FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I participated in last weekend's Ruck for a Cure 10K and finished dead last.

I'm not bragging, mind you. It took a considerable amount of work to get myself to the point where competing in a 10K rucksack hike is a dangerous endeavor. But it goes to show what can be accomplished when you put aside discipline and determination in order to achieve a higher goal. In this case "higher goal" means "watching hundreds of episodes of Dark Shadows while eating froyo on the couch," but I think you get my point.

It wasn't that long ago that I was in decent shape. I've run the Warrior Dash and the USMC Mud Run. I used to hit the gym six days a week and ran several miles a day, but a job change (which was accompanied by a schedule change and a wrist injury) interrupted the rhythm of my exercise habits. My six-day routine became a three-day routine, which eventually became a routine of watching DVDs and playing Xbox while snacking. And this change mostly happened in 2012.

So, when I arrived at Hilton Field early Saturday morning, my primary objective was to finish the course no matter how long it took, and to do so without the aid of an ambulance. Soldiers can be an aggressive, competitive bunch, and I had no idea what kind of attitudes to expect from the other competitors.

Would there be trash talking? Would I stand out from the crowd as the lone civilian? At age 40, would I be the oldest person there?

As it turns out, I wasn't the oldest person participating. That would probably be my friend Mark Wood, who, despite his advanced age of 43 years, was a split second away from taking third place. He carried a 60-pound weighted pack, which was 15 pounds heavier than those worn by the other participants. I've recommended several good retirement communities to him, suggestions that he's roundly ignored as he continues training for the Death Race in Vermont later this year. He's grown stubborn in his old age.

The atmosphere at the event was incredibly positive. The organizers accepted donations for Ruck for a Cure, a cancer awareness group founded by two Soldiers here at Fort Jackson, and everyone was incredibly supportive. I passed a number of people on the trail who were out running or biking independently of the race, and many of them also encouraged me as I slogged along.

When I arrived (well behind the rest of the hikers) at the finish line, I was anticipating an empty parking lot at best, and a bunch of impatient Soldiers at worst. Instead, it looked a more like a tailgate party. People were laughing and joking, the first hamburgers and hot dogs of the day hit the grill and the event's awards were handed out.

Because I was "running" this race on my own time, I didn't think to bring a notebook to collect the names of the individuals and teams who took top honors. But Ruck for a Cure has a collection of photos on its website, which you can find at The organizers hope to schedule two more hikes later in 2012.