This past weekend, I participated in a unique physical challenge unlike anything I’ve ever done. It’s called a “GORUCK Light” — a 7-hour test of your physical endurance and mental strength. Of course, I was initially attracted to this idea by the sheer name of it - “Light” - but also because a group of my workout buddies were also signing up for the Challenge and I wanted to be a part of the group! But what really attracted me to this was the fact the emphasis was on Teamwork - not competition - and that this was an Event - not a race. This was not just another 5K or mud run. This was different. Different is good.

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.
PictureRaising a RUCKus at a local Fire Station
For the next 7-hours, we completed an intense 1.5 hour PT test (think bootcamp on steroids, while wearing weighted backpacks); mud-wrestled our way through some of the craziest team exercises anyone could ever dream up; hiked through snake infested waters; paraded our muddy, stinky selves through Downtown carrying an American flag and a metal sled full of weights during a busy Saturday night; jumped into a rushing river to complete a series of pushups, squats and flutter kicks — all to the amazement (amusement?) of downtown onlookers; then stopping by a local Fire Station to give the firemen the thrill of hosing us down while doing more exercises on our Cadre's command. I literally never knew fire hoses had a setting on them safe enough to spray humans. They do! And I can honestly say it was a thrill of a lifetime.

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.
Picture40 Lights shining their LIGHT
The grand finale ended with the Cadre lining us up in the dark (it’s now 9:00 PM), coming by each one of us to shake our hands, give us a hug and pass off a “patch” which signaled we had completed the challenge.  All of this for a simple little patch that states “GORUCK Light” which we can now adhere to our Rucks.  But it's a badge of honor. We stood there battered and bruised, dirty and wet, our smiles reflected only by the light of our headlamps, hugging each other and passing out high-fives to celebrate our team victory.  40 of us started the challenge, and 40-strong we finished.

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!

GRL Class 718 - standing proud at about hour #5.


Chris Rayburn
04/21/2015 9:36am

You started strong and you finished STRONGER! You are RUCKERS and Mighty Fine Rucker!! We are the better for being there to witness such a awesome display or teamwork and love for your fellow ruckers! I think the thing that sticks with me the most is getting to witness the admiration, love and excitement from the kids cheering on their parents!! RUCK on People!

04/21/2015 9:34pm

Chris, you earned a 5-star for your support!! Thanks for being there for us!!

04/21/2015 9:43am

Still in awe in disbelief...what an awesome awesome experience...blessed to call you teammate and friend!

04/21/2015 9:35pm

Betsy -- I know. There really are no words. But you and I got to do it together -- side by side the whole way!!!! Love you, friend!!

04/23/2015 6:09pm

Thank you for sharing this experience with us! I got goosebumps. It reminded me a small amount of a mud run I did a few years back when my team all stayed together and helped each other through each challenge. However, obviously, your experience was way more intense! I would love to have one of these events up here in the PNW to be apart of. I think everyone needs to go through something like this. It tests your endurance, your strength, your determination, helps you face fears, and creates stronger bonds with people.

Anyways, thanks again! Also, fellow B-Schooler here.... so just stopping in to offer a warm Hello!!

04/27/2015 2:22pm

You need to check the GORUCK website and find an event near you. They do these all over the country, so I know there is one nearby in PNW. Go for the LIGHT first, then step up to the bigger challenges. You will not regret it! And thank you for your kind words. I love the B-school community!

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    Hi, I'm April and I'm glad you're here. 


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