Taking Challenge Races to the Next Level

by | Jun 4, 2014

BenoitMost of us have heard of “Tough Mudder” and “survival marathons.”  The Spartan Death Race takes this to a new level.

With the intimidating www.youmaydie.com web address, the Spartan Death Race promises to be the ultimate physical and mental endurance challenge.

Local man Joe Benoit plans to participate in the Pittsfield, VT Death Race June 27-29.  “We start at 6am Friday, and there is no official end time” says Benoit.  “You either finish or you quit.”

The challenge typically lasts up to 70 hours, and only about 10% of the participants successfully complete the challenge, according to Benoit.

“I did not finish last year” he says.  “I began having back spasms about 7 hours in.  I tried to push through and other participants were encouraging and pushing me.  But I had to stop.”  So this year is retribution in a way.

Contestants are provided with a list of items to pack, which they carry in their packs for the duration.  But they don’t know what these items are for.  The races are themed – this year is “Lewis & Clark” – but that’s about the only hint they get.  “We don’t know what challenges await” says Benoit.  We find out when we get there.”

Previous challenges required contestants to build a stairway up a mountainside, using 300-400 pound boulders.  In this case, participants work as teams.  Other challenges are individual, and include both physical and mental challenges.

“At one point, after about 30 hours without sleep, you had to complete a puzzle or create origami on top of a mountain in the dark” says Benoit.  Other challenges combine the mental and physical.   Benoit adds “We had a set of GPS coordinates, and we had to find a specific rock in the woods on a mountain that had our assigned number painted on it.”

Unlike traditional challenge races or marathons, the Spartan Death Race offers no prizes.  “If you finish, you receive a 20 pound kettlebell in the shape of a skull” says page1_blog_entry20-02---skullsBenoit.  “That’s it.  That and the satisfaction of finishing.”

Benoit, who lives in Worcester and is employed at Trader Joe’s, got involved in obstacle races about three years ago.  He became passionate about the sport, and became increasingly advanced.  Last year Benoit ranked 42nd in the nation in Spartan Races, including the 2013 Death Race.  He is ranked 2nd in the world in his

What motivates someone to go from running a road race, to an obstacle course, to a potentially life-threatening competition with no prizes?  “The friendships you make.  The camaraderie.  For me, the death race was a natural progression.  It was the next step.  Once you get into it, you’re always after the bigger rush.  The tougher challenge” says Benoit.

People enter the Death Race from all over the world, all age groups, and from all walks of life.  Says Benoit, “There are people who are fit and not fit.  Some have physical disabilities.  Everyone has different reasons for participating.”  One thing ties all the competitors together, says Benoit.  “Only crazy people do this!”