. At the center of Goruck are its distance rucking events, which are led by “cadre” –veteran Special Forces soldiers. The attendees of these ruckmarches span from military personnel and first responders to lawyers and doctors to college students and fitness enthusiasts. Goruck’s landmark day is 9/11, where every event around the country is for honoring those who lost their lives on this tragic day.
In Goruck there are several stages of events: the Light is the shortest (about 6 hours), the Tough is about 12 hours and the Heavy is 24+ hours. I had completed two “Lights” prior to packing my Goruck Rucker and heading out to Randall’s Island for my first ever Goruck Tough. Of course, I hadn’t trained for the event in any way but all I knew was that I’d be up all night. It was the hours between 4-8 that concerned me the most. Goruck uses military terminology throughout it’s events so I learned a lot of new terms such as “timehack” (a time deadline that must be met), “endex” (the end location of a certain event), and standing in “ranks” which are rows of people.
There are a few points in time that are usually uniform at every Goruck event: the “Welcome Party,” which is a series of physical training/teamwork tasks that occurs at the start of the event, PT (periods of physical training), education (cadre and participants telling stories during breaks from rucking, log carries, water sessions and more. In New York on September 10, there were over 130 people at the 10pm Tough, more than 50 at the 1am Tough, plus even more people for the 2pm Light on September 11 so coordinating all of this was a tall task for Goruck.
Prior to the 10pm 9/11 Tough, the people registered for this time were divided into groups on Facebook and each group was to prepare a presentation and present gifts to a specific firehouse in New York. After the initial “Roll Call” in which the cadre take attendance, (see above), the 10pm Tough was divided into three platoons. My platoon did make it to a firehouse but it was a different one than the one we had prepared a presentation for. After our first stop at around 2am, I volunteered to be team leader (TL). My time as TL was short lived and I only led the team a few blocks before we reached a park. It was time for PT. We did a physical fitness test for our cadre’s Special Forces Amphibious requirements. The test included the following: (my scores are in parenthesis)
Maximum pushups in 2 minutes (60
Maximum situps in 2 minutes (50)
Hello Dollies (50, 4-count)
Mountain Climbers (50, 4-count)
50 Burpees (without pushup)
50 Ruck Curls
It was 4am by the time we were done with PT and next thing I know I’m up and rucking again. It’s worth nothing that the other two platoons reported different experiences than mine, so I can only speak for what happened in my platoon. I provide this disclaimer because after the events, there were several fellow ruckers who took to Facebook to express their unhappiness with the event. I found that interesting: civilians were inquiring about why things didn’t go a certain way in an event created and ran by Special Forces.
In a nutshell, people pay to do a Goruck for their own reasons, mine was to honor the fallen of 9/11, have fun, meet new people and challenge myself. Others take the “challenging themselves” to a whole new level-if the event didn’t live up to Goruck’s own standards, than it wasn’t worth it. In these people’s defense, I know that in my platoon, we should have visited the original firehouse and I heard that another platoon ran out of water which for me is huge no-no. For everyone in platoon one, I feel your pain, yes, even the woman who flew in from Alaska, but remember that Goruck is a relatively new company running a unique event.
PUSH, PUSH, PUSH
Back to the event, it’s daylight and we take the ceremonial dip into water, this body happened to the Hudson River. A few flutter kicks later and we were pushing towards endex while carrying two light logs. Usually, the logs require more than two people to carry but this time we only needed two people per log. Throughout the event, I had to take some of the weight off my back by using my hands to lift the handle of the ruck to alleviate pressure. And this is where I’m dumbfounded by GRTs (the term for someone who has completed a Goruck) who do a Heavy, Tough, and Light in succession over the course of one weekend. That’s three days straight of rucking with only a couple of hours between events. Their backs and feet must be killing them by the end of the third event. My feet were hurting during the Tough and my hamstrings and glutes were sore for days afterwards. We arrived at endex, Battery Park in Manhattan, at 10am, where I shared the story of the person I was carrying on my back.
For the Goruck Tough, every participant had to attach a photo of a person who passed away as a result of 9/11 and I chose the only journalist who lost his life covering the attacks: photojournalist, Bill Biggart. Basically, when the 54-year-old heard about the first tower being hit by a plane, he went home, got his cameras, rushed two miles to the scene where he started shooting the chaos. He got way too close and his last moment alive was captured in a timestamped image. His camera and memory card were found in the rubbish and the photos can be viewed online. I picked Biggart because as a journalist, I understand the inherent need to find a story and for Biggart, he felt most comfortable as close as possible to the action.
We wrapped at Battery Park and that was my day. Next time I do a Goruck Tough, I will follow it with a Light, which result in nearly 30 miles covered. According to a teammates’ GPS watch, the 10pm Tough platoon 1 traveled 15+ miles in 12 hours. That’s the most consecutive hours I had ever been outdoors. My first Goruck Tough experience was a good one and I learned that I am a good leader. Multiple people told me I did a great job as team leader, that I had “good energy,” and I value these praises a lot considering I’m just a civilian journalist. Most of all, I learned to push like never before. In fact, I want to sign up for another Goruck just to hear the word “Push” because it’s the main, and best, action verb given by cadres and TLs. In life, you need to verbally tell yourself to push, but in Goruck, you give that command to others.