This past weekend, my roommate and I made the three hour drive up to Austin for GORUCK’s Kill that 5K. It was his first experience with anything GORUCK related and it was enlightening for me to see how he approached it. For me, the 5K was a fun run. I went to see friends I had in the GORUCK community and to show my support for what GORUCK is doing.
For my roommate, the 5K was a challenge, a mountain to be climbed and a test of his physical and mental fortitude. When I was packing my ruck with a 6 pack, he was weighing his down with about 20 pounds of water. When I was hanging in the back chatting with the first timers and welcoming them to the community, he was running up the hills and pushing as hard as he could. When we crossed that finish line, he finished with nothing left in the tank.
On our drive home, he asked why we GRTs did our challenges. Why did we go out of our way to suffer for little to no recognition outside of the community? I’ve got two events, a challenge and a light, coming up this weekend and he asked why I was doing more when I have done them in the past. Haven’t I already climbed that mountain? At the time, I didn’t really have a good answer for him. I couldn’t put my motivation into words. There’s a kind of masochistic pride in my suffering, but it’s more than that. It’s not just for bragging rights or to follow the crowd, there’s something deeper to it.
Something I took away from my time as a wrestler was that I wouldn’t get better wrestling people worse than me. While wrestling B-Squad opponents was fun, there wasn’t satisfaction in it. I remember being angry when my coach put me against the opponent’s back up for the last match of my wrestling career. I won that match in less than a minute but it was insulting. In order to grow as a wrestler, I needed to continue to push my boundaries and compete with better and better opponents. I see the GORUCK events the same way as I see the better wrestlers in my career. The challenges are my varsity opponent, a true test that demands excellence and growth. While I have done two challenges already, I’ve walked away feeling like I got my butt kicked. I took a beating, but I came out better and stronger. Until I walk away from a challenge feeling insulted and untested, these are the mountains I choose to climb.
I truly believe that facing challenges is an essential part of growing and maturing in all areas of life. One of my favorite books is The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In this book, Campbell looks at myths and stories from across cultures and times and pulls out the commonalities and develops the idea of the monomyth, a theme that broadly outlines nearly every story told by mankind. Also known as The Hero’s Journey, the monomyth describes four key elements to growth: Adventure, stepping outside of your comfort zone into the unknown; Crisis, being met with a clearly defined challenge; Victory, overcoming the challenge despite adversity; and Growth, returning home to your comfort zone having grown and changed through the journey. Challenges (whether they are the GORUCK variety, a marathon, an important test, or something else entirely) draw us into the unknown where we must grow and adapt in order to overcome. Without seeking out these challenges, it becomes easy to stay stagnant where things are comfortable.
Now that I’ve had time to process the question, that would be my answer. Why do I go out and do these challenges when I know it’s going to hurt? Why do I willingly sign up for 12+ hours of unknown trials? It’s because that is what it takes to grow stronger physically and mentally. That is what it takes to mature and to expand my comfort zone. I will walk away tougher and better than I was before.