Marathon Ruck Challenge - Everything You Need to Know

The PATHFINDER Marathon Ruck Challenge is one of the most difficult and demanding Challenges no matter your fitness level.

If you intend to attempt this Challenge we highly recommend that you do so much later in the program in order to work up to this effort and to plan for recovery time that does not impede on the rest of your program progress. 

Marathons, even in the ruck endurance world, are a big goal and worth the high aspiration. Training for a marathon (in any capacity) creates significant physical benefits, including increased cardiovascular and circulatory strength and a stronger body as well as some fantastic mental/emotional side benefits. ('Runner's High' can absolutely apply to rucking!)

Marathons are a pretty big deal, and something to celebrate on your PATHFINDER journey. While we don't require any time constraints on your marathon ruck, it should be done consecutively (although we're not going to stop you for having a Mile-18 Pizza Party) and you can begin your marathon ruck at any time of day.

Planning for your marathon ruck should begin at least a week ahead of time. Within that week, you should be lowering your overall activity in preparation for a grueling day, much like you would plan for a mini-taper. You should be drinking adequate water daily. We highly recommend you not begin your marathon until you've had an adequate, carbohydrate-rich, low-fat meal and are well-rested. 

Inevitably, each Class, we hear of a roster attempting a Marathon ruck within the first three weeks of Class with no prior experience or conditioning. Please don't be that roster! Marathon rucks can be surprisingly difficult, even if you've run a Marathon previously. This Challenge should always be attempted AFTER a successful 12 Mile Challenge and 18 Mile Overnight Ruck Challenge for the best results.

Be sure to read our 12 Mile Ruck Challenge EYNTK blog post for all the details. We see the 12 miler as your Marathon gateway, so there's plenty of pertinent information and recommendations there as well. 

Challenge Purpose

The 26.2 Marathon Ruck Challenge provides conditioning for rucking an extended distance and rucking for many hours at a time. The goals of this Challenge include:

  • Improving your overall endurance ruck capacity
  • Getting used to wearing your ruck for a long period
  • Practice hydration and nutrition
  • Test your gear and learn how your feet react to extended rucks
  • Practice blister prevention

Challenge Parameters

  • Ruck 26.2 consecutive miles at one time with the required weight (see below).
  • Breaks/Rest periods are allowed and encouraged (see below).

Challenge Weight Requirements

  • Life/Forward: The Marathon Challenge is not a Challenge for these programs.
  • Endure: There is no stated minimum ruck weight requirement. An appropriately challenging weight for the roster's fitness level must be in the ruck at all times.
  • Advanced:
    • 45lb / 20kg ruck dry weight for body weight of 150lb / 68kg / 10.7s
    • 30lb / 13kg ruck dry weight for body weight less than 150lb / 68kg
  • Advanced: Ocala:
    • 35-40lb / 15.8-18kg ruck dry weight for all body weights
  • Horizon:
    • 20lb / 9kg ruck dry weight for body weight of 150lb or more
    • 10lb / 4.5kg ruck dry weight for body weight less than 150lb
  • Stirling / Compete: This Challenge is not currently required for these programs.

Challenge Rest/Break Strategy

  • Frequency - Breaks can take several forms. There are urgent breaks (foot care, bathroom, water) and planned breaks (eating, general care). Always take your planned breaks and use all of the time you have allotted. Your break frequency will somewhat depend on your fitness level.
  • Duration - 15 - 20 minute breaks are great for your planned breaks. Stay any longer and it may be difficult to get your body going again. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, after all. Keep tightly to your rest periods. A single, longer meal break of up to an hour can be a good motivator at the 12-15 mile point. You just have to promise yourselves you'll keep going when it's over!
  • Activity - Priorities of work come into focus here. Your feet will always be your Number 1 priority when you stop - even if you've had good feet up to this point. Often shoes and socks that have been worn many shorter miles can aggravate in new ways. After feet comes food and hydration. We recommend water and electrolyte blends (like Tailwind and NUUN). Food should be high carb/low fat until you know how your body reacts to true distance endurance. Then bathroom, and lastly, rest. One position we recommend is to lay on your back, hips up close to the trunk of a tree, legs straight up the trunk. This position helps with swelling and general physical stress.

Safety Considerations

  • Ruck safely. Communicate your route and estimated times to another individual/party who can alert.
  • Use reflective elements, runner's safety vests, flashing lights, headlamps, and similar safety gear especially rucking near roadways.
  • Stick to known routes and well-lit pathways
  • Ensure phones are fully charged and carry a fully charged backup battery to recharge a dead phone.
  • Keep a First Aid kit on hand and within reach. Be sure to add salt tablets to your kit for sodium levels.
  • You must complete the Challenge as a whole, with exceptions made for breaks for foot care, bathroom and food.

Challenge Restrictions

  • Ruck safely. Communicate your route and estimated times to another individual/party who can alert
  • YOU MUST COMPLY WITH ALL APPLICABLE LAWS AND RESTRICTIONS. DO NOT TRESPASS. If you are in doubt contact facility management for a clear understanding of access to and usage of any facility’s property. PATHFINDER assumes no liability whatsoever for any actions taken by a PATHFINDER roster.

PATHFINDER assumes no responsibility or liability for any injuries, damages or death. A roster assumes all risk associated with their participation in any and all PATHFINDER programming.


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