After months of training with my friends, Ruck day was finally here. We started at 2:00 PM. 40 people from all across the South gathered with backpacks (Rucks) loaded down with 20-pounds worth of bricks, headlamps, food, water, and Advil. We were led by a “Cadre” — a former USA military Special Ops guy who has seen more and done more than any of us ever want to imagine. He has our utmost respect and we haven’t even learned his name yet.
The excitement and nerves you experience going into an event like this for the first time are jittery at best, downright fearful at worst. But going into the unknown is part of the fun.
Throughout the challenge, these 40 people, in one way or another, shined their LIGHT in so many ways. It’s impossible — even for someone like me who loves to share her words — to explain and describe how meaningful these LIGHTbeamer moments were, but here’s what I witnessed or experienced first hand:
- The team of support from our family, friends, fellow bootcampers, and "shadows" - as they call it in the GORUCK world - was unending. From homemade signs from our children saying "Go Mommy" and "Ruck On, People" to the cheers from the sidelines all along our route, everyone who showed up to lend their support and encouragement probably has no idea how much it meant to the rest of us. It was so humbling and motivating. The "shadows" shined their LIGHT.
- 3 of the men who completed the Light challenge with us had just finished a “Tough” challenge moments before, which lasted over 16-hours long. The back-to-back challenges meant they Rucked for 24-hours straight. Anytime one of us started to feel tired or tested, we just looked at one of them for inspiration. Those guys are hard core Rockstars and I had the privilege of rucking along side one of them for most of the day. Though exhausted and nearly delirious, they shined their LIGHT.
- Different people were asked by the Cadre at different intervals to step up and be our “leaders”. Strangers among us, they rallied the troops and led us through the different phases of our challenge — communicating team needs, directing people to take over carrying loads of weight, keeping us all marching in formation and motivating us with words of encouragement. They shined their LIGHT.
- During our stop at the Fire Station — after the Cadre had his way with us — he gathered us around for a heartfelt speech about the tremendous work firefighters do in our community. It was a reminder that there are heroes among us. They work tirelessly; they are highly trained yet poorly payed; and when disaster strikes, they go into burning buildings for the sole purpose of saving lives — our lives. This occurred at hour #6 of our challenge, and our hearts soaked up every syllable he spoke. The Cadre and the Firemen shined their LIGHTS.
- Throughout the day, we shared water & snacks, lent helping hands through rocky terrain, pulled one another to safety, and carried each others weight when needed. This happened so many times, I lost count. Every single teammate shined their LIGHT.
- At the end, as we were literally hiking to the finish line in the dark with nothing but our headlamps on to guide the way, one of my friends grabbed my hand and squeezed it — a solitary signal of “Atta girl”, “We did it”, “You're RUCKING awesome”. The energy we passed to one another by simply holding hands as we marched was beautiful and LIGHT-filled. That moment will stick with me. We shined our LIGHT.
Throughout that experience —the LIGHT shined in so many ways from so many beautiful human beings. It restores your faith in people. There are a lot of generous, heart-centered souls among us. They challenge themselves, and in doing so, inspire and motivate others to do the same. The life lessons you take away from something like this go far beyond the physical self. I encourage each of you to find something — anything — that will challenge you in a similar way. You will find LIGHT in the craziest places!