You May Die: The Death Race

A Tough Mudder is nothing compared to this

We’ve found it—proof that our city-dwelling, civilized-human-being ways have left us craving a bit of the old Gladiator-era adrenaline rush: The Spartan Death Race.

This part-obstacle course, part-race, all-masochistic competition began in 2005 in Pittsfield, VT, and has become an annual event ever since. Its website is littered with ominous statements: “The adventure starts when everything goes wrong, which God will be on your side?” “Please only consider this adventure-style race if you have lived a full life to date.” “Death sounds cool until you’re dead.” Heck, even the web address alone would be enough to turn many away ( It makes other obstacle-course challenges, like the wildly popular Tough Mudder, sound like a kiddie birthday party by comparison. (Tough Mudder: “If you cannot complete an obstacle, just go around.” Really?)

So what makes The Death Race so lethal? A sampling of the 40-mile, 24- to 48-hour course includes chopping wood for a couple hours, wading through freezing water, hoisting rocks for hours on end, being devilishly forced to memorize a block of text after the mental and physical fatigue have set in—and then having to recite it back after another round of torture. Competitors also aren’t told what’s coming next or even where the finish line will be, lending a wicked sense of interminability to the whole affair.

While to date, no one has died yet, there have been several trips to the E.R. And depending on the type of person you are, the whole experience sounds either awful or awesome (We’re guessing the reigning champ, San Diego’s Joe Decker, who has not only finished The Death Race but won it twice, would fall in the latter camp.). Up to 200 absurdly fit athletes attempt it each year, but only 15% of them finish on average. Care to join them? (Registration for this year ends June 15, the day of the race.) Well, go ahead—just don’t tell your mother.