12 Mile Timed Ruck Challenge
This PATHFINDER Challenge must be executed in the total time allotted by program level (Forward, Endure or Advanced) with the appropriate weight for the program level. The 12 Mile Timed Ruck Challenge is a historically utilized ruck march for the US Army, and it is an excellent Challenge for getting your mind right, gear chosen and pace perfected during Event preparation. This is a long post that touches on many aspects of longer-distance rucking because we feel the 12 Miler is really the gateway PATHFINDER Ruck Endurance Challenge.
- Get used to pushing a quick pace on a ruck, furthering your ruck endurance conditioning and preparation;
- Learn your pace and practice without your watch;.
- Learn to judge distance by time and pace;
- Event preparation for completing a timed 12 mile ruck, which has been a standard hallmark of GORUCK Events in the past, especially Heavy's;
- Baseline military ruck fitness minimum performance
The 12 Mile Timed Ruck Challenge must be completed within timed and ruck weight parameters.
12 miles in 3.5 hours or less (17:30 min/mi pace)
- Required weight:
- There is no required ruck weight for Forward rosters. The ruck should however have a challenging enough weight appropriate for their fitness level.
12 miles in 3.5 hours or less (17:30 min/mi pace)
- Required weight:
- 30 lb. ruck (dry weight) if you weigh 150 lbs. or more
- 20 lb. ruck (dry weight) if you weigh less than 150 lbs.
12 miles in 3.0 hours or less (15:00 min/mi pace)
- The Timed 12 Mile Challenge is a requirement for PATHFINDER Advanced, not an optional Challenge
- Required weight:
- 45 lb. ruck (dry weight) if you weigh 150 lbs. or more
- 30 lb. ruck (dry weight) if you weigh less than 150 lbs.
When should the 12 Mile Timed Ruck Challenge be attempted?
We caution all new Forward and Endure rosters, and any rosters new to rucking, to wait until they are properly conditioned and halfway through consistent training prior to attempting this Challenge. You should be well-rested prior to any attempt and be prepared with appropriate water, food (this is not the Challenge to try new snacks!), shoes, socks and other necessary gear. (Necessary gear is a broad term and can be include everything from extra socks and shoes to a variety of snacks to a rain poncho - really, it's whatever you want to lug around that you think might make your ruck more comfortable.)
If you have completed prior PATHFINDER Forward, Endure or Advanced classes and are well-conditioned, complete the ruck within scheduling and a time of day that works for you.
What should I include in my ruck?
The essentials list for a 12 Miler should definitely include:
- An extra phone battery
- A change of socks
- A full water bladder (and if you want a supplement in your water, like nuun or our favorite, Tailwind, put it in a separate water bottle in your ruck and not in your bladder)
- Snacks (preferably items without a higher fat content - think carbs and a little protein)
- Your ruck should have it's reflective bands on at all times
- Anything after that is rosters choice, but can include things we've already mentioned: a change of lightweight shoes, a rain poncho, an extra water bottle, headphones, additional clothing items depending on the weather - whatever you want to carry that you think you need. You'll learn what 'enough' and 'too much' feels like through practice.
What happens if I fail the 12 Mile Timed Ruck Challenge?
While we know how frustrating this can be, we strongly encourage you to try again. Take a look at the possible reasons why you may have failed. While this isn't a comprehensive list of questions to ask yourself, these are the things you'll want to think about first:
- Was it gear, shoes or socks?
- Water or food?
- Were you well rested and had eaten prior to your attempt?
- Sore from prior workouts or shin splints?
It's tempting to berate ourselves when we attempt something and fail at it. This is when you get your mind right. There will be times during Events when you feel you have failed or are failing, and it's imperative that you see failure can be good. Failure gives you the opportunity to develop mental toughness and grit that carry you through dark hours. We welcome failure because it makes us better athletes (and even better people). This isn't just some rosy platitude - failure is the compost a strong athlete grows from.
How do I weigh my ruck?
We recommend making a small investment into a digital hanging luggage scale. You can buy them for less than $10 on amazon or any big box retailer and makes it easy to determine how much your ruck weighs.
We may also have weighed ourselves on a scale, put on the ruck, stepped back on the scale and measured the difference. Not quite as accurate, but it still works! We won't recommend putting your ruck directly on the scale unless all four sides touch it and you feel you're getting an accurate measurement.
How do I increase ruck speed?
