Tough Ruck 26.2 recap 2023

I have done quite a few physical challenges in my 43 years, but I have to say that this was the most pain I have ever been in at the end of a race before!


If you know me, I love a hard physical challenge. I maintain a respectable base of cardiovascular, metabolic, strength, flexibility, and functional movement so I can take on almost any physical challenge on short notice. I call this hybrid or weaponized fitness. I have done this for marathons, iron-man triathlons, CrossFit competitions, obstacle course races and so on.  And this ruck was no exception!


This year I set a goal to compete in the Crossfit-open in February, the age group qualifier weekend competition at the end of March, the Tough Ruck in mid-April in honor of Kendra’s father and deceased firefighter William Cecieta, then a half-ironman in June. This was all going well until I realized that the Tough Ruck was set to take place only 2 weeks after the Crossfit age group qualifier, so I would be severely under-prepared for the ruck! I was having flashbacks of the Navy Seal camp that I did in 2016 called Kokoro where despite being in the best shape of my life, I got my ass handed to me by a 15-mile mountain ruck in the middle of the night and almost got cut from the team.  I learned then that rucking is a type of fitness that can only be built through many hours of walking or running with weight on your back. There doesn’t seem to be any other cross-training you can do that will prepare your muscles and tendons for a ruck other than rucking.

Despite forgetting my lesson I learned in 2016, I knew I could fall back somewhat on my strong base of fitness, my ability to suffer, and my experience as an athlete.


The Tough Ruck marathon is a 26.2-mile race, but with 35 pounds on your back.  It is an incredible event where all proceeds go towards families of fallen military and civil servants who lost their lives in the line of duty.  It is also affiliated with the Boston marathon, so all finishers were awarded a BAA medal and fundraisers who raised over $2k received a jacket.  Thanks to my incredible patients at In8 Wellness Center in North Andover and in Beverly we were able to raise over $4500 towards this cause and I was amongst the top fundraisers! I can’t thank everyone enough for your kindness and generosity.


The race started early Sunday morning April 16th after the national anthem and an emotional ceremony where we were reminded of why we were doing this special race on this special route called the freedom trail. After weighing in our bags to make sure we were over the required 35 pounds, the race began.


The conditions were perfect for a marathon: overcast, no rain and 50 degrees. And as it turned out, the few rucks that I was able to do in training I unknowingly had almost 50 lbs. in my bag so my pack felt light with 35 lbs.! So of course, I came out hot. I ran the first 5 miles at a reasonable pace, but I knew it was unsustainable, so I decided to walk for half a mile and then run 3-4 miles. Then walk half a mile and so on. Once I hit the half-marathon mark though, this was the first time I knew I was in trouble, so I switched up my strategy to run for a minute and walk for a minute interval. That’s when I could start to feel the inside of my foot start to blister.


Thankfully, I had most of my gear dialed in as much as I could all except my footwear, I had only run once in them with my ruck.  The rubbing on the arch of my left foot was chafing like crazy and I knew if I didn’t do something about it, I was in for at least 3 more hours of hell.  So, I stopped at a medical tent and took my time getting my foot taken care of. It probably added an extra 10-15 minutes on my time but I’m glad I stopped. It allowed me to keep moving well until about mile 20 and that’s when the wheels fell off. I was moving at what felt like a snail’s pace. I was being passed by all kinds of people who I had passed much earlier, and their more conservative strategies were paying off. But this is where my experience, mental toughness, and strategies kicked in and got me to the finish.  Here are the 4 strategies I use during long endurance competitions when shit hits the fan:


  1. Set small goals. You can overwhelm and discourage yourself if you look too far ahead. Setting small goals helps you chip away a little at a time while keeping you focused and dialed in.
  2. Positive mental attitude. Yes, you are in the suck and in tons of pain. Good. Think about how lucky I am to be able to suffer unlike those fallen heroes. Think about how much stronger I will be on the other side. There is always a positive to be found.
  3. Put your focus on others and on what you can control. Encourage others, lift them up, help them out. By putting attention to others not only will it help you forget about your suffering, but other people will be more likely to lift you up and encourage you also. And don’t waste energy on things out of your control like the weather, the terrain, or gear failure. Focus on what you can control.
  4. Visualize the finish and breath control. Visualization and breathing are a great way to focus and stay calm. And visualizing yourself victorious at the end gives you a carrot to chase.


Thank you once again to everyone who donated. Thank you to everyone who participated. And thank you to the event organizers for such a great experience and a great cause!

To learn more about the Tough Ruck event and the organization visit


God bless,


Dr. Ryan Hewitt



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