An open letter to Jason McCarthy of GORUCK

Open discussion for all about the GORUCK Challenge, which is nearing 6 years young and remains our flagship event:

How are we/Cadre doing in line with our goal of Building Better Americans? If you have any feedback on anything at all (events themselves, operations, how we can better help you get your friends to show up), please post below. Good idea, Bad idea, Positive feedback, Negative feedback. Have at it. Even Wednesday whatever drama, just don't get out of hand :)

The worst thing you can answer with is silence.

Thank you all for growing this badass community tens of thousands strong all over the country and the world.
Jason McCarthy

Hi Jason,
I have done 3 events now, two Challenges, (524 and 981), and one Heavy (122). I have even shadowed two events and made videos (Including the infamous "You do it" video) because part of me wanted to show some of my friends what a GORUCK Challenge was all about, and also because I know it would be a fun keepsake for the people in the video to look back on. 

To say that you have piqued my attention is an understatement. I have literally changed the way I exercise and stay fit by constantly preparing to participate in your events. Once a week a few of us do “Welcome Party” style workouts in the park with rucks, logs and weights, and then get together for food and beverages afterwards. So to answer your question on how you and your cadre doing with your goal of making better Americans? I’d say that at least with a couple of us, you’ve managed to engage us in a way that motivates us to stay fit, all the while having fun with friends. I’ve struggled in the past with finding an activity that keeps my attention more than a couple months, so I’m very grateful to have found GORUCK. Since my first challenge 3 years ago, I haven’t stopped training and I’m in the best shape of my life. As well, I have met dozens upon dozens of other GRTs at events that I'm lucky enough to now call my friends.

An added bonus of doing your events, is that we get lessons in teamwork unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My comprehension of the word has been brought to a whole new level. Having completed a few of your events now, my definition of what is possible is drastically different than it was before GORUCK. I know now that if I set my mind to something, it’ll take some hard work, but I’ll get there. Here’s my problem though, I have not successfully been able to explain that to anyone in a way that makes them interested in actually attending an event, except for two people. The good news is that those two have stuck with it, and have not stopped training.

Most of the time, when I explain what GORUCK is all about, I get responses like, “Well I’d never do that, it sounds too hard” or “Man, that’s crazy”. So if you have any suggestions as to how to get more people to sign up, then I’m all ears. Here’s the thing though, the two people I convinced to do GORUCK with me really didn’t take that much convincing. It lined up with their interests in a way that when I showed them a few videos and talked about the cadre, they were in because it was as if they were looking for something like this already, but just weren’t aware of GORUCK. As I’m sure you know, most people are able to do GORUCK if they want it badly enough. So perhaps the friends I have unsuccessfully tried to get to participate are people that are already satisfied with their fitness plans, they don’t want to get wet and sandy, or they simply aren’t interested in exercising. 

Something specific to me, which is somewhat unique compared to a lot of my friends is that I love reading books about modern military history. So when I get to meet cadre, it’s pretty much the equivalent of meeting a movie star or celebrity. The only difference is that it’s their branch of the military rather than the individual I am familiar with. The draw of meeting cadre is honestly a big part of signing up, where as with some of my other friends, they wouldn’t know or care to know the difference between a SEAL and a Ranger. 

When I spoke to my father about my most recent event, he said something interesting, mostly because I didn’t think he really understood GORUCK. He said, "your event sounded really difficult, and it seems as though it’s something that not a lot of people could complete. The thing is though, if everyone could do it, it wouldn’t be special”. Part of me likes that he’s right. Part of me likes that I’m still hesitant to sign up for your events because I know how difficult they are. Since they are different every time, you never really know what you’re going to get which is an amazing way of keeping things fresh as well it scares me into training for things I'm bad at instead of getting stronger at the things I'm good at. The second challenge that I did, I noticed something much different than my first. I noticed that people seemed more interested in getting the patch, than they did with helping out their team. I was TL for part of that challenge and my team was struggling under a concrete parking block. When I went to get people to help, I was met with people shaking their heads at me because they were too hurt or tired, so I let them continue to ruck. After the challenge, that decision really bothered me because everyone was tired and hurt. It made me feel as though some people’s patches were worth less than others. So when I was TL at my recent event, I did my best to make sure everyone had equal opportunities to help carry things. I didn’t care if it meant being under something heavy for 5 minutes or 5 seconds. What mattered to me was that people understood they needed to do their best, and that if they weren’t carrying something, one of their teammates were in their place.  

Trying my best it would seem isn't enough as I found out during my Heavy event. I was one of the weakest and slowest guys there. I struggled with the exercises and running, and was one of only two people that failed the half way PT test because I could only do 52 of the 60 burpees cadre was asking for within 10 minutes. When the event was over, I felt shame because I wasn’t able to help my team out as much as most of the others. I was doing my very best to help, but my very best was not as large a contribution. It made me feel as though I didn’t deserve my patch. It's not like I was completely out of shape, or that my class was waiting for me, it's just that I wasn't at their level. I think part of me knew that if I tried my best I would eventually get there, and that I would complete the Heavy. This knowledge got me through the event without EVER even thinking of quitting. It didn’t matter how bad I felt during the PT, it didn’t matter how badly my muscles burned while carrying heavy things, and it didn’t how much I hated the running, I knew that if I could put my head down and do my best I would eventually make it. 

I think that realization killed part of GORUCK for me unfortunately. That realization that if I never quit makes it seem kind of pointless in a way to sign up for future similar events because even though I think I’ve found my current limit, just as long as I don't quit I can finish. As it is right now, given the time I have to train, as well as balancing the rest of my life, a GORUCK Heavy is just about right, if not a bit above my level. I’m lucky enough to have participated in a number of events with Stony, and know how much time and effort he has put into getting through Selection. I even made a few videos to go over his kit selection. Realistically, with the time and commitment I have right now I don’t see Selection being a possibility. Perhaps in the future, but not right now. Right now, I'm going to concentrate on improving where I saw weakness during my performance at my last event. 

So I guess this has morphed into how can you better help yourselves to get me (or possibly other GRTs) to sign up to do multiple events because I think the only way I'd sign up for another Challenge at this point is if it was for an HTL. Or if I travel to do an event. All the events I’ve done have been in the same city, the idea of doing an even in a different city seems like an interesting way to travel. Seeing special events like Normandy, and at Ft. Bragg look amazing. Also, I was insanely jealous of the people that got to do the obstacle course in Coronado. Lastly, your events like Navigator would be interesting for me because it’s so different than a Challenge, but it’s still under the same roof. I like improving my skills, and I like GORUCK, so being able to incorporate the two is a really great option.

Hopefully this meandering letter is useful to you somehow. As well, my apologies for it being so long. You did say that worst thing I can do is answer with silence, so if you guys have taught me anything, I figured I’d over deliver. 

Thanks for all that you do. If you count North Americans as Americans then I think you’re right on track, as I know of a number of Canadians up here that have grown because of your efforts.

Kind regards,


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