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This LEAP Scholar challenges you to a four-day, 100-mile ruck. Can you hack it?

  • Published
  • By Lori Quiller, AFCLC Outreach Team

This isn’t a casual hike through the scenic Netherlands. Known as the Nijmegen International Four Days March, this 100-mile ruck march has occurred annually since 1909 and has become one of the world’s most famous hikes/walks. The grueling ruck takes place over four days in the Dutch municipality of Nijmegen and is a series of daily loops starting at the same location at Wedren.

The Nijmegen Four-Day Ruck March is a favorite of the U.S. military and civilians stationed in Europe. However, people worldwide annually trek to Nijmegen to challenge themselves in ways unlike ever before.

Capt. Alexander Nastas, a Romanian and Russian Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) Scholar and the Air Force Culture and Language Center’s LEAP Operations Officer, started rucking while stationed in Germany. Last year, he was one of 450 U.S. troops and 47,000 people who participated in the Nijmegen ruck.

“It’s a personal challenge and a great team-building event. The first time I did it, it was a team-building event for my organization, which was built mostly of Airmen from the intelligence career field and two Security Forces members. It was a ton of fun learning about ourselves and how much pain we can endure together!” Nastas laughed. “Seriously though, the entire time you’re rucking with that pack on your back, your feet and muscles hurting, you’re saying to yourself, ‘Push through, push through.’ It’s a great way to learn about yourself.”

To push through, Nastas said, ruckers must train properly, which means a lot of rucking. Preparing for a 100-mile, multi-day ruck begins with long-term habits of good physical and mental conditioning and yields community, camaraderie, and potentially a renewed sense of self-esteem.

“It’s like training for a marathon,” Nastas said. “The difference is that you do it in uniform and break in your boots. The march isn’t the time to get new boots and break them in. If you need new boots, get them a few weeks before the march and break them in. This is how you practice for Nijmegen because this ruck is done in uniform, and now’s a good time to get started.”

Nastas said he plans to return for the 2024 Nijmegen Four-Day Ruck March and would enjoy meeting other LEAP Scholars in the process. He said he has never regretted participating in a ruck and thinks others who participate feel the same. Judging by the size of the crowds, he’s probably correct.

“It’s also a great bonding experience. It’s also a great way to promote whatever you’re doing. There’s a lot of patch trading and military swag, so that’s fun. It’s a challenge, a mental challenge for yourself, and a challenge for you not to let down your teammates. It’s seeing what you are made of and if you can push through the pain. At the end of the day? It’s just blisters,” Nastas said.

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