The Ironman: 140.6 miles total. The old saying goes: Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, run 26.2…then brag for the rest of your life. (And I fully intend to…and as you may recall, watching pro athletes collapse within sight of the finish line of this event is what inspired me to get off the couch and give it a try). It’s a truly grueling event but you get a cool medal and sometimes an ambulance ride.
The GoRuck Challenge: 15-20 miles of Good Livin’. Sounds easy enough, right? Well…less easy than you’d think since there’s an active duty US Special Forces guy screaming at you and making you do part of the mileage sleep-deprived and carrying 400lb sandbags or some of your teammates, or crawling through filth. (BTW, you’re carrying a backpack full of bricks the whole time) You do get to take frequent breaks to do countless exercises designed to break your body… And it doesn’t end until you are broken. It’s just a tiny taste of special forces selection… The web site says 8-10 hours, but cadre can’t tell time and we were out there for 12. When it’s done you get some blisters and a patch.
These events are stupid and break your body down in an unhealthy way. They were possibly the best things I’ve ever done for myself…
Nothing else has taken me to that place where you do the impossible. That deep, dark, place where your body is done and although you don’t want to quit, you know that in the next two or three steps your legs will fail and you will be face down in the dirt completely broken whether you choose to or not. But quitting is not for you…not anymore. Somehow you don’t collapse yet and think that maybe you’ve got two more steps. Then maybe two more. Then maybe you do fall, but you get back up and move another step or two. Where the finish line actually is doesn’t even matter anymore because your concept of time and distance are hopelessly distorted. Against everything in your mind that says it’s a terrible idea, it’s dangerous, or you cannot succeed so quit now, you consciously choose to fight for those last few steps over and over again and risk collapsing with your dignity rather than quit. You’re going to risk pushing too far because even dying is preferable than remembering how to be that guy you left on the couch with his Oreos and Pop Tarts. That guy never knew what living meant anyway.
That’s what the Ironman and the GoRuck did for me – They taught me how to fight with every morsel of strength I have and that when I do, the impossible can be achieved. They remind me that I’ve climbed from the bottom of society to the elite, and that victory is worth far more than comfort. Go do one and learn where your limits aren’t.
And Fuck quitting. Ever.