Villain Challenge #4

by MOA

SAS Patrol Bravo Two-Zero

These soldiers infiltrated Iraq during the first Gulf War with 209lbs. of equipment per man. After being compromised and engaged several times by Iraqi troops, the man on the far left evaded 190 miles on foot to Syria. By comparison, this challenge, while an excellent test of fitness and resolve, is rather tame.

My last article, “The Stalk,” sparked a lot of interest on the forums regarding both the mental and physical aspects of military training. Indeed, mental toughness is a recurring topic, and there have been several questions posed concerning the finer points of intestinal fortitude. Those who complete this Villain Challenge will have very few if any questions on hardening the mind.

The Challenge: 5 miles in 1 hour with a 45lb. rucksack (35lbs. for females).

Ruck marching sucks. There’s no way around it. Strapping on a heavy pack and walking for an extended distance at a high rate of speed is one of the best ways of forging an iron will. Your lungs will burn with each breath, your shoulders will scream for a respite from the straps, your legs will feel like pure battery acid is being pumped through the blood vessels with each passing step, but pushing through the pain and discomfort to the finish can be a very rewarding experience.

First, you need to acquire a rucksack. Don’t try to do this challenge with a Jansport backpack and a 45lb. plate. You can find a large ALICE pack on eBay or other internet vendors for $30-50 for a complete ruck with frame and straps. Some civilian hiking packs, such as those made by Kelty or Arc’Teryx, may also be acceptable. However, keep in mind that most civilian backpacks are designed for light (by military standards) loads, and may not be ideal for carrying over 20-30lbs.

Second, you need good shoes. Don’t be the guy who tries to do this with Vibram Five Fingers or worn out Nike cross-trainers. I’m not saying everyone needs to go out and buy high-speed, top-end desert boots, but remember you’ll be walking with a moderate load at a high speed for several miles. Your footwear needs to support that. Pick boots that are comfortable and durable. Civilian boots from companies like Asolo, Lowa, Merrill, and others are fine, as are standard Military desert or jungle boots. Socks are equally important, and I can’t recommend SmartWool socks enough. Though pricey, they last for years, are well-cushioned and comfortable, and will keep you warm when you work towards this challenge this winter.

MOA’s personal Ruck and Boots. His ruck is a customized ALICE platform done by Tactical Tailor. The boots are Lowa Zephyr TF’s.

Lastly, start short and slow and build up. If you’ve never rucked before, this is not a challenge you’ll want to just jump into feet first. Here’s the build-up I recommend for a civilian who has never walked under load for any real distance:

Week 1 – 1 Mile with a ruck loaded at 20% of your bodyweight. If you’re over 200lbs., use 45lbs.

Week 2 – 2 Miles with a ruck loaded at 20% of bodyweight, or 45lbs. if BW>200lbs.

Week 3 – 3 Miles with a 45lb. ruck

Week 4 – 4 Miles with a 45lb. ruck

Week 5 – 5 Miles with a 45lb. ruck

After week 5, work on getting your time down to 12 minutes per mile. Don’t run during your training. When you go to test your 5 mile time you may need to trot a bit, especially on a hilly course, but don’t do this in training. Walk faster instead, increasing your cadence each session. For the first five weeks, walk at about a 15 minute-per-mile pace. If you’re female, use the same percentage-of-bodyweight loading for the first two weeks, but use 35lbs. for the rest of your training.

Assuming you’re doing a three-day per week strength program like the vaunted “Greyskull LP,” do two marches per week for the first three weeks, one on Wednesday and the other on Saturday. After the first three weeks, drop down to one march per week, ideally on Saturday.

When marching, don’t hang your head, hunch your shoulders, or bend forward excessively. Keep your spine neutral and in-line, keep your weight over your feet, and swing your arms. Short, quick strides are more efficient that long ones. If rucking a cross-country course, step over or around obstacles, never on them. When packing the ruck, place heavier items towards the top, and ensure you distribute the load as evenly as possible.

Now get after it. Post your gripes, complaints, comments and questions to the forum.

MOA is a professional gunfighter who travels to exotic locales to refine his craft. Having completed some of the most physically and mentally arduous training in the US military, he is uniquely qualified to answer questions pertaining to all aspects of military fitness. He can be found on the StrengthVillain forums.

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16 Responses

  1. My first “backpack” from my old man was a rucksack. Growing up in the Northwest spending time on the trails was a given. I always considered the other packs I saw in high school as “Fancy.”

    Funny thing was I did end up getting a “fancy” pack in college. I really didnt feel like a nancy getting a decent pack. But it made me realize that our military guys put up with some real shit humpen those around.

    Awesome Challenge, I’ll try and find that old rucksack and hit some trails.

    December 6, 2010 at 11:08 am

  2. puck_crotch

    I did this in 40 minutes, with a 65lb. rucksack… many years ago. If I tried it now, I’d probably break the bones in my feet, followed by my spine, and lastly, in my chin and the back of my skull as I come crashing down face-first into the pavement with the top bar of the ruck sliding forward up into my head.

    December 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  3. mpetry

    ordering an ALICE ruck from ebay (they’re pretty cheap used); going to hit this one hard over winter break.

    thanks for the write-up MOA.

    December 6, 2010 at 3:51 pm

  4. Drago

    Those are some excellent mustaches

    December 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  5. jord_on

    this is good, but I do 15 miles in 3 hours with 65lbs, try that one, also i was in the infantry…so its nothing new 🙂

    December 8, 2010 at 1:29 am

  6. Shane Treichel

    I’ve done this before by adding weight to the ruck 2.5# at a time. I learned an important truth, 25# in a ruck is like 300# on a squat bar, anything over that is going to feel heavy so just get used to it.

    December 8, 2010 at 4:06 pm

  7. MOA

    *Insert random dick-measuring comment here*

    December 9, 2010 at 12:16 am

    • *Insert larger measurement here*

      December 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

      • Jeff Van Dusen

        Earmuffs, man!

        January 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm

  8. Awesome

    December 9, 2010 at 9:50 am

  9. Aaron

    Luckily I did this not too long ago- 6.12 miles, 60lb pack, 68 minutes.

    It was a memorial ruck. Remember the fallen. I’ll do a 5 miler and repost times here this weekend.

    December 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm

  10. G

    Air Assault!

    December 10, 2010 at 9:19 am

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  13. DiBatt

    I normally do 11 miles in 23 minutes barefoot with a live bear on my back. Is that good? I guess I’ll try this as an active recovery day after blasting my abzzzzzzzzzzz

    December 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm

  14. javier

    this might be a dumb question, but should this be done with a frameless pack or with a frame-having (is that a word?) pack?

    January 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm

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