As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary.
“Hero” is a word that gets used and abused in our culture. Maybe it’s that our day-to-day lives are so easily livable, people have forgotten what it is to really be in pain or to genuinely suffer. But if anyone out there thinks the cast from Jersey Shore are heroes, something is distressingly wrong with things in general.
This cultural malfunction and malignant habit to casually, almost cynically misuse such an important word annoys me. So, let’s just move away from that, and look deeply at someone who would be uncomfortable if we called him a hero, yet more than the rest, is some kind of champion. After all, strength of character is more rare than diamonds, and it should be carefully preserved and cultivated with intentions of employment.
Who is David Goggins?
What follows, I’m guessing, would annoy this man. But in trying to find “Who” someone is, knowing what they have been through, even in such a general way, is instructive.
First, you might be asking “Why do I care who David Goggins is?”
To put it simply, because he is a machine of a man and the chances are, he does more training in a day than you do in a month. The man and his training have become the stuff of legends. It is motivating for anyone, but his life itself is the most motivating thing of all.
Goggins was born in 1975. He grew up in Brazil, Indiana, playing ball; basketball and football at Northview High school. He got points, but generally on the hustle. He wasn’t a super star, just a hard worker and consistent.
At 18 years old, Goggins left home and enlisted in the Air Force. The thing is, true to Goggins style, he didn’t go in and become a paper pusher, but rather he became a TACP or Tactical Air Control Party. These are guys that go in with RANGERS, RANGER RECON Units, Army SPECOPS teams and NAVY SEALS. These guys are not making birthday cakes, they train seriously and deploy with serious combat units.
During his time in the Air Force, Goggins was selected as one of the Air Forces 12 outstanding Airmen of the year, the Air Forces most prestigious award.
After four years, Goggins decided to leave the Air Force to pursue a personal dream, a career in the National Football league. He actually earned a position on the Colt’s practice roster however was cut from the team after a short while. Six months passed with nothing appealing to him, until he saw a documentary about the Navy SEALs and decided that this was his next challenge.
When Goggins went to the Navy recruiter, according to him, he nearly got laughed out of the office.
He was 280 pounds and could hardly swim, but was adamant about enlisting with a SEAL contract. So, he went away for two months, and came back after losing nearly 80 pounds.
Goggins went to BUDS, and the legend now, is that he attended the BUD/S epic Hell Week 3 times. Twice he was rolled back for injuries, and the third time, he requested to go through Hell Week one more time.
HE REQUESTED IT.
Goggins eventually graduated BUD/S with class 235 in 2001. Despite having become a SEAL, Goggins petitioned his command to allow him to take down yet another obstacle on his way to military super stardom, Ranger school. He graduated from this with the distinction of Class honor grad. No easy feat considering it’s supposed to be RANGERS that “lead the way.” In subsequent interviews Goggins’ comments on Army Ranger School and it’s 80% attrition rate consisted of no more than: “It’s a great course. I learned a lot.”
In 2005, events transpired that changed things for David Goggins. He had just returned from a tour in Iraq, and heard the news that friends of his, SEALS, had died during an operation in Afghanistan.
Although he has never made it clear in interviews or in his personal blog entries exactly who it was that passed away, the timing coincides closely with the tragic events surrounding Operation Red Wings in the Kunar Province in the summer of 2005. This event has been well documented and heavily commented upon across the internet and in Patrick Robinson’s/Marcus Luttrell’s book, Lone Survivor. In total, 11 SEALS were killed along with 8 members of the 160th Special Operations aviation unit.
The news hit Goggins hard. In addition to the SEAL community being a tightly knit one, he also spent time in BUD/S with some of the people who passed away in Kunar, and Lt. Michael Murphy, the senior man who died in the initial ambush detailed in Lone Survivor, graduated in the same BUD/S class alongside David in 2001.
Having friends die in life is tough and it inspires people to change. I know it’s done that for me. But having a friend die who was also a war fighter, someone who has walked into hell and come back out again more than once, to have someone like this die can make one feel utterly powerless yet obsessed with the need to do something about it.
Tragedy was the spark and the mans natural inclination toward what most of the world would call brilliantly excessive is what fanned the flame, creating a raging inferno.
Hearing about the loss of his warrior brothers, David became obsessed with the idea of doing something for their families to send a message that they were not forgotten. Realizing, in his own words, that he was a SEAL so having a bake sale simply wouldn’t cut it, he went online and googled the ten hardest things to do in the world.
This is where he first heard about the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon. It’s 135 miles, through death valley up to the Whitney Portal, in July. Yes, you read that correctly.
In order to even get into the race and attempt it, Goggins had to have completed at least one 24 hour 100 mile event. The race director told David over the phone that there was a 24 event coming up in his area, and if he finished it, he would be considered.
So, two weeks later David and his wife (now ex-wife) Aleeza headed to the track. To get into Badwater and raise some money for the families of his fallen comrades, Goggins would have to run at least 100 miles, around a 1 mile track. He weighed 280 pounds at the time, and had been training almost exclusively as a power lifter.
I took off running and felt good for about 70 miles. Then I stopped to take a break. That was the first problem…..I sat down in the lawn chair and my blood pressure went crazy due to poor nutrition. I sat there for about 10 minutes and I had to go to the bathroom really bad. When I attempted to stand, I quickly realized how bad of shape I was really in. I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand for a second. So, after retaking my seat in the chair I looked at my wife and told her that I had to go to the bathroom. She looked at me confused. So, I told her more clearly… “I’m going to take a s*** on myself in this chair.”
And so I did…
I then saw the blood running down my leg when I urinated.
My wife being a nurse informed me that my kidney’s were shutting down and that I needed to go to the hospital. I told her that I had 30 miles left.
