Runners' Corner: Out with the old, in with the wild

Tom Licciardello

With the Christmas holiday now in the past, the New Year is just getting under way. This is the time we take a peek over our shoulders to give thanks for the blessings that we enjoyed in 2012, while looking ahead to the clean slate that is 2013. Here’s a look over my shoulder as I look ahead to 2013 as an endurance athlete.

As a running family, we’ve always considered ourselves to be a bit odd in the eyes of the general population. Even with the surge in popularity that running has experienced as a sport the last couple of decades, we still think that we are in that peculiar minority that enjoy lacing up the running shoes, and head for the nearest road or trail.

How much more peculiar had we become when we added a slate of obstacle races to our list of activities? Well, not as unusual as you might think.

The Active network, a leading endurance sports company, reports that in 2012 races such as the Spartan event and the Color Run had more than one million participants, and by all accounts the surge in numbers will continue in 2013. The Licciardello clan is among the more than one million anticipated to take the dare.

With endurance events now added to our family’s racing plans for 2013, here’s a peek at what was under our family Christmas tree.

For older daughter Amy: a spear. Yes, a spear. One of the obstacles in the Spartan races is a spear throw at a hay target. It’s a tough skill to master without practicing. Getting hay is easy, but the spear requires a special order.

For younger daughter Crissy: the Insanity DVD Workout System. The strength to scale walls, crawl through mud under barbed wire and climb a rope requires more than the typical training program.

For my wife, Lyn: her own spear. After all, you can’t always borrow your daughter’s spear.

And then there was Dad. One of my life’s goals is to accomplish a new challenge every year — a challenge that will test my capabilities, keep my interest in being athletically sharp and hopefully continue the well recognized perception that I might be just a bit nutty.

Amy discovered the perfect event for Dad, who has run more than a few marathons, triathlons and obstacle races — Go Ruck. It’s not just a great endurance event, but also a great source of Christmas gifts.

From Lyn, I got my Go Ruck backpack, a required piece of equipment manufactured by the same company that makes the rucks for Special Forces.

As I will be on a team, I must wear the team’s uniform. From Amy, I received the official Go Ruck team race shirt. From Crissy, the official Go Ruck race kilt. Yes, kilt. It wasn’t easy to explain to the grandchildren why Poppy got a skirt for Christmas.

You may not have heard of Go Ruck, and chances are that you don’t know anyone who has done one of these Navy Seal tryout look-alikes. So, here’s the deal.

First, you must buy the Special Forces quality backpack (ruck) for $240. Then, there is the entry fee of $110. Then, there are the bricks and duck tape, 4 to 6 bricks at $.35 each, and three rolls of tape at $3.25 each. The experience: priceless.

The event begins at 10 p.m., and finishes sometime the next morning. Each team member reports for duty with the Ruck packed with snugly duck-taped bricks — four to six depending on body weight. I will be dieting to meet the four-brick standard — a hydration system and any nourishment or clothing needed for the overnight ordeal.

The team then works through the night enduring 10 to 12 miles of running, transporting a log or telephone pole and completing a variety of physical challenges in very uncomfortable locations.

It’s not unusual for the team to do sit-ups in ocean waves or pushups face down in a stream. Reports from past participants suggest the 30 to 50 team members become very close friends in the end, so close, in fact, that many travel from city to city throughout the country to participate in numerous Go Ruck events.

You might wonder why I would find this event appealing. There are a couple of reasons. First, it certainly meets my standard for finding a new challenge each year. Second, because I can.

I count my blessings for good health and the ability to test myself physically. These are gifts that are given, but aren’t permanent. There will be a time when attempting a Go Ruck event will be impossible, and I don’t want to say: “I wish I had...”

Lastly, I suspect a photo of me in a kilt will make the 2013 Christmas card.

So that’s part of my plan for 2013. Though I wouldn’t necessarily encourage everyone to join me at Go Ruck, I hope each of you would find a challenge in 2013 that will test the boundaries of your capabilities. My guess is that you will learn that you can accomplish a lot more than you ever thought possible.

Grab those running shoes, lace ‘em up and get yourself psyched for an amazing 2013.

Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley Striders. Licciardello has participated in35 Boston’s and 88 marathons.He has also completed the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. Professionally, he is a Certified Financial Planner and resides in North Andover with his wife, Lyn. He may be reached