Rucking the Battle Road
Blog written by: Scott Gamble, Director | Team RWB Rhode Island
On April 15th, 2017 I had the honor and pleasure of participating in my very first Tough Ruck. A 26.2 mile ruck through historic Concord and Lincoln, MA along the same roads taken by the British Army during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The journey from a crazy idea to the finish line was one that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
This journey started back in September of 2016 when my Athletic Director, Steve Blais, brought it up to the leadership team, “This will be awesome, we should do this!”. I’ll admit, at the time I didn’t pay him much attention. I have never done 26.2 miles other than on a bike so rucking it didn’t sound like fun to me. One by one he recruited Eagles not only in our community but from the region as well. I held out as long as I could and finally in January I gave in and registered. I was honored by the idea of rucking in honor of our fallen service members, police, firefighters and EMT’s plus I was helping raise money for military families in need. But 26.2 miles with a ruck on your back? Still, in the back of my head I kept telling myself “Worst case, treat it as a donation”.
One of our Eagles, Dan Rowan, started organizing weekend rucks. Dan’s a machine, he was not only rucking on Saturdays, but also through the week and still working full time. By my calculations, he had to have been going to bed at 7:30pm and waking up at 1am. Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration but it seems like all he did was ruck. Our first ruck was about 8 miles on a chilly January morning. We kept building the mileage from there, trying to keep life from getting in the way and juggling other obligations. We rucked through 18 degree mornings on icy bike paths, in the cold rain and days where we just didn’t feel like it. Then something weird happened. I expected our veterans to start forming that “unit bond”, but it really surprised me to see it happening in those Eagles who hadn’t been in the military. Yes, Team RWB is about making those connections and I see that in my community, but this was something deeper, more meaningful. It was that brotherhood/sisterhood you form when you both suffer through the same thing.
Fast forward through the early morning training rucks, blisters, and sore legs and shoulders to April. The day of the event had arrived. We knew we were expecting a good amount of Eagles, 87 at last count. Steve, once again pulled one out and got us tent space at the event, so we had a rallying point for our Eagles. I have to admit, even though I knew how many were coming, it was a great sight seeing all of those red shirts. There were familiar faces in the crowd. Eagles from Boston, Groton, Rhode Island and Hartford. There were unfamiliar faces, too. Eagles from Long Island, Orlando and Colorado. Eagles we only knew via email or Facebook that we could now shake hands and make jokes about what’s to come.
We gathered on the grounds of the Old Manse to honor those we lost. There were hundreds of rucks with pinned pictures and streaming yellow ribbons adorned with the names of those who gave it all. We had veterans, civilians and service members representing every branch. After the opening ceremonies and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, we were off.
The energy was so high those first few miles. The crowd cheering each participant, Blais running down the line giving high fives, and that “Eagle up” as you passed each red shirt was amazing. There were Eagles not participating in the ruck lined up cheering everyone and they had even set up a “comfort station” right past the first checkpoint.
Finally we hit the Battle Road, the trail taken by the Red Coats as they retreated back to Boston during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. As we tacked on the miles, the conversations flowed. Lives were discussed, humorous stories told and camaraderie shared. As those miles turned into double digits, talk turned towards those we marched for and the resolve to finish. As it was an up and back, there was a constant verbal encouragement and high-fiving of passing Eagles.
At times it got surreal. As we were in Minuteman National Park, we passed markers denoting graves of British soldiers. People in period costumes standing on the side cheering us on and at one point we even rucked right through the middle of a battle between colonials and Red Coats. At this point, around mile 18, the idea was floated to bum rush a mounted British officer and take his horse. We continued on though. While we were surrounded by them, rebels we were not.
The last six miles seemed like another twenty. By this time everyone appeared to be struggling. Feet, legs and backs were hurting but we all still managed to encourage each other on. As we passed other Eagles, there would be a slight slow down in pace to check and see if they were good. Even though some didn’t look it, they smiled, said they were and we kept moving. I kept waiting for someone to stand up tall and yell “Bring me the head of Blais!!”
Finally, we passed the 25 mile marker and the end was in sight. Finally we neared the North Bridge and we could heard the music and the crowd. As we stood on the site where almost 242 years to the day, a group of farmers and citizens faced the most powerful Army of it’s time we pushed just a little harder. Past the cheering crowds and through that finish line where Gold Star mothers waited to hang a medal over your neck. It was hard to not get emotional.
After the event, the Facebook posts of accomplishments started popping up. In many, people stated that they were ready to drop but the encouragement they received from their fellow Eagles kept them going. As a group, and as individuals we embodied the Eagle Ethos: Passion, Positivity, People, Commitment, Camaraderie and Community. Thank you and congrats to all my fellow Eagles who truly dug deep and accomplished something great that day! I heard a lot of “One and done,” but I have a feeling I’ll be seeing you all next year!