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GORUCK Bridges Gap Between Military and Civilian Fitness

Jason McCarthy’s wife once told him to go do the “go-ruck thing.”

“Rucking implies action, energy and purpose,” the former Special Forces soldier said, “and it is the foundation of Special Forces training.”

The GORUCK Thing

Leaving the Army in 2008, McCarthy and his wife, a diplomat, lived in war torn West Africa.

To occupy himself, he made her a rucksack to increase her safety should trouble happen. Other embassy employees noticed, and asked for rucksacks as well.

The idea of retailing them crossed McCarthy’s mind.

“I loved the name GORUCK,’ the founder and CEO wrote, “and that seemed like a good enough start.”

McCarthy’s idea was to make a rucksack for use in Baghdad or Seattle, that would be tough enough for Special Forces but cool enough for civilians to use.

“The GR1 would build a bridge between the military world I was coming from to the civilian world I was in,” he continued.

From sketches on napkins to production, McCarthy worked hard to create his first GR1.  It cost $295.

“I wanted it to be much less than that,” he said, “and the first run of bags … wiped out every dollar I had.”

To keep his idea alive, McCarthy hit the road to sell his product.

His first stop was at a Tough Mudder event in 2010 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. McCarthy loaded his GR1 with bricks and participated.

“What was most interesting to me was that people wanted to join me,” McCarthy recalled.

The GR1 was beginning to catch on.


The GORUCK Challenges

McCarthy then led the first GORUCK Challenge in San Francisco in 2010.

Based on his Special Forces training, the challenge was a physically demanding team event of unknown endurance exercises, time and distance.

“But I wanted the Challenge to be a fun, positive and rewarding experience,” he said.

It was, and the combination of the GR1 and The GORUCK Challenge became the heart of the company’s business model.

Billed as a team event and never a race, the challenges – led by former Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force special operators – come in three varieties. They highlight teamwork, leadership and camaraderie.  

If a participant weighs less than 150 pounds, then at least 10 pounds must be rucked; if a participant weighs more than 150 pounds, then 20 pounds must be rucked.

  • The Light Challenge: Four to five hours in length, it presents challenges while covering seven to ten miles.  The average completion rate is 100 percent.
  • The Tough Challenge: Much tougher, it normally lasts ten to twelve hours plus with numerous exhausting challenges while covering fifteen to twenty miles.  The average completion rate is 94 percent.
  • The Heavy Challenge: Designed for the ultra-committed, this grinder of a challenge lasts for over twenty-four hours, is complete with its share of mental and physical challenges and covers over 40 miles.  The average completion rate is 50 percent.

At the end of the challenges, participants receive a handshake and a patch.  

From March through November, a number of these challenges will be held in Tacoma and Seattle.

The Star Courses

Basically, rucking is all about carrying weight and water and putting one foot in front of the other over a set distance.

  • The 12 Miler:Based on General Order No. 44 issued in 1906 by Lt. Gen. John Bates, the distance remains the standard in the military as a whole.
  • The 26.2 Miler: In 490 BC Philippides, a Greek soldier ran this distance, from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens, to announce the Greek victory over the invading Persians.
  • The 50 Miler:In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order to the military; “Do 50 miles in under 20 hours.”

At the ruck’s end is a handshake and a patch.  And maybe, just maybe, a beer.

McCarthy closed by saying that participants will know what it feels like to be a team. “That feeling is the essence of the Special Forces way of life, and we’re proud to share it.”

Seattle will host the three Star Courses in August. For information about specific times and places, visit

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