Coming full circle to the exact spot where we started nearly 12 hours earlier on the steps of the state Capitol Building, our 2013 Uplifting Athletes GORUCK Challenge team of 29 members knew the moment was upon us.
When our GORUCK Cadre, a military Special Operations veteran named Silver, said “class 723 remove your rucksacks and put them on the ground you are finished,” I hesitated for a second.
I knew the rule – one of five we had to follow the entire 12 hours – your rucksack may not ever touch the ground.
When Silver said put them down, I didn’t know whether to cry, cuss or jump up and down with joy. So I just stood there for a second and soaked in what we had just accomplished.
After nearly 12 hours of physically exhausting and mentally punishing missions, our entire 29-person team was officially GORUCK Tough.
These missions saw us carry more than a ton of weight nearly 15 miles in and around Harrisburg. We lugged concrete parking dividers, rocks and a ridiculously heavy telephone pole.
We made a visit to a nasty pond in Wildwood Park, but that dirty water never felt so good. Our team also took a dip in the Susquehanna River on City Island then played in the sand.
The finisher was bear crawling and sprinting across the Walnut St. Bridge from City Island before carrying eight of our female teammates through the city back to the State Capitol.
Somehow, summing this grueling adventure up in three paragraphs makes it sound pretty simple.
Trust me, it wasn’t.
But part of the magic of what GORUCK has forged through these challenges is the concept of teamwork.
We started this journey several months ago as 29 individuals. We formed bonds and friendships along the way in training. And we solidified those ties that bind at another level by coming together as one team over the course of 12 hours.
Military Special Operations is a brotherhood that GORUCK gives civilians an opportunity to taste for one day. And our 2013 team was drinking the Kool-Aid.
Our private Facebook page was filled with hundreds of post-event comments, jokes and memories. Each of us in GORUCK Class 723 now looks at those other 28 members of the team as our brothers and sisters.
During this grueling and demanding 12-hour stretch we formed a unique bond that’s hard to replicate in the civilian world. Each mission started and completed together.
Early on in our 2013 challenge my body threw me a nasty curve. For some reason my blood sugar, I think, bottomed out. I’m not a diabetic, but I do have low blood sugar.
And mine went south on me after two hours. I was dizzy, light headed, weak, pale, suffered from the cold sweats and was in no condition to help carry those heavy cement parking dividers.
My teammates recognized I wasn’t doing well. Several offered to hump my nearly 40-pound ruck for stretches and had me just carry the flag and walk. I ate peanut M&M’s and drank water for an hour.
Cadre Silver kept shining his light in my eyes and asked me if I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to quit, but I knew if the worm didn’t turn soon I might not have any choice.
Eventually my body cooperated, and by the time we reached the Farm Show Complex I was feeling strong enough to join the cement parking divider lifting party.
I will forever be grateful to my teammates for picking me up and allowing my body to recover and finish this challenge.
We started with 29 and finished with 29. We raised more than $22,000 for rare disease research through Uplifting Athletes.
And we literally, for 12 hours lived the motto “Together … We Are … Stronger.
The patch Cadre Silver gave each of us is stitched with the words “GORUCK Tough.” You have to live it for those 12 hours to fully understand it.
The bond we formed as a team has stayed strong over the course of a year. We still have plenty of lively Facebook conversations about almost anything. Nearly a dozen members of our team went out for a night together at the Uplifting Athletes Gridiron Gala earlier this year.
And as we embark on putting together two teams in 2014, plenty of 2013 team members have already answered the bell again in the fight against rare diseases.
Spots for the 2014 GORUCK Challenge and GORUCK Light events are open and available for registration. It was a rugged 12 hours finishing a Challenge event, but that wasn’t the hardest part. Having the courage to say yes and sign up takes courage. The training and team building takes care of the rest.