Earlier this year, a notification from the Veteran owned company, GoRuck, came across my news feed announcing that they would be hosting the inaugural 50+ Mile Star Course in none other than our beautiful nation’s capital. GoRuck is a company built by Special Forces Green Berets that designed rucks that could be utilized in both the military and civilian setting. As the company grew, they realized there was a niche they could tap into. Millions of people love to sign up for races such as a 5k, half/full marathons, triathlons, Spartan races, etc. finding joy in testing their body’s limit. With their experiences in mind, they came up with a variety of events that allow civilians to taste a military-like adventure. Seeing that post, my eyes opened real wide with a crazy halfcocked smile and decided then and there…gotta do it.
For those that aren’t military, rucking is merely carrying a weighted pack on your back for a set out distance. If you have ever carried a backpack with food/gear on a hike, guess what…you rucked in the mountains. Rucking itself is considered the foundation of training in the military because it requires strength, endurance, and character. All of which are built as you and your closest friends take on the environment Uncle Sam has deemed necessary for you to be in. They always say, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with friends.” This plays on the principle that “embracing the suck” is much easier when you have friends doing it with you… much like a Crossfit WOD ☺
The Star Course is the culminating rucking event of Special Forces Selection process (tryouts). You and your battle buddy receive a list of waypoints that you have to reach by specific time hacks and if you don’t reach them in time, you’re out. The GoRuck event was different in that it allows you to choose your own adventure by giving you a list of points with the option to select your own route. The more efficient your route, the smaller that plus sign is attached to the 50. All of the points when reached have to be verified via an Instagram selfie with the total course completed in under 20 hours. GoRuck also placed the parameters that your ruck has to weigh at minimum 20lbs dry (without water) and you compete in teams of 2-5 people. After reading the rules, I called one of my combat medics that recently relocated to the DC area and explained the craziness I was about to drag him into.
Lucky for me, he agreed. We created our team (IG: @ruck_me_silly). Noticing some of our gym members and coaches had GoRuck packs and event completion patches proudly displayed, chatter started to build. Talking it over, there were enough individuals interested and there would be a second team (IG: @200_400) crazy enough to endure this event.
9pm on a Friday night and the event was set. 700 people from all over the country were in groups of 2-5 and met underneath a freeway in Georgetown. We got our maps, listened to the motivating inaugural speech, and stepped off to three blasts of an air horn. The herd was off. Mother Nature decided to bless us on the initial 33 mile ruck along the C&O canal, turning the drizzle with a few puddles along the way into a downpour that only allowed you to see the person ahead of you because of the glow stick hanging onto their ruck. Clothing soaked. Feet soaked. It was bone chilling weather. The owner of GoRuck wrote a review of this event (can be found on the website) and stated that during this time he “saw [his] spirit animal.” Most who did this event can relate to this feeling. The “suck” had set in and would be revisited in the city portion of the event.
After completing the 33 miles on the C&O Canal, we then made our way back into the city for another 18+ miles to capture the best sites of Virginia and DC. Most teams didn’t make it off the canal. We were making really good time and witnessed quite a few teams throw in the towel as we ran into them on the way back. After capturing the National Cathedral point, my buddy and I decided we needed to warm up, eat, and do some feet hygiene on the way back into the city. There she was…a little slice of heaven, our utopia, Einstein Bagel. My only regret from this event was that my buddy and I spent too much time here. We hung out for about an hour to do all the aforementioned. Had we not lingered, we would’ve made it into the top 3 teams. Hindsight is 20/20.
We continued through the city, grinding from waypoint to waypoint only to “see our spirit animal” again as we headed for Hains Point picnic area. This leg of the trek became known to people as Pains Point. This point was one of the last points after 40+ miles and was located at the end of a peninsula that took an hour and a half out of your life. The soul crushing portion of it was, as you got closer, you realized you weren’t going to the actual point because the tip of the peninsula was flooded from all the rain fall over night. We hung our heads. We took our selfie as close to the point as possible, did an about face, and placed one foot in front of the other back towards the National Mall.
Overall, I was proud of my buddy and me. We gutted it out. Being a team of two people, there was no option to quit. If one of us resigned, all those miles the other person just did would have been for nothing. We made it back just over the 17 hour mark. Had we limited our bagel stop to <45min, we would’ve placed second. First place team was a bunch of hard charging ultra-marathoners that ran the entire way and completed the back to back marathon distance in an impressive 12 hours 11 min. Unfortunately, the course took its toll and only 155 participants completed. That’s about a 20% completion rate. It was fun to be the first “Class” to complete the 50+Mile Star Course. Part of me feels a little prouder of the accomplishment knowing the level of “suck” that was endured from the weather and will always feel it was “harder” than any other course that doesn’t experience similar conditions. Most likely, that will be my biased opinion.
Either way, rucking is a necessary evil in the military and a modality of exercise I’ve always enjoyed. After what we went through, GoRuck modified the rules for the weight in the rucks to be based on bodyweight so those weighing <150lbs only have to ruck 10lbs dry for the Star Course. I realize 50+miles is a little drastic for anyone to agree to but if there is anyone interested, GoRuck offers a variety of events with differing lengths and weight loads. A great way to start is to sign up for one of their Light events. If you can run a 5K, you WILL complete the Light event. Anyone interested in taking a stroll around Baltimore is always welcomed to send me a message. If there is enough of an interest, I’d love to get groups from the gyms together to go on scheduled rucking adventures all over the area. Plus, my pups love to ruck. GoRuck is having a Xmas in July sale with rucks up to 40% off until they’re gone. Enjoy!
By Coach Carsen Hyde
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