Endurance sports and rucking may be tough on your body, but they represent a form of emotional training that’s rarely matched in other training methods. Running has become very popular, but the level of competition has not peaked, it seems. Anyone who completes a marathon slaps a ‘26.2’ sticker on their cars, but what does that say about the person? I don’t know. The last marathon I ran, with no training leading up to it, didn’t go well. Still, my completion time was something others respected. I limped across while they glided.

For whatever reason, I try to knock out a marathon every year. I’d like to do an ultra sooner rather than later. It’s a real challenge, and you can’t just get ready for it like you can get jacked in the gym. It takes a lifestyle change to do it, not a diet and a gym membership. It can shift your priorities around for the better, as a good diet should. Marathon training, and better yet, gearing up to run a ruck marathon, requires a clean diet, and you’ll feel healthier as a result.

I wrote briefly, before, about the Bataan Memorial Death March and the Mountain Man Memorial March. Both are events I proudly support and will return to compete. At Bataan, I ended up in the top 10, and at Mountain Man, finished in second place. Mountain Man had ridiculous terrain, and parts of it were miserable. During the entire route along the Rocky Mountains, I was under the impression that I was in the lead. That is until, with probably 10 miles left, I discovered there were three people ahead of me. I had a traveling partner with me, and our plan was to win each category—military and civilian. I had to leave him behind and take off. Rucking is slow, compared to running, and to make up the distance you have to work very hard with roughly 50 pounds on your back. Whatever pace you’ve kept is tough, neurologically, to increase.

I hauled my ass the rest of the day. I eventually passed everyone, except the number one guy. Passing number three was a real battle, and I felt like that nearly killed me. Then, veterans in a motorcycle club rallied behind me on the road, the main street leading to the finish line, and I knew I would have to sprint to catch the guys in second and first place. I went ahead and sprinted the last two miles, and it felt great. I soared by the number two guy and he had the most demoralized look on his face. Unfortunately, I never caught the winner. As a prize, he got a pretty awesome walking stick, or BFG (Big Fucking Stick).

That little vignette was such a great moment, and a testament to the level of training and dedication required to even complete a ruck marathon. The training and lifestyle were worth it. These races are great opportunities to find like-minded people. Unfortunately, you aren’t as likely to find those people at a marathon these days, and the people who are there are serious—most borderline professional runners. That’s why I love rucking and endurance running, such as an ultra. Your mental fitness and strength are assets as much as your genetic ability to run, because no one is completing a 50-mile race at a seven-minute pace. No, it’s slow, and a 10-minute mile is commendable. These races aren’t easy and are gut checks, leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment you won’t get most places.

Featured image courtesy of www.afcent.af.mil.