"Hey, MudGear, I know you guys are always up for some hardcore adventure challenges. Have you heard about Green Beret Fitness? It's INSANE... in a good way!" - Brandon "Ruckabilly" Washer
This was the message that first piqued our interest and led us to the Green Beret Fitness website which, to be honest, generated a lot more questions. So, we reached out to Green Beret Fitness (GBF) founder, former British Army Officer and Green Beret, Gregg McLeod, for some no holds barred Q&A.
Okay, let's start with the obvious. What is GBF?
Green Beret Fitness is a British military based company that has its core ethos in “people can do more than they believe.” We saw that in our own military experience and we wanted to encourage the civilian population to push their limits too.
Clarify - is it rucking, functional fitness, something else?
We don’t fit neatly into a box like OCR (Spartan) or Rucking (GoRuck) because we do far more, and we do it better. Our events are more realistic and more challenging. If you wanted me to sell you on what we do, it would be this:
“Green Beret Fitness, through a variety of methods, enables everyday warriors to break through their perceived limits and achieve things they never thought possible, in the most extreme and beautiful parts of the country.”
Tell us a bit more about your military experience?
I spent 15 years in the British Army and retired as a Captain in 2018. My core trade was logistics and I bounced around different units throughout my career. A word of warning, those who shout the loudest about their time in “Special Forces,” usually have the least credibility.
Back to GBF - what are the different events?
Broadly speaking we have three types of events:
- Rucking / Hiking Operations. Usually in the mountains, these are our core events. This is where we spent most of our time as Commandos: in the mountains, carrying a heavy pack, navigating, and operating effectively. These events test the candidates individual fitness and preparation: There is no one to hide behind.
- Urban Operations. These are far less about the challenge and much more about the fun - “Less Miles, More Smiles.” Our Urban Operations are a mix of Scavenger Hunt, Navigation Exercise, and Bar Crawl. The idea is to collect as many checkpoints (worth 1 point) and as many challenges (worth 2 points) in the allocated 6 hour period. Checkpoints include breweries, famous landmarks, sporting locations and more.
- Operation ENDURE. These events have proved to be some of our most popular, and they are based on a Royal Marines vs USMC competition back in 2009. This event is conducted in pairs, completing 24 workouts in 24 hours: one every hour. The workouts may be maximum deadlifts, or Hero WODs, or 30 seconds on the Rogue Echo Bike. When you’re done, you relax until the next hour.
Are GBF events competitive?
Short Answer: Yes.
Long Answer: We try to stay as true to our military heritage as possible and in the military you must compete against a standard to get in the best units. The military, and especially the Special Forces community, is made up of exceptional people who have to prove themselves as individuals before they are given the opportunity to work as a team. With GBF, candidates can’t hide in the shadows, your individual fitness and preparation is on display. We also don’t believe in participation patches / trophies - with GBF you earn it, or you don’t.
Who should do a GBF event?
Urban Events: Anyone. My 70+ year old mum could do it and have fun.
Mountain Events: “We Seek the Adventure Seekers” is our official call-to-arms. We want people who want to challenge themselves individually. There are hard and easier options, but they all require an open mind and the desire to be challenged. If you’re terrified of failure, and you want a guarantee of success, stay away from GBF events.
How “fit” do I have to be to complete a GBF Mountain event?
You can complete GBF events in the “pass” time with a reasonable level of fitness. If you’re seeking the coveted GBF personalized Dog Tags, then you need to increase your fitness. We’re called Green Beret Fitness, not Average Military Fitness, for a reason. If you’re unsure of your fitness level, come and attempt an event.
Candidates have to navigate themselves during GBF events, why is that?
It comes back to our desire to keep it as realistic as possible. In the military, after basic training, we don’t have a member of staff to lead us, we have to navigate ourselves, pace ourselves, and deal with any issues that arise. It also adds a whole new element - we’ve had individuals who are supremely fit miss a turn on a trail and finish in the bottom 10%.
Most challenge series take the same model from one location to the next; but with GBF, no two locations/events seem the same. That has to be by design. Right?
Correct. The only similarity between events is that candidates have a backpack. Other than that, our events differ by location, duration, elevation, distance, weight, weather and time. The mountains and weather in Las Vegas are very different to North Carolina, Massachusetts, or Utah.
