Death Race ends successful nine-year run with final event in Vermont

Photos By Marion Abrams

PITTSFIELD — The Peak Death Race, often called the ultimate athletic and mental challenge, hosted its final event the weekend of June 26-28 with 200 intrepid athletes braving almost 50 hours (Friday morning to Sunday at noon) of mostly unexpected and sometimes completely insane obstacles. Peak Races Founder Joe De Sena, ended the multi-year series on a high note by enabling the top finishers to choose charities to which the total Race registration fees ($82,250) would be donated, according to a release July 6.

Top finishers included the following: Daniel Kaali, Eric Anderson, Dallas Daoust, Wynona Luz, Scott Gregor, Chris Rice, and Mike Shaddow.

Life: birth and death

With over 1,000 of the world’s top athletes participating over the race’s nine-year history every Death Race has had its own unique theme and brutal set of challenges. No two races are alike. This year’s theme was “life” and featured a “birth” challenge where racers emerged from wet sleeping bags into an ice cold river and then submitted to a grueling “first steps” ordeal: A nine-hour barefoot trek through thick woods over Bloodroot Gap, the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

During the race, Death Race family members and friends were also asked to write and send in eulogies. The top seven finishers read their eulogies to the gathered group at the end of the race, then climbed into coffins where they were symbolically buried and “brought back to life.”

“We had a great run over the past nine years,” said Joe De Sena, who is also Spartan Race Founder. “And yes, this is the last race…for now. When we set out to create the Death Race, our great team of staff and volunteers wanted to offer athletes the ultimate challenge and I think we have succeeded. We looked at everything that was out there and took it all up a notch: We provide no support; we don’t tell you when it ends; we don’t tell you what it will entail. We want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any time. And unlike Ironman where you know you will be swimming, biking and running, you never know what may be in store – just like life –and only those people with the most incredible discipline can call themselves finishers.”

Video by Anthony Cotter

48-72 hours of Hell

During the Death Race, competitors may be asked to chop wood for hours, complete a 30-mile hike with rocks and weighted packs, build a fire from scratch, cut a bushel of onions or after 24 hours of racing, memorize the names of the first 10 U.S. Presidents or a bible verse — miss a word and the competitor is required to do it again and again. Unlike other endurance races where competitors are given a detailed map, Death Racers have no idea what to expect as the course map and list of challenges are kept secret. This delivers one of their biggest challenges as the length of the race can range from 48-72 hours. For an endurance athlete, not knowing where the light is at the end of the tunnel can be sheer torture.

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