Your rucking posture dictates your ruck speed. And *posture makes permanent.* Whatever posture you assume under the ruck will eventually be the posture you use without one. Proper posture creates lasting skeletal health. Read the posture blog post here first before you read on.
Now that you know your posture is the most important part of any ruck, and how to create that posture, you're ready to learn how to increase your ruck speed without sacrificing the integrity of your ruck (and walk, and stand, and sit, because one really does follow the other and it really is that important).
Generating speed can be done in the following ways:
Faster Ruck Walking When you started rucking, your "base pace" was probably slower than it is now. Your body learned the movement and created efficiencies. Now, you can use those efficiencies to power forward. Take the healthy ruck postural model and lean in. Using your hips, glutes and core as the source of your power, create speed until you feel you're just about to break into a shuffle. This works well in intervals, and we recommend you play with your pace in training through interval rucks to get the most benefit here. (For the record, the PATHFINDER "fast mile" criteria begins at a 15:00min/mile.) Lean in when you're going up hills, shuffle when you're going down them. Which leads to...
Ruck Shuffling I could write a huge post about ruck shuffling, but first, watch this from ruck.beer:
Ruck Shuffle Con't While the recommendations in the video are for Star Course training, and he calls it "ruck running," this video illustrates a ruck shuffle. In a ruck shuffle, your body and head stay upright with your arms close to your ribs. Your feet stay close to the ground with a minimal knee lift, taking small, quick steps.
Maintaining a short stride, keeping your feet and legs under your hips, is the most important difference between a shuffle and a run. A shuffle is efficient and maximizes your ruck speed.
Ruck Running This is not recommended under any circumstances within PATHFINDER at any level of programming. Ruck running, while done in the US Military, is a very advanced form of rucking and fitness in general. While there are always exceptions to every rule, and you may even find yourself doing it at an Event for a brief period of time, the cons far outweigh the pros in a training environment.
PATHFINDER defines a ruck run as a participant using a regular run gait, potentially with both feet off the ground at the same time, knees lifting, feet high and a wide stride between the front and back foot. Running with a weighted pack in this way creates too much pounding in your feet, knees and hips, and over time can contort your posture and create a significant opportunity for injury. You have your whole life to live in your body, with your knees, hips, back and feet - don't screw it up while training for a 24-hour Event. Really. Just don't. I promise you, you won't feel like a badass when you're injured.
Can/Should I stop during the attempt?
Stopping during the 12 Mile Ruck is a personal decision, but yes, you can stop. Stopping can be useful if you need to change socks, use the bathroom, take something out of your ruck that you can't swap around to your front for or take a timed and strategic snack/foot/gear check.
Stopping the first time you do a 12 Miler can feel a little anxious, especially if it's the longest distance you've gone. Paying attention to your pace prior to stopping can give you a good indication of how much time you really do have. Depending on your pace, using a stopwatch feature on your watch or phone can keep you on target to finish and still use a minute or two to care for whatever you need to. Practicing this also gives you an understanding of how to time self-care during an event and take care of your priorities of care.
How do you time the ruck?
Timing your ruck can be as simple or complex as you'd like. There are some rosters who set their watch/phone and just go, using their preferred apps to gauge their time and distance (there are hundreds of options, so find one that works for you prior to the 12 miler). There's others who chart their course ahead of time, plan out their stops and priorities after having paid attention to their average pace time in previous rucks and are diligent about following their plan. Then there's others who have done all of the previous, plus watch their heart rate, keep diligent track of their splits and are constantly figuring out when to push their pace and when they can slow it.
Find the mix that works for you and try it on a training ruck leading to the 12 Miler. If something isn't working for you, drop it. Part of training this intensely is also learning to cut what isn't working and how to flexibly adjust.
What to do when you're done
You've hit your time and distance and now you're finished! It's exhilarating! Now it's time to eat and get out of those gross clothes.
First, drink a little more water and down a protein shake and have a banana. (Eggs or another variety of protein works just fine too, if you feel like doing that. What we're doing here is giving you an immediate shot of hydration, protein and carbs.) Then, if it's your speed, order your pizza and have your beer. While both taste good and we're not going to judge what you put on your plate, your first priority should always be solid nutrition that get to work in your body. This also helps set up good habits that will continue with you throughout your longer endurance training sessions and set your body up for success.
We're also big fans of stretching/rolling while you're enjoying your victory meal, naps, Epsom salt baths, tart cherry juice before bed and getting a full 8 hours of sleep after any longer endurance ruck. The next day, take it slower and enjoy maybe a yoga class or lighter workout.
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