NOC Rucks began in May 2020 and in just a couple of years it quickly expanded from a group of people who went to the same CrossFit gym to the world’s largest organized ruck club in the world, among the more than 500 that exist.
That title was officially backed by the organization GORUCK, which is another local organization based out of Jacksonville Beach and has ties within the rucking community throughout the world.
“We all would go for a workout at 5 a.m. and then just go for a walk together afterwards to get your heart rate down and just cool off a little bit,” NOC Rucks founder Mike Schroder said. “A bunch of us had weighted vests, because it’s standard fare for CrossFit, but one day one of the guys, who worked for a company called GORUCK, and asked why we were wearing vests and not ruck sacks.”
From there, the idea blossomed, and a ruck club was created within the gym community with about 8 to 14 people taking part in the early going.
However, as more people began to find out about it and want to be a part at the gym, Schroder and the group turned its attention to outside the gym walls and that is where the club really took off.
“We started popping up at different locations throughout Nocatee, at Cypress Trails or over by the Spray Park,” Schroder said. “Then one fateful morning as we were walking down Valley Ridge Road, some guy started honking his horn feverishly and asked if we were rucking.”
That guy was Tom Simon, who wound up joining the organization and is deeply involved with the group’s publicity and logistics.
For Tom, he began rucking during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to stay in shape and the group offered a much better alternative to rucking alone.
“At one point Mike and I had a conversation about we can grow the club into something bigger,” Simon said.
Simon is now the one that decides the routes taken for each walk, which starts at the same designated spot each time, at the field in front of the link, but the path taken around Nocatee varies.
According to Simon, picking one place to meet regularly was something that really allowed the club’s popularity to take off, and after that it was all about visibility and getting people to give it a try.
“We’ve gone ahead and self-proclaimed it to be ‘NOC Rucks Park,’” Simon chuckled.
They had an ice cream ruck last summer that alone brought out roughly 200 people for the occasion. The club has also begun to expand by doing charity events at times to raise money for local causes, including members raising more than 4,000 pounds of animal food for a local shelter.
“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves in, is that the club is 100% free,” Kelly Schroder, Mike’s wife and the person in charge of charitable affairs with the club. “It always has been and always will be, and that’s not going to change.”
At last check, NOC Rucks has 980 followers on Facebook and 800 people who are members.
“I think what people like about it, is that Mike has built up a large inventory of bags and weights, so that people can actually come out and try it and see if they like it before spending $200 on a fancy backpack,” Simon said. “Having a club like this has been really nice because you really get to know your neighbors when you walk together for three miles.”
The most popular question asked by those considering joining is about the weight carried in the backpack.
According to Schroder, the beauty about the club is that it does not require a weight limit, which means a person can carry 1 pound to 40 pounds depending on their situation.
“What’s so awesome about our club, is that we’ll have 5-year-old kids walking and then we’ve got 75-year-old retirees both walking together with weight in their backpack,” Mike Schroder said. “It is truly inclusive to all fitness levels and ages.”
NOC Rucks meets twice weekly on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 8:30 a.m.