Agoge — what they don’t tell you in how to prepare.
By Beth Waller
This one word strikes fear into the hearts of many. What is it? Can I finish? Am I brave enough to even start? Once you’ve set your mind to it and actually sign up, your focus goes right to the physical part of the Agoge, and I can understand why.
It’s 60+ hours of running, burpees, hiking, burpees climbing, burpees; and all that with a 50lb pack on your back. You must train with a loaded pack. You must train using the gear you plan on using and wearing at the event. You must train, you must train, and you must train. But all this physical training is the most obvious preparation you will do for the Agoge. Agoge goes way beyond physical strength and stamina — that’s only half of the event. The other half is the gear, the technical skills, the teamwork and the ability to listen to and follow specific instructions. The event starts the second you sign up. It starts with your ability to follow the given directions — you remember those listening and comprehension skills you learned in grade school? Time to dust them off.
The general gear list is posted on the Agoge website with the event specific list given only a few weeks before the event. The gear list is basically a simple set of instructions given to you and it’s your first test. They are telling you that these are the 40 items we need you to bring to successfully complete this event; the “why” doesn’t matter. Don’t read into it and don’t add to it. If the list says you must bring 10 tootsie rolls, some handcuffs and a white walker don’t message every Krypteia you know asking why. Don’t ask if you can bring zip ties for handcuffs and a walker borrowed from your grandad painted white. Go get your handcuffs, because you know you have a pair in that drawer next to your bed, and gather some friends and go north of the wall and get you a white walker. Is obtaining all the items work? Yes. Should you show up without items on the list because you couldn’t find it? No. This is where the team aspect of the Agoge steps in. Ask for help locating what you can’t find. The people who do the Agoge’s are the type of people who will help in any way they can. For the Scotland Agoge we had people from the States fly with suitcases full of MREs to deliver to teammates in other countries who couldn’t get them. Teamwork. Reach out to the team and get help to obtain exactly what is on the list — No More, No Less.
Next up is testing your gear — is it really water proof? Warm? Tough? Don’t assume, go out and test your clothing. If the list asks for water proof outer clothing than test that it actually is. Play in the rain, have your kids hose you down for 30 minutes, jump in a creek. After that go somewhere cold, maybe stand directly in front of an air conditioner, how warm are you under those wet outer clothes? Seems like a silly test but you’d rather find out at home that your gear isn’t as waterproof as you thought and that your base layers are not keeping you warm. Test your backpack. Know where your pockets are and what logically would fit in each pocket? Know how to adjust your backpack- all those straps aren’t just for looks. Know exactly how to distribute the weight properly- what seems a decent weight distribution when just standing in your living room is not what feels great while climbing a mountain. Practice loading and unloading and reloading your pack — know where all of your tools are. Don’t just throw everything into the pack without a logical plan. Of the five minutes of down time on the mountain you have to eat, you don’t want to spend four of them searching every pocket for the spork to eat your food.
Next in your Agoge preparation journey, is to ensure that you know how to use the items on your gear list. Your physical gear and your ability to use the gear will either be your strongest asset or your weakest link. You must not show up with gear that you have never even taken out of the packaging. More importantly, know how to USE the items on that list. That compass isn’t on the list so that you look like a really cool explorer in the pictures. It’s on the list because at some point you will need it during the event. Learn how to Google “how to take a bearing with a compass”. Watch YouTube videos. More importantly, go outside and use those navigation skills. Agoge doesn’t expect you to be an expert, but they do expect that you can orient a map and follow a bearing. Learn to tie the required knots by watching videos and practicing. You can practice with a small piece of rope all day long. Practice until you can tie these knots in the dark, because it’s very likely you will.
Remember, while physical preparation is important in your Agoge journey don’t let the other, equally important, preparations fall to the way side. Follow the gear list exactly, test your equipment, learn to properly use your equipment and learn to rely on your team when needed.
Above all though, have fun. Isn’t that really why we do it?