Run ‘til you die: This race isn’t for the weak

Ben Lippert

Everyone has a story to tell. Most of these great stories go unheard by the general public because they aren’t considered “news worthy.” Check out The Juice throughout the semester to hear an average student’s story.

Are you familiar with the Iron Man races? Try and imagine that race, only on steroids. Jon Weiler, a sophomore English major, is just crazy enough to try this annual race of endurance and wit. The race has been held in Vermont for the past few years, and will be held there again this June.

Ben: Where did you hear about this race?

Jon: A good friend of mine, we served together in the military. He got out last year and started a gym down in Birmingham, Ala. He sent me an email in November saying, “do you want to do this with me?” I just glanced at the website, which is You May

Ben: That’s kind of intimidating!

Jon: I was like, “yeah, whatever, I’ll do it.” Quite honestly I didn’t think he was going to be totally serious about doing this. He said that he registered, so I decided I had to register.

Ben: You said that you used to serve in the military. Do you still?

Jon: No, my time in the military ended in 2004. I’ve been a civilian since.

Ben: So you think that your training there might have helped you prepare for this?

Jon: Training is one thing, as far as the military goes. I was part of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the 82nd Airborne Division, and during that time we didn’t have a lot of facilities. For example, I went 30-some days without taking a shower or changing my clothes. So, as far as being uncomfortable for a period of time, I’ve been uncomfortable for a longer period of time than three days. What I do fall back on is that, and the experiences that I’ve had that kind of force your mind to say, “why am I doing this?”

Ben: So how long is the race?

Jon: They have three days blocked off, so 72 hours.

Ben: When do you think that mental toughness kicks in the most?

Jon: The beginning. Actually right now.

Ben: Right now?

Jon: Yes, right now. I’ll tell you, it’s hard to train for this because we don’t know what the events are. We have an idea based off the previous years, but that changes.

Ben: And some of the past events were crawling underneath barbed wire and dragging a log behind you.

Jon: And it’s an extreme distance too, it’s like mile. That’s a long time to crawl through mud. But yeah, not knowing what to expect makes it difficult to train. With that type of mentality or outlook, you have to train extra hard for any possibility.

Ben: So what sort of things are you doing to train?

Jon: I incorporate some distance runs. Normally the shortest I do are 10 miles and I’ll bump it up on some days. I mix that in with a good regiment of olympic lifts where you have to spend a good amount of time moving weight. The main portion of that is to get my mind conditioned.

Ben: It sounds like this takes a lot of training and preparing. So you’re doing that and you’re doing classes and you own your own business. So where does all this fit together?

Jon: It fits together, but the part that gets left out is generally sleep.

Ben: Based on previous years, what do you anticipate being the most difficult part of the race?

Jon: What would throw me up the most is trying to do the mental skills as far as puzzles or memorizing and then having to move on top of that. It’s difficult to remember things when you’re under physical duress. I’ve had to stay up for long periods of time in the past and I know that your motor skills and cognitive skills really go under duress.

Ben: So does the winner get something? Are the real winners the people that finish?

Jon: I don’t even know if there’s a prize for it because it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not in it to win it. I’ve done road races and short races before, but this race is going to push me into a different genre of boundaries. I’m going to start going into ultra-marathons which are the extreme endurance races, so this is a good place to get my feet wet.

Ben: Do you know how many people are doing it this year?

Jon: I believe I was in the 120’s as far as my registration.

Ben: So they might have filled it up?

Jon: That’s very possible. It’s going to be interesting to have that many people in the race. I’ve run lager races before and there’s always a bottleneck someplace.

Ben: So why exactly are you doing the Death Race then?

Jon: I work on limits. I like to find out what my limits are. Throughout my life I have. I’ve found those limits, I’ve hit those limits, but then I’ve exceeded those limits. With our day-to-day lives that we have now there’s not a lot of opportunity to push yourself to the extreme. Races like this are good examples to do that. If you don’t, you don’t really know who you are or what you’re capable of doing. That really extends to life, not just a physical competition or something fun that we do, that extends to everything.

Good luck to Jon as he competes in the Death Race this June. You can see my full interview with Jon on our website under the “Juice” tab.

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