TRAVERSE CITY — The name “Death Race” alone would scare off many athletes.
Not Traverse City’s Brian Edwards, who doesn’t really consider himself an athlete anyway.
The endurance event lasts as long as three days, competitors aren’t allowed to sleep and have to complete a bevy of physical tasks and mental challenges while traversing through the woods of Vermont.
Basically, it’s a Warrior Dash that lasts for days. “Survivor” on steroids.
“My family conned me into doing the Tough Mudder last year,” the 30-year-old Cherry Capital Airport employee said. “I did it, and was hooked. I’ve been doing all sorts of races, as many as I can, ever since then. It’s all about pushing myself.”
Vermont is known to many for its syrup. But there’s nothing sweet about the Death Race.
It’s limited to 300 participants. Last year, 10 percent finished.
In addition to a lot of running during the 48- to 72-hour ordeal, competitors have to do things like crawl under barbed wire, chop wood, build a fire from scratch or cut a bushel of onions. Not knowing exactly when it ends adds to the anguish.
And then there’s mental challenges. Like after 24 hours of racing, memorizing something like the names of the first 10 U.S. Presidents or a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite them back in order. Miss a word and they have to do it again. And again. And again.
“You’re wet, you’re uncomfortable, you’re dirty,” Edwards said. “And that’s the whole point, is to make you quit and make you uncomfortable. Sure, you have to be in shape, but it’s more about the mind and can your mind survive the experience.”
He’s run two similar races. In a four-hour one in Indiana each competitor had to carry an egg for the race’s duration. If anyone’s broke, the entire field was penalized with dozens of exercises called “burpees,” which consist of dropping into a squat position with hands on the ground, kicking your feet back while keeping arms extended, returning to a squat position and jumping in the air.