In our recent (6-24) post in the PT Program, we wrote that it was time for the next 12-mile rucksack march. And of course, like the old warhorse that runs to the sound of the gunfire, it seemed like a great idea at the time to do another dozen miles under the pain pill to write about it for our aspiring (and much younger) Special Operations candidates.

I have in the past and continue to push that you read and follow the PT Program that we publish daily here at SpecialOperations.com and if you can do that, then the feeling is here, you’ll be ready to tackle the physical parts of the Special Operations Selection courses.

So on Sunday a little after 4 a.m. in a cool misty rain, we set out and did just that. And we’ll get to the ruck in just a bit. But first some refresher information for our younger, aspiring SOF candidates out there.

Much to the surprise at some of our novice ruckers out there, I’ve stated that our PT preparation work focuses a lot on shoulder work. Why? That is one spot that you’ll find as a novice that will be really sore, sometimes even sorer than your feet. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to pass selection but if your shoulders are strong, it will take a lot of the stress and strain off when carrying a rucksack as well as climbing the ropes that you’ll experience.

I found, a long, long time ago that I loved rucking and took to it like a duck takes to water. Everyone has their niche, some guys ran (and still do) run like deer. I was never one of those guys. I ran fairly well but it was never a case of anyone mistaking me for Bullet Bob Hayes or Ben Johnson on steroids.

Nope rucking was my thing and I still enjoy it, although my body continues to say otherwise. Having read everything I could get my hands on prior to going to Special Forces, rucking was the rite of passage and the basis of nearly all SF training. There is something tangible and macho about rucking that running and runners don’t necessarily have. Maybe that has always been the appeal for the SOF types, as well as running and lifting.

Once learned the correct way, a good  SF trooper learns to handle the rucksack like it is an extension of his own body. And as I’ve written before, I personally found rucking a bit easier for me, being over 6 feet tall.  Your leg muscles are the driving forces in rucking. And it is your hips that put everything in good working order. Do some really good hip stretches, (some good ones) and not just before a ruck march but daily and you’ll notice a big, big difference. Speaking of which, I know of one FOG (does anyone need that acronym translated?) that needs to take his own advice and practice those much more.

Practice? Did we just say that dreaded Allen Iverson word?  Yep, practice, in not only stretching but in constantly rucking will help make this much-ballyhooed exercise a much easier one to master. It is like anything else, It requires constant practice and repetition, just like shooting.

Ensure that your rucksack fits snugly but without rubbing on your back or shoulders because those will turn into sores. Packing your rucksack correctly is an art that many of the younger troops much learn to master. You’ll hear a lot of different methods and techniques. Find the one that works for you. Speaking just for myself, what worked best was packing the ruck so that the weight is higher up between your shoulder blades. For weights 45 pounds or over I like to ensure that the waist strap is buckled.

For the purpose of this 12-miler, I broke out an old pair of military desert boots from Bates. I like to have a minimum of a couple of pair of boots broken in and ready to go, and for the purpose of this one, I broke out the old ones, which was probably a mistake.

The Bates boots are very good ones and I have a great pair of insoles in them. But in the past, the left boot seems to rub on the two small toes of my foot after a few miles. Sunday would be no exception. So instead of my standby Merrell MOABs, I went with the others. That would be one of only a few issues.

The misty rain, which I mentioned above, picked up at times and I kept getting a steady drip of cold water right down my spine, which while not a show stopper was just annoying as hell and no amount of fiddling with my collar and turning my hat around with the brim facing backward helped….Is there anything more f***ing irritating than water running down your spine? By the time I finished, I had a small river of water running constantly down by back to the crack of my a$$ that felt like the Nile.

The rainy, damp weather while keeping you cool also played hell with the old familiar arthritic pain in the knees…LOL. All things being equal, I’d rather ruck 12 miles in cooler weather than 100-degree sunlight, so there’s that. That’s why I always start at about 4 a.m. beside the fact that my built-in alarm clock always has me up at that time anyway.

Around mile one, I came across a beautiful black lab who was bounding away thru the woods, happy as a clam to find another soul playing out in the dark at that time of the morning. He’d stick with me for the entire way.

Much of my 12-mile course, as I’ve written before goes along the railroad tracks in my area. “Note to self…wet, creosote-soaked railroad ties are slippery as hell and should be avoided walking on as much as possible.” As I was crossing the railroad trestle over the Blackstone River, I slipped on a wet rail and tumbled in a heap.

My newfound friend bounded up and hopped around like “Hey dumbass, you’re not supposed to do that!” …ugh, What genius thought this was a great idea, to begin with. However, that was the extent of my pitfalls.

The miles slipped easily and with the lab bounding around we made great time after that. I had no issues until around mile 8 when that left boot began to rub but that was it. Crossing the trestle on the way back, the dog turned and looked at me like, “watch your step, you FOG”…thanks.

I always carry a heavy walking stick with a snapping turtle skull fixed to the top, which I call my staff of Ra. It is a close replacement for carrying a rifle from the old days and works wonders for fending off the odd unfriendly dog that you’ll come across. I waved goodbye to my traveling companion at the old train station in town which now serves as a senior center. He went bounding back down the tracks, whence he came from originally. Thanks for the company bud.

Coming back thru the center of town, the sun was now up although it was still raining a bit. A local cop stopped at a traffic light called out, “how many miles did you go?” And then added, “You fall down? You look a little muddy.” LOL everybody is a comedian.

Despite the cool wet rain, the need to hydrate constantly while out training is a must. I emptied my Camelbak system that I got from the Crate Club. And it is a habit that you should carry over in your prep work and into the course. With the summer months here, becoming a heat injury can happen quickly. Don’t let that happen to you.

The 12-miler wasn’t bad at all. However, being a FOG it was the aftermath that was painful. Since Sunday, I’ve been doing my best Walter Brennan imitation walking around. Getting old sucks, but it is what it is. When is the next one?

C-ya on the rucking trail. “Boots, boots… there’s no discharge in the war”

If anyone has any questions, feel free to send them along to [email protected]  or at my Twitter page @SteveB7SFG and I’ll be glad to answer them.

Photo courtesy of US Army


*Originally published on Special Operations.com