At 5:20 a.m. on Monday, four hours before the Boston Marathon’s elite runners took off, a group of 15 active-duty soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard gathered at the starting line in Hopkinton. Each soldier was in full combat uniform and carried a “ruck,” a military backpack weighing about 40 pounds. The rucks were filled with Camelbacks of water, extra uniforms, Gatorade, changes of socks—and first-aid and trauma kits. It was all just supposed to be symbolic.
“Forced marches” or “humps” are a regular part of military training, brisk walking over tough terrain while carrying gear that could help a soldier survive if stranded alone. These soldiers, participating in “Tough Ruck 2013,” were doing the 26 miles of the Boston Marathon to honor comrades killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, or lost to suicide and PTSD-related accidents after coming home.