Start points, end points, workouts, and challenges are often posted as “will be disclosed that day.” What’s with all of the secrecy?
Only our Urban Operations are disclosed the week prior, and the Operation ENDURE workouts are not released until the start of that hour. All our mountain events (except Operation STIRLING) should have their start locations, times etc all published in advance.
Will drill sergeants/cadre be yelling in my face?
We hate this. It’s such a pathetic part of this industry. Maybe it’s because we’re British, or maybe it’s because we’re more realistic, but Green Beret Fitness events do not involve shouting at you. In my experience, the shouting happens during Basic Training, but once you get to the real military and Special Forces world, it’s very different. These candidates should be self-motivated and want to be there. We have a saying: “If we need to shout at you to motivate you, you’ve already failed.”
If you want to be shouted at, belittled and treated like s**t because you have Daddy Issues, there are companies out there for you.
Some event descriptions include checkpoints in or near bars and say "you’re never far from shops" (for those who need something). Does that mean events have a casual pace (leisurely stroll)?
These are for our Urban Events, and yes, they are as slow or fast, hard or easy as you want to make it. If you’re a super-ninja-racing-snake, then you can aim to collect all the checkpoints and cover 20+ miles. If you’re more into the fun, then you can take your time and enjoy the landmarks and breweries as you want.
If I can travel anywhere I want, but can only make it to one GBF event this year, which one should it be?
That’s a hard question because every location has something special and different!
- Las Vegas - Operation HIGH ROLLER and URBAN SINNER - epic events in the entertainment capital of the world.
- New England - Operation TRIAD - where New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut meet.
- South Dakota - Operation RUSHMORE - next to Mount Rushmore, an iconic setting for a challenging event.
- North Carolina - Operations SCOUT, PILGRIM, BUCKWHEAT, FAN DANCE, DRAGONS DANCE - make up our most famous routes in some of the most rural terrain.
- Utah - Operation FIVE ZERO and TWO ZERO - an incredible 50 or 20 mile route in some of the most beautiful terrain in the USA.
- California - Operation DARK HORSE - working in pairs, carrying a Concept 2 Rowing Machine up a mountain route, and completing 3 x 5,000m rows. There is nothing like it in the world! Partnered with Dark Horse Rowing.
- Idaho - Operation CENTURY - 5 x 20 mile loops = 100+ miles in 48 hours crossing the Idaho / Wyoming border.
- Washington - Operation IRON PEAK - this series is new for 2023 and the MAX event has the steepest elevation of any GBF event.
What is the hardest GBF event?
Operation OCALA is second, but Operation STIRLING is most definitely the toughest rucking event in the world. This event is based on real Special Forces selection. It’s five days, five routes with increasing distance, increasing weight, and an increased pace requirement. Candidates don’t get told the time limit to ensure they give 100%.
Only those who pass the first four days, will progress to day 5 - Test Route.
- Day 1: 10 +/- miles. 25 lbs. Time Limit.
- Day 2: 11 +/- miles. 30 lbs. Time Limit.
- Day 3: 12 +/- miles. 35 lbs. Time Limit.
- Day 4: 16 +/- miles. 40 lbs. Time Limit.
- Day 5 (Test Route): 26 +/- miles. 50 lbs. Time Limit and partly at night.
Why do a GBF rather than other ways to spend my weekend?
- If you seek challenge and adventure, GBF will attract you.
- If you’re not afraid of failure, GBF will attract you.
- If you want to visit beautiful areas of the USA, explore the mountains, and enjoy the cities, GBF will attract you.
- If you want to be surrounded by like minded people who encourage you, motivate you, and challenge you, GBF will attract you.
To sum up why you should try a GBF event - “Because you might fail, and we learn more from our failures than we ever do from our successes. Don’t be afraid of failing, but be terrified of never trying.”- Gregg McLeod, Green Beret Fitness
Gregg hit our Do Hard Things nerve with that final "you might fail" warning. If you've ever been doubted or sometimes doubt yourself, GBF sounds like a heck of a way to push yourself to the limit and maybe even prove your doubters wrong while you're at it! Learn more at GreenBeretFitness.com.