Inside the GORUCK Challenge with Lead Cadre Lou Lepsch

We always say the favorite part of running an adventure site is the people we get to talk to. Today is no different. As soon as we found out about the GORUCK Challenge, we tracked down the people in charge of this massive gut-check adventure and told them we needed to talk. We got in touch in with Lead Cadre, Lou Lepsch – the ex-special ops agent in charge of this ridiculously awesome event, and in true Nerve Rush fashion, we bombarded him with questions.

GoRuck Challenge Lou
Lead Cadre & Ex-Special Ops Agent Lou Lepsch

Also, as a bonus, at the end – we’ve got something awesome to give away, so you’ll want to check that out. But before we get to that, here’s a little bit more about the GORUCK Challenge from Lou himself.

Thanks for talking with us Lou! Can you tell us a little bit about the GORUCK Challenge? How did you get involved?

Simply put, the GORUCK Challenge is 12-14 hours of simulated Special Operations selection processes. Participants cover about 20 miles wearing GORUCK gear filled with bricks (meant to simulate kit -i.e. ammo.)  They are led by a GORUCK Cadre with a Special Operations background. The Cadre poses problems to the group, thus turning 30 individuals into a team over the course of the Challenge. Longer story, the GORUCK Challenge is a gut check – a test of one’s intestinal fortitude. It’s a slice of Special Operations training that gets your foot in the door.

I got involved after a night of pool water with Jason when he visited me at Fort Bragg. He briefed me on the CONOP (Concept of Operations), and I thought it was awesome. We sat around drinking pool water while Java (GORUCK dog) tore up cases of Bud Heavy, and I was hooked.  Jason and I worked together in the Special Forces Q-Course, and the opportunity to work with him again was a no brainer.

GoRuck Challenge Your Team

How does being a Cadre fit into the race logistics? You lead classes?

First thing the Cadre does is a boots on the ground reconnaissance of the ground and some target analysis – working out potential missions for the participants. We get a route from HQ a few days before, but the Cadre needs to spend a good four hours minimum – sometimes longer – to work out how that route will play out in real life.

During the challenge, the Cadre poses scenarios to the team, events to test not only the individual but the team. The Cadre’s main job is to bring those individuals together as a team and form friendships for life. They just experienced something life changing and definitely not a 5K, and the bonds last a lifetime.

GoRuck Challenge Annapolis Cold Water

And you have a background in Special Ops? Whoa. Could you, ahem, elaborate?


What separates the GORUCK Challenge from the many other adventure, obstacle and endurance races out there?

The team, the city, and the Cadre. Much like Special Operations training that the Cadre all went through, you never know what to expect. You’ve got to focus on the task at hand – while also focusing on the bigger picture. The bigger picture is the team. Our events are in cities, and the route is designed to be a guided tour – a shopping tour with many coupons along the way.

The city provides those real life problems for the team to solve. It’s not as if we are renting out a ski resort and putting logs there for people to carry from this cone to that cone. The Cadre separate us – you’ve got that legitimacy, but it also makes it a more personal event. It’s one Cadre with thirty people, and you really get to know each other. They always hate the Cadre at first, but by the end they love us. In the end, we want every single person to walk away knowing they accomplished something.

GoRuck Challenge Cadre

What training regimen would you recommend for a GORUCK participant expect?

It doesn’t matter, because you’re still going to be sore. But I would recommend a CrossFit regimen with some minor distance running for cardio.  But in the end, it’s 90% mental. Don’t take it so seriously. Partake in some ACRT (Advanced Cellular Repair Technology, aka beer) like we all do.

Where can we learn more about the GORUCK Challenge?

Visit and also check out @GORUCKChallenge on Twitter. The Cadre all tweet during the event, and we get a lot of suggestions from people following the challenge at home. It’s like watching GORUCK TV in real time!

Huge thanks to Lou and the GORUCK Challenge team for taking the time to speak with us. After this interview, I was so excited about GoRuck, I just had to do it. So I’m signed up for the first GoRuck Challenge as soon as I get back to the states.

Now for the cool part: If you want to give GORUCK Challenge a shot for yourself, we’ve got a free entry pass to any of the GORUCK Challenges across the country (sorry international guys, GORUCK hasn’t quite made it across the pond yet). If you want to win a free pass to any GORUCK Challenge, let us know why below and our unbiased team of judges will pick our favorite as the winner.

Stay adventurous out there!

Joel Runyon


  1. Jason H says:

    Because I need to toughen the hell up.

  2. Daniel says:

    Great article, very insightful! I plan on doing the June 15th GORUCK in DC, and am lacking in funds due to the fact that I am a college student. I do ROTC in college as well and plan on entering the world of Special Ops. This event would be a fantastic stepping stone in my progression to reaching the world of Army Special Forces. Please pick me!

