Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssss iiiiiiiiisssssssss Pittsfieeeeeeeeeeeld. Pittsfield, Vermont to be more precise. A rather lovely place, actually. Featuring quaint country inns and lush mountaintops, Pittsfield is an ideal destination to relax and spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
However, once every year this quaint little town becomes the scene of a grueling 48-plus hour adventure race designed to put your physical and mental prowess to the ultimate test.
“Looking back on what I had to do over a 24hr period, it seems like a messed up dream or better yet, a nightmare.” -Competitor John McEvoy
The race, called the Spartan Death Race, began in 2005 at the hands of three endurance enthusiasts: Joseph DeSena, Richard Lee, and Selica Sevigny. The three men constructed the race as the ultimate test of survival. Not only do competitors have to endure numerous physically difficult challenges, they must also, under immense physical anguish successfully solve mental challenges.
This race is so tough that on average only 10 percent of participants finish the race. Perhaps the best way to explain why is by retelling the experience of someone who participated in the 2010 Spartan Death Race:
The organizers ordered us to assemble all our gear and get on a shuttle to the top of a mountain.
One of the organizers, informed us of the recent bear, moose, and violent grouse problems in the woods. Andy shouted a number of facts at us (which I wrote down as quickly as possible while other people stared, stunned), and told us to pick up some massive wooden bridges, our 32 pounds of pennies, and our 8-pound Greek text (used to decode instructions through out the race), and begin hiking over the mountain.
The racers worked in teams to hike the bridges 5 miles down the mountain, install them on the new public hiking trail, then hike back 5 miles to the original start.
At 2:00 AM we made it back to the starting place and were told to get a large bucket, fill it with gravel, and in another bucket, dump our 40 – 50 lbs of gear. I,d estimate over 100 lbs total.
We started trudging off into the woods again, and were told to scoop a handful of gravel onto the trail at random intervals until eventually we unloaded the whole bucket. By the time we arrived at Amee Farm, it was 4:00 AM.
Doesn’t sound so tough, right? Okay, well that was just the pre-race preparation.
When the race actually begins is when the fun really starts. The Death Race features a different theme each year. In 2011, the theme was religion. According to the organizers, 2011 Death Race challenges were designed to test the competitors’ strength, sanity, faith in a higher power, and most importantly faith in themselves.
Below are some highlights of what competitors had to endure as part of the 2011 competition:
- Lifting 100,000 pounds of rocks amounting to about 2,000 repetitions of lifting 50 pound rocks up to the chest;
- Hiking 3 miles upstream in a local river to catch an offering to the gods in the form of a fish
- After finishing a course of deep-pond wading, bushwhacking, and running with lit candles, competitors had to memorize prayers and cut logs – can’t memorize the prayer, can’t move on
- Throwing logs into a river and then diving to retrieve them
- Hiking with packs and logs 5 miles up a 30 – 40% grade trail that included 1/2 mile of barbed wire to crawl under and waterfalls to climb
- Filling five gallon buckets to the top and taking them to a checkpoint without spilling the water
- A 200 question exam focused on what their experiences had taught the competitors after their time on the course
“What a torturous, miserable, painful, punishing and INCREDIBLE time! I feel so honored to have competed and become friends with some of the most solid & motivated people in the world. My motto is “Get Busy Livin’ or Get Busy Dyin!” They may call it the Death Race, but I call it truly livin!” -2010 and 2011 Spartan Death Race Winner Joe Decker
The Spartan Death Race has become so popular that it spawned a number of obstacle races across the globe. Known as Spartan Races (not to be confused with the actual Spartan Death Race) these events combine elements from Navy SEAL training and American Gladiator challenges to offer a wider audience the opportunity to test their will, Sparta-style.
The Spartan Race events feature obstacle races with varying degrees of difficulty. The events are broken down into the following categories:
Spartan Sprint- A 3+ mile novice event with 10 or more obstacles. 100% finish rate. Top 3 Males and top 3 Females at each Spartan Sprint qualify for a free entry into a Super Spartan of their choice.
Super Spartan - An 8+ mile intermediate event with 15+ obstacles. Top 3 Male and Female finishers at each Super Spartan race qualify for free entry into the Spartan Death Race.
Spartan Beast – 10-12 mile advanced event. Billed by organizers as the event where “many will arrive, but few will leave!”
Best Time To Go:
The Spartan Death Race is held every June. You can register for the next event here.
Spartan Sprint, Super Spartan, and Spartan Beast races are held through out the year in numerous locations in the UK, US, and Canada. You can see if there is an event nearby by clicking here.
The Burly Ninja – Forget WINNING the Spartan Death Race. If you can even finish this two day event, you are a legit warrior and king/queen of your domain. You will make Usain Bolt look like a couch potato.
About $900 for the Spartan Death Race. $50-$150 for the other Spartan Races.
- Save yourself some money by registering to your Spartan Race (Sprint, Super, or Beast) in advance.
- Challenge your friends. Spartan Race events feature team races as well.
- Sorry, no tips about the Spartan Death Race. As one competitor pointed out, “you can watch all the videos you like on the internet, read every article, review and blog about the Spartan Death Race, but you will honestly have no idea what it’s like unless you actually experience it. “