If you take one thing away from this article I want it to be that running with a fully-loaded ruck, when training for a GORUCK Challenge, is not necessary. Beyond that… there’s a good chance that you’ll do much more harm than good to your body if you train for a GORUCK Challenge by running with a ruck.
When I trained for my first GORUCK event back in 2011 I put on my original GR1, threw in 4 bricks (which was the weight requirement back then for over 150 lbs), and went for a run. I would run between 3 and 5 miles at a time and my knees have never been sorer in my life than when I was training for that event.
OBT and Dredd (founders of F3 Nation) trained in a very similar way for their first event. So did Mark Guenther who runs the F3 Nation Rucking account. Many of my friends trained for their first events by running with weight… it’s just what people did because honestly no one knew what else to do. We knew running was a thing and we knew we’d be doing this event with weight so we put them together and trained like we hated our bodies.
The following applies to most GORUCK events. However, Cadre bring their own flavor to the events they run so it’s always possible that you’ll get one that makes you do a little bit of running. This doesn’t happen frequently and I would say that since 2013 I have not done a single event that has had a memorable amount of ruck running involved.
Some GORUCK Challenge History
The GORUCK Challenge (now called the Tough) circa 2010 – 2012 is not what the GORUCK Tough is today. There were no “missions” and there was a lot more running. These days it’s all about rucking and back then it was all about moving fast as a team. You’d hear stories of Jason doing gear check then saying “Follow me” and running away leaving the team to chase after him.
“Indian Runs” were more than common… they were expected… and you would do them for hours. If you read some of the AARs from “back in the day” you see references to them all over the place. I remember researching them trying to figure out exactly what would be happening at my first event.
If you’re unfamiliar with what those are it’s where your team is in a moving formation (one or two lines) and you jog with your weight to your destination. The last person in line, if they’re a good teammate, taps the person in front of them and says, “you’re now last” then runs up past everyone else in the team and gets in front of the line. As soon as they get up there that person who is now last does the same… and you repeat this cycle until you get to the destination.
It was a nightmare… we looked at these events and thought hey… they’re obviously running during them so we should probably run with weight during training. What can go wrong if you train for what the event’s actually like? There wasn’t as much of a focus on rucking as there was on getting to the next location as quick as physically possible.
Rucking at GORUCK Challenges
Sometime after 2012 (maybe when the patch changed) GORUCK became less about running and more about rucking. The event style changed but the most popular AARs of the past were still focused on events filled with running. Even now if I check Google for GORUCK Challenge AARs I run across ones with running on the first and second page of the results. They still talk about Indian runs and all those horrible movements which, I’m guessing, leads people to believe (like we did) that they should run with their ruck in training.
Please do not train for GORUCK events by ruck running. You can train for a GORUCK event by rucking, you can train for one by running, but please do not combine them especially with your full load out. GORUCK has an episode of their podcast called “Hard vs Stupid” and I truly think ruck running for training falls on that latter end.
The thing is you won’t do much ruck running at a GORUCK event and, if you do, it will be for a very short period of time. Most likely what will happen is your team will be given a time hack… for this example let’s say one hour. You have this one hour to get from your current location to the next location maybe 3 miles away. You’ll spend 25 minutes on the first mile figuring out how to work as a team, then the next 20 minutes your team will hammer out mile 2, and then you are left with 15 minutes to get that last mile.
You’ll get 10 minutes into that last mile (at a 20 min/mile pace) and the cadre will possibly say you’ve got 5 minutes to make that last third of a mile or your team will pay the consequences. At GORUCK punishment for missing time hacks usually means more things to carry, casualties, or PT. As a team you’ll haul for those last few minutes and cover that distance… it will suck but it will suck less than what the cadre have in store for you.
Distance ruck running will not prepare you for that movement. It’s a quick burst of energy you need to get a lot of work done in a short period of time. Your team will also be a major factor in this because even if you do ruck run ahead of everyone and get to the destination it doesn’t matter… it’s not until that last team member gets there that the timer stops. Side note… if you do sprint ahead you’ll probably end up in more trouble with the cadre because you abandoned the team.
Ruck Running Alternatives
The best way I have found to train for running with a ruck (which will rarely happen at an event) is through interval training. Interval training will raise your heart rate in a similar fashion that ruck running would and it will show you how your body functions with a high heart rate. My go-to for interval training is some number (usually 4 to 12) of 1/4 mile sprints with 45 – 75 second rests between them. After incorporating intervals into my training regiment I haven’t had any issues with “ruck running” whenever it has shown its nasty head at an event.
Do you need to do this when training for your event? Absolutely not. If you are someone who is convinced they need to ruck run or train for ruck running then hopefully you can use this alternative to satisfy that need. It’s a lot less hard on your body and you’ll achieve a very similar goal.
Staring at the Sun
The best analogy I can think of for cautioning against ruck running when training for a GORUCK Challenge is as follows. when you are driving a car and are coming up over a hill with the sun in front of you it’s tough to see especially if you don’t have sunglasses. That sun is shining right through the glass and doing a good job at blinding you. You tough it out because if you looked away or closed your eyes for an extended period of time there’s a good chance you would crash the car or hit someone. Your eyes will probably sting for a few minutes afterwards but at least no one is dead.
No one trains for these situations by staring at the sun for any length of time each day to “train” their eyes to be used to it. When these situations arise you deal with them and move on. I view running at a GORUCK event as being very similar… don’t train for it by ruck running… that will most likely just cause injury just as staring at the sun every day would. Instead, deal with it as it comes and realize that it won’t last long and you’ll be fine at the end.
Questions regarding ruck running are one of the most common we receive and we see them posted quite a bit online. Hopefully you found this post useful and I would love to hear your thoughts on ruck running in the comments!
Aaron Santry says
This is spot on. But be aware the Mog Mile Tough is different, or at least it was for me. The welcome party featured a 2 mile run fully rucked. It sucks as I had never trained for a ruck run. 6 hours in I experienced with would later be diagnosed as a grade 2 tear of my calf. I wanted the patch and was able to finish the event. We ended with the Mog Mile (1 mile ruck run to end the event). I knew if I slowed to much I would be a casualty and as there were only 4 of us left, being a casualty would have negative impact on my teammates. We ran together the entire way and push to the end. I didn’t walk normal for 2 weeks and didn’t run or ruck for 2 months, but I have the patch.