  3. Kimmie says:

    Goruck is awesome. I did one, and want to do as many as I can. But finances limit me, so need a second, even third job to pay for it all. 🙂 I even want to pick up another ruck. I was one of the “weaker” ones at my challenge. My team supported/helped me the whole time. It is amazing to be GRT (Goruck Tough). Now I am training hard, so when I do another challenge, I can be the one that helps the “weaker” to finish. To pay it back for all the help I recieved. Anyone who trys and completes the challenge is definitely not weak, just others are stronger. 🙂 I would love a free pass to a challenge..

  4. Josh Kupchella says:

    GoRuck challenge? Why not?! Sounds ridiculous enough that I don’t know why anyone would want to do it.. Which makes it even more interesting. They also have great rucks…so 12-14 hours and 20 miles of “joy” in Pittsburgh is definitely worth the discount..
    And like George Mallory said about everest-“because it’s there” (not that this compares to climbing everest, that is actually crazy)

  5. Dustin says: has classes across both ponds now, get some Good Livin!

  6. A friend stayed with me a few weeks ago, and told me of his experience at the New York event (on 9-11). It’s definitely something I want to do.

    Of course I have the fear I won’t be in good enough shape and will hold everyone else back. I’ve let myself go more than I should, and need some inspiration to get back to what I know I am capable of.

    At 42, I am not getting any younger, but I know even us old guys can do this and do well.

    And the Rucks are the best I’ve ever seen, so I’m getting one of those whether you pick me or not 😀

  7. Scott Miller says:

    James i’m at the same age as you and expect to be in the upper age range of my June 15th GRC with the age and kids and a job does make it a little tougher to find the right time/enough time to exerice but having signed up for this challenge and others the past two years has been my CARROT to motivate me to keep moving!! I like to see it as a great example to our peers and the younger crowd that with age doesn’t mean you can’t push yourself or fall into that “i’m too old” catogory to do this stuff!!! So hopefully one day i can run into you or others of my age and enjoy the “GOODLIVING”!!!

    • Oh I am careful not to believe that “too old” nonsense, Scott. But sitting around at a computer all day not keeping the machine going can catch up. So I need this carrot too 😀
      Of course the closest one to me happens in about 20 days, so if I do it, I need to get training NOW!

  8. Todd says:

    I have signed up for the Charlotte 6/29/2012 challenge and am already planning on at least one more for 2013. The challenge is still a good month and a half away but the friends I have made that are also doing th challenge is amazing. I want to do this to prove to myself that I can do it. I want to do these challenges for the team work, to become a team and not an individual. And of course, for the patch and the bragging rights at other events, aka Tough Mudder 🙂

  9. Nolan says:

    Im signed up for Indy on June 9th and I’d love to get the chance to do it again. I’m a fireman in the city and a few of my guys are doing this with me as well. Hopefully we can use it as a way to stay motivated to keep training and stay at the top of our game and maybe convert a few more of our coworkers along the way. Thanks!

  10. Denzel says:

    Hey thanks for such a great article. I need to goto a GoRuck challenge because I’m preparing for RASP(Ranger Assessment Selection Program) training. Any type of military special ops based training will really help me out. Right now I’m using Stew Smith’s “Army Ranger/SF workout” program. So far I’m on week five out of ten, and I feel an improvement in my physical fitness.

    Thank you for your time

  11. Jay says:

    I did one a while back, in Philly, last year, loved it, then fell of the rails. Parent got sick, passed away. Now I need to rededicate myself to push through that gut check you get about 9 hours in that I have never experienced elsewhere. That moment made me better, but I know another will make me better even.

    • Alan says:

      Our condolences, Jay. Are there are 2014 races or events in your future? I’m looking to run my first marathon, and probably do a number of obstacle races. Did the Tough Mudder last summer and loved it. Each race makes me a better person, so I definitely know where you’re coming from. Stay in touch!

  12. bob andrews says:

    Good afternoon Cadre’s, i’ve already signed up for the Goruck Challenge in Charleston in april, not even did the first and i’m thinking about another. i would like the free entry it possible. I’ve been doing group exercise/bootcamp at our church free for 4 years now. I have all ages and fitness levels, we do tires, firehose undulation(firehose donated), pushups, burpees, suspension training etc, totally differnet than the gym atmosphere and the folks love it. I’m doing this because i tell them to compete within and encourage each other. I also tell them they can do way more than the mind says, SO i now have to prove it. I’ll be 59 in June and want them to know it is never too late, thanks for what you folks do not only in GOruck but by serving our country, God Bless and take care.

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