After my 2015 Obstacle Course Race season, I knew that I had a lot of work to do. I felt that in spite my finishing seven OCRs in 2015, and improving a little bit over the journey, I still had a long way to go. By no means did I feel "in shape," so I was determined to do 2016 better. On Veteran's Day 2015, I saw an announcement for Tough Ruck 2016, which was a charity event to raise money for families of Fallen Servicemembers and First Responders. In addition to raising money for a great cause, it would be good motivation for me to train.
A marathon is a big undertaking, and even more so when you have to carry a 30 lb. ruck on your back the whole way. I was asking for it, but hopefully fear would force me to get ready for it. I started off well, using Tough Ruck's suggested training plan of rucks where the distance and weight gradually increase. I started off the training on track, but of course, real life got in the way, and my last training ruck was 16 miles with 22 lbs. on March 7, five weeks before the event. In the end, I was going to have to suck it up and slog my way through it as best I could.
The anxiety ramped up as the date was closing in, and I thought how sore I was after my 16 mile ruck. Would I be able to go another 10 miles while carrying 1/3 more weight? Much of the weight of my ruck was water, so I rationalized that if things just got too hard, I could always dump some of the water to lighten the load.
April 16 arrived. The weather was supposed to be good, but the morning was cold, so I dressed in layers. After taking the bus from the parking area I arrived at the Old Manse in Concord. Registration was organized and easy, and soon I met up with some other New England Spahtens and we took the team picture.
|Part of the New England Spahten contingent|
While one person read off names of lost veterans, the rest of us did 22 pushups. It was a poignant reminder of why we were all there that morning. I heard it many times that day: We ruck for those who cannot.
|The four ribbons I carried on my ruck|
|The starting line at the Old Manse|
|Just past the Old North Bridge and the Minuteman Monument. In the distance are the first ruckers.|
|On the way to Meriam's Corner|
|Meriam House, 4.5 miles in.|
|One of the many houses along the trail|
|Captain William Smith House|
|Near Here Are Buried British Soldiers. April 19, 1775.|
|Fiske Hill, 9.23 miles in.|
This time it was easier, as I knew what to expect, and I knew there would be supporters along the way. My pace was slowing down, but I was still ahead of the curve. I was still feeling good, and there were sights along the way to make you smile.
|A Minuteboy keeps an eye out for Redcoats from atop a large rock|
|Colonial Militia reenactors drill outside of the Captain William Smith House|
|Back on the boardwalk|
|Back at Meriam House. 14.13 miles.|
But I screwed up in taping my foot. I put it on wrong, and with every step I could feel the tape pulling at the bottom of my foot. If I wasn't going to get a blister before, I knew I would now. I stopped on the trail to take some Tylenol, and kept going. Before long I was back at Fiske Hill for the final turnaround. I took off my shoe and found that yes, the tape had given me a blister. I put more tape on, taking care to do it right this time, dumped my trash, and was on my way again in a few minutes.
|Fiske Hill, mile 18.96. I look more tired than I felt.|
Now I was on the homestretch. I just had to make it back to the start line, a little more than seven miles to go. My feet were aching, my shoulders were sore (although not as bad as I thought they would be). But the knowledge that I was on the last leg gave me a mental boost, so I was able to pick up the pace again. Fortunately there were some interesting things going on now that it was later in the day, so it helped to keep me distracted.
I was confident now that I would finish in time, so I felt more able to take sightseeing pictures along the way.
But not everyone was doing as well as I could. Earlier in the ruck, I have to admit I felt a little intimidated by all the 20-somethings in uniform blowing by me on the trail, sometimes double-timing it. But now...I was passing more ruckers than were passing me, and those that were still on the third leg of the trail looked worn out. Some of them were limping, other looked beyond fatigued--they had looks of defeat, and in one case fear, on their faces.
Back into the center of Concord, where some cars passed by and honked to show their support. Then it was back up towards the Old Manse.
I crossed the bridge and then there was a path lined with American flags up to the finish. When I saw them I broke into a jog and ran the rest of the way to the finish line.
|A Colonial Militia Officer rides forward to look for the British.|
|There they are!|
|The Regulars are out!|
|British Light Infantry load their muskets.|
|Dawes * Revere * Prescott|
April 19, 1775
I kept going.
I took some more pictures of the trail, which I can only imagine looks beautiful in the summer and fall.
It's strange to think that over 200 years ago the British were retreating under harassment fire from the colonials here.
I got back to Meriam's Corner, and then it was the real homestretch, the roughly two miles to the finish. My feet were really starting to hurt now, but honestly I was getting used to the pain and so I just kept it up. The rest of the ruck would be on pavement, which wouldn't be fun, but so what? Only two miles. Two miles are nothing.
|The Concord River, a short ways south of Old North Bridge|
|The final leg. Minuteman Monument, and just beyond the Old North Bridge|
|At the finish.|
The finish area was crowded, and several vendors were serving free food and such while everyone mingled, but never much of a social creature, I just wanted to go home.
|My Bib, patches, and Boston Marathon Medal.|
And one more: very early in the ruck, someone's ribbon was ripped off their ruck and blown away by the wind. I chased it down and grabbed it. I wasn't sure which rucker had been carrying it, so I carried it the rest of the way myself to ensure it got across the finish line.
|SPC Sarah O'Hearn|
To all veterans and first responders: Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.