Six hours and one minute. That’s how long GORUCK Light Pittbirgh lasted on Oct. 22.

I’m breaking this race recap into two parts. The first part will explain the terminology and some of what GORUCK is about. The second part will be about the ruck itself.

As I write this, I’m at home listening to my sons trying to get their older sister to help them clean. My legs are sore but not half-marathon or marathon sore. My upper body — back, shoulders and arms — took a beating. 

Before I start, I will say that GORUCK is a great event. I laughed, danced and did more than I thought I was capable of. These are my reflections of the event, and each person will take away something different. So, my experience may not be typical of all GORUCK Light experiences. Keep that in mind and you’ll do awesome.

What is rucking? Rucking is a hike with a weighted backpack. GORUCK events require certain weights depending on the weight of the participant and the event. For example, as a woman who weighs more than 150 pounds and a Paricipant in GORUCK Light, I was required to have 20 lbs. of weight in my pack. I packed four wrapped bricks, each weighing about 5 lbs.

What is GORUCK? GORUCK is a company based out of Florida that hosts events throughout the country. The events include rucking with some other physical activities, suck as jumping jacks, push ups, etc. There is almost always some sort of water element (actually going into the water), but it’s at the discretion of the cadre. The typical events are held during a weekend and usually include:

  • Heavy: Usually 24 hours. Successful completion rate is around 52 percent.
  • Tough: The original GORUCK event. Usually 8-12 hours covering a distance about the length of a half marathon. Usual completion rate is around 90 percent.
  • Light: Usually 4-6 hours, covering 5-7 miles. Completion rate is 100 percent. It’s recommended for anyone who can do a 5k, but I’ll address that later.
  • Variations: Sometimes they have themed events around significant military events — 9/11, Veterans Day, Mogadishu Mile (made famous in the movie “Black Hawk Down”). They also have kids’ GORUCK events, as no one under 18 is allowed to participate in the normal activities. You can also do all three of the above activities in a row, during the same weekend, to earn a HTL patch. They also have triple-heavy events and Selection, which is more of an individual event. At the last Selection held earlier this month, only one person completed it.

What do I get for participating?  GORUCK is a team event. You start as a team and finish as a team. There’s no first place or most improved. Besides the sense of accomplishment and friendships you can create, you get a nifty finisher’s patch that has Velcro on the back. You can put this on your pack or a display case.

This is a GORUCK Light patch.


  • Cadre (sounds like Cah-dre): The person (usually two at the event) who leads the GORUCK event. The company hires military veterans to lead the group. They often use the environment to their advantage in creating the event. See sandbags? Make the participants pick them up and carry them. They also make sure the event meets the GORUCK standard. They are trained in first aid and work to ensure the event’s safety.
  • ATL: Assistant Team Leader. Usually two participants are chosen to lead the group during a portion  of the event. This person helps the Team Leader.
  • TL: Team leader. The person, who along with the ATL, takes directions from the cadre as to where the team is going and what they are supposed to do. 
  • Support: Usually people who come along to cheer on their friends or help the cadre. We had a medical professional there as well as some people who didn’t pass the first events (Heavy and Tough) but wanted to watch the Light and see some of the participants earn their HTL patch.

Getting ready for a GORUCK event

  • Cost: The cost of each event depends on the length and when you sign up. My Light ranged from $55 at early registration to $70 for late registration. You also have to pay for insurance, around $12. GORUCK offers discounts for military personnel, veterans, law enforcement and other professionals, the details are on the website. I was able to take advantage of a promotion in which I got in for free and only paid for insurance and processing.
  • Equipment: Each event has a list on the website. You definitely need a Ruck. I got a cheap one that worked but was falling part during the event. You need a quality pack that will hold the required weight. A hydration bladder is also necessary. You are required to have a photo ID and cab fare. You’ll need your required weight. Without these first five things, you won’t be able to participate, as the cadre inspects each partipant’s bag to make sure it has these things before the event starts. You’re also supposed to carry reflective tape on your pack, and a headlamp and extra batteries. I would suggest some food or electrolyte drink and a change of clothes. Put what you can in a waterproof bag (freezer bags work well). That way you can put on some dry clothes as soon as possible after the event.
  • Shoes: The more miles you do will determine what shoes you wear. If you do the light, you can get away with some sneakers with good traction. I wore my Brooks Cascadias, but I saw a lot of Salomon shoes. For the longer event, they suggest hiking boots which support your ankle.
This is part of week 2 of the GORUCK training pla.
  • Training: GORUCK offers a six-week training plan on its site. If you don’t have access to weights or pull up bars, you may be able to work with other equipment, but it’s really helpful. While the description of the Light claims that anyone who has done a 5k can do it, if you don’t do any upper body workouts, you will suffer. We did push ups, sit ups and lifted our rucks over our heads while walking to a stop light. You have to keep moving or only take short 2-second breaks or you and the team will get into trouble. Upper body strength is very helpful in the completion and enjoyment of the event.

Next up, part 2 …