I wrote this last year for my previous blog, but never got around to editing it and getting it up (clllllassic Kelsey).  As we’re gearing up for warmer weather and outdoor challenges, I would encourage everyone to put GORUCK on their list.  Side note, I swore I would NEVER do one again, but alas I’m signed up for one in June with some of the strongest people I know!  Heck yeah!!!

Who doesn’t love the idea of 10-12 hours of “Good Livin'”?  That’s what I thought when I first signed up for GORUCK.  I heard it was mostly mental and hey, I’ve done a tough mudder.  And a zombie run.  Plus, I don’t know if you know this but I CrossFit.

Good Livin’ is GORUCK’s description of all of their challenge events.  So here is what our Good Livin’ included: 13 miles of St. Louis terrain (some questionable) overnight while wet, cold, and hauling some form of weight.

GORUCK is not a race. The only way you win is if you finish as a group.  While trekking your city, you will complete a series of military-like training tasks.  All of this is done while wearing a ruck sack full of bricks, water, food, and dry clothes.

The most important thing to understand about GORUCK is that while it’s designed to physically and metally push you to every limit you have, you’ll walk (or crawl) away stronger than you’ve ever been in your life.

GORUCK is lead by a Cadre who is former military, Special Ops to be specific.  I suspected (and still do) our Cadre, Jason, was a former CIA enforcer.  He did NOT mess around. All the Cadres have rules. And breaking a rule is not something anyone wants to do.

Our group, 15 total, started at the Arch grounds at 10pm one Saturday night last May.  Jason was right on time and had us line up in formation next to a duck pond.  His instructions were ‘turn around and walk 5 feet into the pond.’  And our night started with an hour of PT in the pond (push-ups, mountain climbers, burpees, squats, etc)

PT in South City

I still remember the night vividly, but to spare everyone from a blow by blow playback, I’ll  highlight my major lightbulb moments of the night:

1. There really is strength in numbers: We ran down by the riverfront past some suspiciously awkward activities.  I would not go near there in a million years by myself.  But hey, mess with me now.  

2. Duck ponds make you stronger: Here is how our experience with the duck pond played out:  Into the pond, back out, break a rule, back in.  Repeat. Several times.  I was positive I was going to catch a cold.  Or the Ebola virus.  Whatever.  But I finished the challenge and have yet to be checked into the hospital with a mysterious disease.

Crawl through sprinklers 10 hours in

3. Be willing to negotiate, but accept your limits when set: “You do not want to miss this time hack.” When Jason would say those words, my soul would freeze.  Team checkpoints were a part of the challenge and the “time hack” was the time limit to get there.  While we could give input on the goal, the final say was Jason’s.  Missing it usually meant some form of PT punishment (8 count push-ups, man-makers, etc).  But even though we missed some, we dug deep to hit others.  Life’s lessons are often learned through consequences.


The group outside of the AB campus

4. Great leadership drives major accomplishments:  Enter the telephone pole.  Estimates put the weight anywhere between 700 and 1,000 lbs.  We had around 2 1/2 hours to move it 3 miles.  Our team leader managed his 14 peers not only to hit the time goal and keep the pole from touching the ground once, but also break through the biggest mental block of the challenge.  Picture the group 5 hours into the challenge: still cold from the duck pond and working through significant fatigue.  This is where no one would have blamed anyone for quitting, but everyone pushed through.

5. Never underestimate the power of dry socks: Your mom was right. That is all.

The group in the fountain across from Union Station.

6. There really is no ‘I’ in Team: I cannot lift a 1,000 lb telephone pole. I cannot carry six 70 lb sandbags at once.  But more importantly, I won’t do PT in a duck pond, wade in a freezing cold fountain, climb walls, belly crawl through sprinklers, or sprint from one St. Louis landmark to another after 10 hours of insanity by myself.  But we did.  Maybe it’s mob mentality…  Or maybe it was that we had a team of old and new friends pushing each person to be better with every step. A good team will get you through some pretty big stuff, but great team will help you crush your own demons.

Al Macinnis says “GORUCK, Eh?”

7. You can accomplish about 800x more work than you think you can: The last hour and a half of the challenge brought sprints from one landmark to another, mini challenges, and punishment for missing time hacks.  Every inch of my body was screaming.  Every step was a battle.  And I would love to tell a story about how I rose from the ashes with renewed strength.  Nope.  Not even close.  But I finished.  We all finished.  It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  And when Jason congratulated us for finishing, I almost cried.

I will cherish my GORUCK patch For. Ev. Er.  

And a special shoutout to my GORUCK teammates and lifelong BFFs for being such an amazing group: Linda, Megan, Jim, Brian, Jason, Jason, Jake, Kyle, Allen, Kurt, Matt, Nick, Ben, and John. And thanks to Cadre Jason for making this experience the real deal.


I got what I thought I would get out of this- two killer blisters on my heels, a goose egg on my shin, and an open wound on my back from where bricks scraped.

But more importantly, I got a boost to my self esteem, a new found appreciation for members of our armed forces, and different perspective on the term “Good Livin’.”  GORUCK boasts that they build better Americans.  I agree 100% with that.

Photos Courtesy of Cadre Jason


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