If you love running and want to add some weights to build cardio and strength along the way… do we have the workout for you. Grab a backpack, pack a few pounds of weight in it, strap it on and get moving! OK, rucking is a little more complicated than that. It’s also harder than you might think, says rucker Michael Sweeting.
“Starting out, I used an old-school, metal-framed backpack and logged 2-3 miles, and I was really, really sore after that,” says Sweeting. “I had run and done different workouts, but this was really different.”
Rucking, for those unfamiliar with it, is the basis of military training. The military term for a backpack is a ruck, and rucking is putting weight in a backpack to “move with a purpose,” as on a long hike — like in military training. The Novant Health Charlotte Marathon includes a Rucking Division, in which competitors carry 10- or 20-pound weights (or more!) on their backs for the 13.1-mile event.
With the marathon’s timing in November, the Rucking Division competitors usually pay tribute to the military and veterans through their participation in the event. Sweeting heads up the division, which started in 2017, though the group took a year off in 2020. Traditionally, the group carries flags to honor military men and women.
“I have all the respect and honor for those who served,” says Sweeting. He adds he didn’t serve in the military himself but is a former college soccer player who was challenged to give rucking a try in 2016.
“It was a great opportunity to get an idea of special forces training — a very tiny snapshot into how they train,” says Sweeting. “It gives civilians a chance to do those events.” While rucking is only a fraction of the training and sacrifice military members make, Sweeting says the rucking community is close-knit because of the mental and physical endurance and training required to complete their 6, 12, and 24-hour events.
“It’s a battle for your mind. I will never underestimate that,” says Sweeting about the toughness required to do the longer events. Your body will give out with a few hours left, he says, but then it’s up to your brain to keep going. “You may look like you got run over by a dump truck when you’re done, but you’ve finished,” he says with a laugh. Weekend events that involve 60 – 80 hours of rucking push participants to dig even deeper.
“You find your spirit animal at some point so it’s all relative, says Sweeting. “It’s a bond you can’t explain and understand until you’ve been there and done that. You see someone with a (finishers) patch on their backpack and you immediately have a relationship.”
Does that sound like your kind of fun? Sweeting says there are several clubs around the Charlotte area to help you get started. Clubs in Charlotte, Cabarrus, Mooresville, and Lake Norman have pages on social media to help you, and more tips are available on goruck.com. Find your closest club here: https://www.goruck.com/pages/find-a-goruck-club
And if you’re ready to jump right in, you can register for the Rucking Division at this year’s Novant Health Charlotte Marathon.