Rucking Your Way to a Better Marathon (And Fewer Injuries) | Scott Benbow Guest Post

Rucking, which is walking with a weighted vest or backpack, is ideal cross-training for endurance runners. It’s a great addition to any marathon training plan as it provides significantly less impact stress than running and can, therefore, help prevent running-related injuries.

I found out the hard way.

Written by San Francisco Marathon Ambassador Scott Benbow
Edited by Pavlína Marek

One year ago, I was in the midst of my final weeks of preparation to run the Boston Marathon. On a 19-mile run, during which I was planning to run 15 miles at my marathon pace, I developed a sharp pain in my left ankle. I aborted the run, sought medical advice, and sadly cancelled my plans to run Boston because of the injury.

I took up rucking as I gave my body time for my running injury to heal.

Rucking as a Form of Injury Prevention

According to Truett Hanes, an Ambassador for GORUCK, which manufactures heavy-duty backpacks and weights designed specifically for rucking, the sport helps you build strength and endurance with a lower risk of injury.

Getting ready for a hilly marathon like the San Francisco Marathon, Truett recommends including rucking uphill with a manageable amount of weight at first. As you build strength and stamina, he suggests you increase the weight and/or increase your speed during your marathon build. GORUCK, on its website, recommends that most ruckers keep the maximum weight in their packs to 33% of body weight.

Rucking My Way to a Marathon

Truett advocates adding activities like rucking to your marathon training to keep it fun and fresh. He’s qualified for and run the Boston Marathon in the past. However, to keep it fun and fresh for his next marathon, he’s going to try to qualify this year while running in a pair of blue jeans. Whether it’s rucking or running in blue jeans, his method is to ratchet up the strength and endurance challenge during his workouts so he’ll be more than ready on race day.

While I can’t fathom the repetitive-stress friction burns associated with running a marathon in blue jeans, I can attest that rucking causes no similar injuries. I’ve been rucking on the hills of San Francisco for almost a year, and I started using a Rucker 4.0 pack from GORUCK in early 2024. The Rucker 4.0 makes training comfortably difficult. The backpack situates the weight high on your back, which makes it easier to stand upright with proper posture and carry the weight on your hips.

As Truett recommends, I have been increasing the weight in the pack and increasing my speed as I train. My strength and stamina have benefited substantially, especially in my frequent uphill workouts as I get ready for another marathon build.

If you’re looking for an alternative cross-training regimen, give rucking a try. The GORUCK website has helpful tips on how to get started.

A Rucking QnA

Cameron Hanes, Keep Hammering Podcast, interviewed Andrew Huberman about rucking. Here are three questions and summarized answers I found most helpful as I prepare for the San Francisco Marathon.

1. For a middle-of-the-pack marathon runner who would like to increase speed and endurance with the addition of rucking into his or her fitness regimen, what would you recommend to get started with rucking?

  • GORUCK makes it easy. It’s a lighter and comfortable pack. Any weight is a good weight. Build strength and endurance with a lower risk of injury. When building for a marathon, rucking is a great way to make it more fun. Use the weight vest and the Rucker 4.0 for intense rucking. Fill it with weight.
  • Blue jeans, extra resistance. Every single stride has additional resistance. Running in jeans keeps training new and fresh. Gotta keep it fresh and fun.
  • Hills. Salt Lake, Ogden, Cottonwood Canyon (3000-foot descent). 

2. Looking at an 18-week marathon build, how would you include rucking once or twice per week during the program? Would you recommend endurance rucks (30% of body weight or less), intensity rucks (over 30% of body weight), or both?

  • Go rucking once or twice per week. If you’re not used to it, ease into it and build up strength. The military uses 45-50 lb. It’s a super functional training. HR will elevate. Benefits of a jog while improving strength and stamina. 
  • It helps you find different ways to challenge yourself. It’s a great way to mix things up.

3. The San Francisco Marathon is a very challenging road marathon with steep uphills and downhills more characteristic of a trail race. Are there particular types of ruck workouts you would recommend to strengthen a runner’s capacity to conquer hills?

  • If you have a hill close to you, move at any pace uphill and you’ll be stronger. 
  • Don’t burn yourself out. Start out smart. It’s as simple as it gets and it’s as effective as it gets.
  • Increase weight and/or distance by listening to your body.

About Scott Benbow

Scott Benbow is a San Francisco Marathon Ambassador, attorney, nonprofit specialist, and passionate SFM runner, who lives and runs the hills of our incredibly beautiful city with us every year.

Instagram: @scottbenbow

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