To Barclay Williamson, it makes perfect sense to pay $600 to travel halfway across the country to be physically brutalized and psychologically tortured for up to 72 hours with no sleep in something called a “Death Race” — and there isn’t even a prize if you win.
“It’s just something to really test your soul,” said the 23-year-old Littleton resident.
“This is the ultimate challenge,” reads the event’s website. “The Death Race is designed to present you with the totally unexpected, and the totally insane.”
Williamson will face mud runs, obstacle courses, trail racing, physical challenges and mental challenges in this endurance race, which starts at 5 a.m. on June 21 in a forest in Pittsfield, Vt. Organizers brag that 90 percent of participants fail.
“Please only consider this adventure-style race if you have lived a full life to date,” they warn.
Competitors might have to chop wood for two hours, carry a 20-pound stump around for an hour, chop an entire bushel of onions or, after 20 hours of racing, memorize a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite it back word for word.
Williamson reached out to the Littleton Independent to get out of a particularly awful challenge — lifting boulders weighing 30 to 50 pounds until they total 30,000 pounds, which takes about nine hours. Racers are excused if they can snag a news article about them. (Most reporters probably think giving away a little free publicity is fine if they get to write about something called a “death race” and can rescue somebody from what could be a near-death experience at the same time.)
The cross-fit trainer says he’s not doing anything too out of the ordinary to prepare, as he already spends most of his time at the gym or at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he’s majoring in exercise science.
“I’ll have to constantly remind myself that it’s all a game, and lies and deception is a part of it,” he said. “My temper can boil over, so I just have to keep my wits about me.”
This won’t be the first time Williamson has endured intensity. He was going through Navy SEAL training when he tore a ligament in his knee.
“I feel like I’m kind of racing for redemption,” he said.
He’d wanted to be in the military since he was a kid, when he really started getting into fitness.
“I do value my appearance,” he said. “I was really heavyset when I was 11. I constantly ate, and I had a massive belly. I got picked on a lot in sixth through eighth grade, and one day it just clicked that I didn’t want to get picked on anymore.”
So he took up wrestling and changed his diet to eat “paleo,” trading grains for lots of meat and veggies, getting into fighting shape one step at a time. He says he’ll approach the Death Race the same way.
“You just cherish each of those little segments that you’ve gone through and progressed through,” he said. “And this is kind of a darker view, but you feed off the people who quit, knowing you made it farther than they did. … It’s all just about one thing at a time. The quickest way to fail is to think about the next thing you have to do.”