In less than a week, I will be running in my first half-marathon in over two years. I’ve always been comfortable running 5k distances and most of the time can relax while running 10 kilometers, but any distance over 10 miles involves some thinking and preparation, no matter the activity.
I still remember the time that I went off on temporary duty (TDY) for five weeks while my Soldiers prepared for a 12 mile ruck march. For those who don’t know, a ruck march is a “favored” military activity in which you walk quickly with some weight in your backpack. My male Soldiers had at least 25 pounds in their rucksack while my female Soldiers carried at least 20 pounds. Since their training and the execution date for their ruck march would occur while I was gone, I didn’t train at all, and instead focused on my running. However, the last week of my TDY, I got word that their scheduled ruck march was delayed a week and not many of the unit’s leadership would be able to be out there to do it with them; this event was at the company level, and I was in charge of a platoon at the time. I didn’t have to participate, but I passed word to my squad leaders and platoon sergeant that I might do it with them. Now, for over about two years, I had special ruck; I took a rucksack frame and mounted a radio boombox on it with several bungee cords and little the necessary weights to make the 25 pound minimum (I know some units say that the ruck should weigh at least 35 pounds, but when you’re at post that likes to ride around in vehicles, I don’t think “they” cared THAT much to keep up with the lighter units). Rucking involves a different pair of footgear and for me, which includes a different stride and gait. And I had not prepared at all to do a ruck march, much less a 12 mile one.
After I got home from TDY, I prepped my ruck by replacing the batteries and checking the cords to make sure the boombox wouldn’t rattle if I go fast. The next day was the ruck march and I met up with my platoon to do it with them. There were several mid-level NCOs (non-commissioned officers: staff sergeants and regular ole sergeants) from the other platoons out there in addition to my NCOs and me. In fact, I was the only officer to be out there with the company for some reason. We start our march, and I start up my boombox. I had a playlist already built for an occasion like this, so we marched off to Army band music, because I wanted it to sound serious in the company and battalion area, but once we hit the last road, the music changed to songs associated with Hollywood war movies.
At the two mile mark, one of the NCOs from another platoon quit. That really chapped my hide because I didn’t get to prepare for five-six weeks and here’s this one guy who was supposed to be setting an example and he just ups and quits. Went back to the company. His feet weren’t even hurting. That made me even more determined to finish this with my platoon. So we continued on the ruck march, probably to Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
I finished that ruck march tired and a little sore, but amazingly with no blisters and just the slightest heat spots on my feet.
This Saturday is the True to the Brew half-marathon at Croft State Park. I have trained some, but nowhere near to the extent that I wish I had. I have my equipment for this race, to include new trail running shoes and for the first time ever, I will be wearing a running vest. I need one to carry a battery charger since I will be recording the race with my GoPro and the Karma Grip (for stable footage to keep people from getting motion sickness). I’ve tested my electronics. I’ve worn my new trail shoes for almost a month to make sure I’m familiar with how they feel. I’ve adjusted my running vest to (hopefully) make sure it doesn’t jingle around while I’m running. Let’s hope that this preparation, to include getting in several six mile (ten kilometer) runs in and an eight mile run will help prepare me than that time I rucked without six weeks of practice.