GORUCK Got Nasty

Updated: October 2, 2013


By RU Rob

Everyone has big dreams upon separating from military service. For Jason McCarthy it was to create “a simple black bag, comfortable in any and every environment.”

goruck 094That simple black bag, the methods of construction and, more importantly, the means of testing its ability to withstand everything have created one of the most trusted brands of military-quality gear, as well as the preeminent gatherings of warriors testing their individual testicular fortitude: GORUCK.

In 2008 McCarthy, a recently separated Army Special Forces operator, started working on the backpack, painstakingly checking each seam and stitch to ensure that it could take anything thrown at it, and then some. He affectionately named it the GR1 and sent multiple bags to his SF buddies who were deployed to combat zones. They provided much needed and specific feedback highlighting the successes but also the failures of the design. This worried McCarthy, as he didn’t want to send an unproven piece of equipment into a combat zone without being 100% sure that it could endure the rigors of war.

In 2010, Jason was ready to field test and start selling the GR1 by attending adventure races and also conducting training sessions leading up to them, all with the GR1 on his back. It was during this time that he began to understand the need for an event that would test the physical and mental limits of each individual participant and also provided an opportunity to test new GORUCK products—all while creating more of an environment rather than just a race.

goruck 133Fast forward to September 21, 2013 and I was standing at the base of the Massanutten Mountain in Virginia and looking up at the GORUCK Nasty. It was a damp, dreary day and the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds (which obscured how far and high I would end up going). The clearings of the Massanuten ski slopes were not yet covered in snow but rather 29 obstacles littering the mountainside and crawling with 2,500 participants. There was  a nervous, yet excited atmosphere as waves of adventurers anxiously awaited their start into what could easily be described as hell with a smile, yet no one seemed to care about the weather.

I got checked in as press (I did not participate as I know my own limits), met with some of the GORUCK Cadre and headed out on my own to walk this mountain, shadowing the course and Embracing the Suck (ok, just a little bit of the suck).

goruck 145The first thing I notice is the quality of the obstacles. As I would later find out, the entire course is based on “Nasty Nick” the only obstacle course required by all Green Berets during their selection process at Camp Mackall, NC. Later in the day I learned from Devin, head of the GORUCK NASTY, this obstacle course was built in less than two weeks.

All obstacles were manned with volunteers and at least one cadre-member. The GORUCK Cadre has proven themselves as warriors by attending a separate event and is hand-picked due to their individual dedication, abilities, and special operations history. Their professionalism was evident as I watched several cadre members quietly talk participants through some of the more technical obstacles. Teaching and mentoring as opposed to screaming, yelling, and belittling.

There was no getting over on any of the cadre either. If you were physically unable to complete an obstacle, an alternative exercise was offered. To complete the Nasty you were going to have to earn it.

goruck 099I was about half way through the course when I started remembering all of the incredible times I had in the military. I found myself frequently wishing that I could make an attempt at some of the Nasty obstacles, not because I wanted to test my personal mettle, but rather because I knew there would be a team of people there to support me in the event (and likelihood) that I was unable to complete it without assistance. The moments when I was able to witness these actions by strangers for each other were simply incredible and teamwork seemed to be the underlying theme of the day.

After spending about 2 hours on the course and walking up and down the mountain (I did take some shortcuts) and seeing several people in RU gear. I hung out at the finish line for a while. There was jubilant celebration as the participants crossed the finish line and were met with the traditional hand-shake, complete with a GORUCK Nasty patch, hidden in the palm of the cadre’s hand.

goruck 171What makes GORUCK different from any other adventure race is the camaraderie that follows the event. GORUCK has a tradition that after each event there will be beer—lots and lots of beer. This creates even more opportunity for participants to mingle with the cadre, greet old friends from past GORUCK events, and allows for a celebration of conquering the day’s activities.

In keeping with the original GORUCK mission, to manufacture top quality gear for our warriors, there was also the GORUCK PX. The PX was stocked with every piece of GURUCK gear imaginable and staffed not by local temporary hires, but actual GORUCK employees who were highly knowledgeable on the products. They even had an on-site tailor to repair or customize any previously bought or newly purchased piece of equipment. This is standard practice for GORUCK and goes to show their dedication and belief in their product.

At the end of the day, a couple hundred participants and the GORUCK Cadre all gathered at the on-site camping area. The celebration continued into the night as total strangers became friends, continuing the celebration and becoming part of the GORUCK community.

It always helps when an event like GORUCK Nasty is in support of another organization, particularly a charity.  I was happy to learn that $20 for every registration and 100% of the spectator tickets were donated to the Green Beret Foundation.

goruck 191

In my opinion GORUCK, just like Ranger Up, is more than just a company—it is a lifestyle. It is this lifestyle that keeps the .45% involved and engaged while providing the opportunity to come together and challenge individuals to become part of something bigger. There are few opportunities out there, but if you have the desire to test yourself both physically and mentally for more than just a couple of hours, get involved with GORUCK.




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  1. Ben

    October 2, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    I love Goruck. My wife and I have done multiple events this year including Nasty. It was fun and an opportunity for my wife to get some of the same kick in the pants training we received back in my Army days. The Nasty was different from most Goruck events in that is was on your own time and fun level. most are team based events for 8- 48 hours of straight mental fortitude checks. Of course I have worn more than a few of my Ranger Up shirts to events, usually end up getting ask where I got them and how bad ass they are. duh.

  2. Nick

    October 3, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Huh, didn’t know they had a setup in Bozeman, MT. Guess I’ll go wander down there and say RU sent me. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some new drinkin’ buddies.

  3. Pickle In Da Butt

    October 3, 2013 at 11:40 am

    I own a GR1 and love it. GORUCK is a great company but what is unfortunate is the GORUCK community. Yeah it’s great that you could do some push ups and run a bunch of miles over 12 hours, but that doesn’t mean you’re a certified bad ass, nor does it mean that you’re “almost like SF” because you completed the Challenge or even Selection.

  4. Tank

    October 16, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    @Pickle In Da Butt

    You’ve clearly missed the entire point of GORUCK events. Not a single person that completes an event thinks they are Operations Ready or a certified bad ass. Apparently you’re over compensating for something.

  5. Cattywampus

    December 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    AT the risk of ignoring all the good that this event did (and it did a fantastic amount of good in donations) all I want to know is who is the Rangerette in the blue superwoman T on the monkey bars?!

  6. Brian

    December 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Great writeup… really wish I had been able to fly out for the event!

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