She helped me up and we started walking around the track at a 35 minute mile pace. I asked her If I would complete the 100 miles in 24 hours at this pace and she said no. So, I did what I had to do and some how by the grace of God started running again. I completed 101 miles in just under 19 hours. I had broken all the small bones in my feet and my kidneys were failing. My wife drove the car onto the race course and put me into the back of the car. We live on the second floor of an apartment complex and we had to somehow get up the stairs. So, I draped my arms around her neck from behind and she had to practically drag me up the stairs. After she got me in the shower and she saw that I was urinating dark dirt brown, she begged me once again to go to the hospital. I looked her in the eye and said….
Just let me enjoy this pain I’m in. —blog entry Show no Weakness, 2009
It didn’t end there; in fact that was simply the beginning. Ten days later, Goggins ran the Las Vegas marathon in 3:08. Within a month after that, he flew to Hawaii and ran the HURT 100. This put him in a wheel chair after completing the race.
In July of 2006 he finally ran the Badwater 135, and took fifth place.
Since then, his list of accomplishments in endurance events is mind-blowing. He took second place at the UltraMan, a three-day, 320-mile race, cycling 261 miles in two days on a rented bicycle, and he took second place. Then took third place at Badwater in 2007. By 2009 he competed in another 14 ultra-endurance races, with top-five finishes in nine of them. He set a course record at the 48-hour national championships, beating the previous record by 20 miles with a whopping total distance traveled of 203.5 miles and earning himself a spot among the top 20 ultramarathoners in the world.
His training routine and lifestyle have become legendary. Goggins usually wakes up at about 3 AM. He gets out of bed, puts on his gear and goes and runs between ten and twenty miles. He then cycles 25 miles to work and runs at lunch if time permits. After work, he cycles home and at least three days per week, he goes and lifts weights seriously in the evenings with his wife. On the weekends, he gets in longer runs, often covering up to thirty or forty miles. Goggins sums up his lifestyle, his entire point of life concisely.
Watch the video of me crossing the finish line at Kona, I’m not overwhelmed with the accomplishment. I’m looking down at my watch, and it’s not to check my finishing time. I’m looking to see what time it is and how much time I have left in the day for another workout. I’m already thinking about the next thing. As of that moment, Ironman is done. It’s time to move on.
“The man is superhuman. The man is made of steel. The man has a congenital heart defect.”
Did the last bit throw you off? I bet it did. It’s true though. And THAT is actually the pain icing on this cake of utter discipline. David Goggins did all this, the three special forces schools, the attempt at pro-football, the sky diving, the scuba work, the power-lifting, the ultra-marathoning, the insane cycling, all of it, with a hole in his heart.
It is known as ASD (atrial Septum Defect). To explain it briefly, this means he has a hole in his heart. He has had it since birth and no one was able to detect it on routine check ups. It is very dangerous in scuba diving, high altitude and extreme athletics. It can cause the heart to go into heart failure without warning. So, to make a long story short. For 34 years David has been working with about 3/4 of his heart.
He went through multiple surgeries, and has only recently begun to come back from it all.
But how does someone like David Goggins come back? Does he get a membership at 24 hour fitness and spend time on the pec-deck? Maybe some Hot-Yoga? No. He tries to break the world record for the most dead hang pull-ups ever completed in a 24 hour period, on live television. (This attempt failed but on January 20, 2013 he completed 4,025 pull-ups in 17 hours setting a new world record)
This whole article only tells a very small part of the story, of course. But the point was to just highlight, expose a little of something that is special; a man who lives completely on his own terms, goes for it every time and just embraces the suck. Because in order to have some kind of a life that is worth a damn, that is exactly what someone with a constant growling in their soul has to do.
Embrace. The. Suck.
Goggins says it best, in a comment left on a Marathon blog in which someone attempted to call him out, taking away from his cause and trying to make things less than what they are.
I run for fallen soldiers. Why do you run? It’s a damn shame that I am one of the only African American endurance athletes and you are putting me down. Do something positive for the community. Not that I need to justify myself to you but I wanted you and your readers to know that on Saturday before the LA marathon, I did a double century in Death Valley. (200 mile Bike Ride) I then drove to LA to PACE a fellow soldier wanted to run a 3:30 ergo the 3:29 that you commented on. By the way the Las Vegas marathon was my first marathon which I did 10 days after running my 1st 100 mile race. (weighing 240) Don’t go off my word though, you seem to have enough time on your hands so you can look it up on line as you have everything else. Boston was also another training run. I thought it would be cool to run under 3 hours. So I just went out there and did it. What they don’t show you on the results you found is that I ran another 26.2 miles to the start line, both marathons by the way were faster than your 3:05. I guess what I am telling you, is that you shouldn’t put people down that you don’t fully know, I am an animal and I train everyday the distance that you train UP to do. Don’t question me. If you would like to see for yourself I would be happy to join you in New York this year. NO, lets make it a date. The question is will you show up 3 hours before to run to the start line with me? I can’t wait to run through Harlem to visit my aunt’s and uncles again. I’ll let them know I’m coming. By the way, please make sure you can run at least a 2:50 because I don’t want all your fans to think less of you. I hope you can back up what you say. I promise I will see you in NY. Please make sure you post this so everyone knows.
In the end, true to the Goggins style, these two guys actually DID end up running the NYC marathon together, and doing it in under 3 hours.
So, who is David Goggins? I don’t know, but he is a hero and a warrior. What I wouldn’t give to have a conversation with this man. But I suspect, if I was to ask him who he is, his reply wouldn’t be as wordy as this post, and the essence would boil down to little more than the following:
“The real question, is who are you?”
And that is quite the question, indeed.
David Goggins is registered to run the 2013 BADWATER ultra-Marathon.
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