Three years ago, on a very hot July day in Chicago, a team of extremely tired but proud people became GORUCK Tough. I was part of that team.
We all took the GORUCK Challenge (GRC). A team event that promised 8-10 hours, 15-20 miles of good living. Well, good living we had, 13 hours of it.
The GRC was created by Jason McCarthy, the founder of GORUCK. Based on the training he received during his Special Forces Assessment and Selection course (he is a Green Beret), the GRC builds a team through adversity, mental and physical toughness and a lot of smiles. During the GRC, participants wear rucks (backpacks) full of bricks and more often than not, random objects are selected by the Cadre to be carried by the team as well. Of course, there's the ever present log carry and hours of bear crawls. We did 3 hours of them.
Back then, in 2011, the GRC was lead by Jason himself and it was brutal.
My reason for doing it? To challenge myself.
You see, I spent 2 years of tough physical therapy after I suffered injuries during an IED explosion that took the hummvee I was traveling in. For more than 2 years I was unable to do anything but the very painful exercises dictated by this tiny woman that ultimately became the object of so much hatred that I recovered just to be able to get the hell out there.
So, for two years I let my body decay and after trying a lot of things I wasn't getting motivated to get back in shape.
Then I saw the GRC. I was already a fan of GORUCK and I signed up without hesitation. I asked Jason if this would be OK given my physical problems (neck injury and other injuries) and he said: It's all mental.
Then I began training. I had a target.
It was not easy, but I had a target and I never quit once I have it.
The day came and I went for it. It was not easy. During the bear crawls, my ruck (with about 35-40Lb) kept on hitting the base on my neck, where I have the injury and I kept on being paralized by pain. I almost quit, not because of the pain, but because I was causing the team to suffer, but more of that later.
So, why am I writting about the GRC here?
The answer is simple: because what I experienced during the GRC is something that I have only experienced while I was in the military - The Team.
I served on a small team during my service. We were tasked with Special Reconnaissance (SR) and we became family to each other. We spent several years together, from basic training and all the way to the platoons. We suffer together, we have fun together, we cried together when one of us didn't make it. We share a bond that you will not get anywhere else. Borrowing a phrase from my good friend Patrick Rhone's fantastic post about the GRC:
"Look at the person to the left of you. Look to the person on the right. This is not about you. It’s about them!"
It is about them. It is about giving your full and then some more so they can return alive.
I encourage you to read Patrick's post, it is simply perfect.
Once I left the military, I never thought I would experience this camaradery, this brotherhood again.
But then I took the GRC. It was there again.
Jason help us become a team the hard way. And through this harshness, we stopped thinking about ourselves in terms of individuals, and began thinking about the person next to us, about the team, about the success of the team. We slowly but surely became a small unit, a band of brothers. Overnight.
30 strangers that meet only a few hours before, began to help each other. We began to act as a team.
Once we became GORUCK Tough (GRT) and earned the GORUCK Tough Patch (something I hold very important to me, as important as my old unit's pin and beret), we entered the, back then, small world of GRTs. Strangers that have one thing in common: we all went through this extreme physical and mental event and came out of it somewhat changed.
The GRT community became a family. With people helping each other when a member was in need. With us running to help and raise money when the child of one the community members had to have treatment for leukemia. The whole community helped raise money. Or when the house of one of the members was burned to the ground right before new year and we all got together to make sure they had everything they needed for the holidays.
The GORUCK Challenge and the GORUCK Tough community really reminded me of my old team in the military.
This is a feeling I treasure, a feeling I haven't found anywhere else.
So, why am I talking about the GRC here?
Yes, why am I writting about The Challenge here?
Because it is an experience I think everyone should try. Because it's about the team and once you realize this you become a better you. Again to quote Patrick:
If you are considering taking the Challenge yourself, this is the biggest lesson I learned and can impart. Please realize that the point of the Challenge is to show you a side of yourself you never thought possible. A side that not only has the mental and physical strength to do it, but also the compassion and sacrifice to give yourself up for others so that they may do the same for you. Because the very essence of teamwork is to help everyone else get the job done knowing and trusting that they are doing the same for everyone else and you. Only then will you see that no one gets through this Challenge (or this life) alone. And this is why we do it.
Because it is about them, The Team.