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Toughing Up in Tough Times: Vermont’s June 13 Death Race


Tops International Competition List For Challenging Obstacles Hidden on Course

PITTSFIELD, VT, Feb. 9 – A village in central Vermont may well be dubbed “endurance town USA.” This is Pittsfield, near Killington, where at 5 a.m. on June 13 runners will assemble to tackle the 2009 Pittsfield Peaks Death Division Race, 10 miles of obstacles that must be faced, tackled and completed in order to continue in the race.
This is the third year of the event. Designed to be the toughest race in the world, it was won by Chris Mitchell of Boston in 2008. This is a 24-hour obstacle course run that can include, among other tasks, splitting wood, hiking through a river, chiseling marble and even mucking out nearby sheep stalls. Described as very challenging mentally and physically, race organizers say it’s the mental part that gets competitors to the finish. In 2008 out of 50, eight ran the whole course.
Joe Desena who designed the race says it’s “tougher than the Tour de France in the sense that there’s no end in sight. You don’t know how long it goes for; we don’t give you a starting point. The goal is to get everybody to quit.” A prize of $1,000 goes to the first five people who finish in less than 24 hours.
In preparation, from May 1-3 there will be a training called Death Camp for serious athletes who want to be pushed to their mental and physical limits and who don’t quit. For the competitor who is extremely fit, the camp includes a minimum of 30 hours of extremely painful and grueling training. The winners from the previous two years of a Death Race competition will be on hand to speak and give advice on how to go beyond what you can do. The camp price including lodging and a Saturday night dinner plus events and lectures is $200.

Wolverhampton, England, hosted its 2009 Tough Guy Challenge earlier this month to test the mettle of participants who endured – or not—a series of arduous obstacle courses resembling a battleground. Pittsfield’s Desena won’t release details of the obstacles planned for his June event but he says they will be the most challenging ever.

For information please contact or go to For more information on a series of racing and endurance camps scheduled this  year in Pittsfield please see

Headquartered at Pittsfield’s Riverside and Amee farms, Peak Races is New England’s premier provider of adventure sport, travel and entertainment activities / experiences to business executives and adventure seekers worldwide.

Its mission, says Desena, founder of Peak Races, is to provide innovative, challenging and high-quality experiences that are among the most unique and exclusive competitive adventures available.

Desena is committed to the greater Pittsfield region that he calls an “endurance community” because of its hundreds of miles of trails for running and mountain biking, and also roads for running.

“There’s a common belief that the high altitude West better for training,” says Desena. “But here in the East the roads and trails are steeper. People from the West who come here to race don’t do as well against the East Coast people.”

He also says there’s the advantage of being able to run anywhere in the woods here and not get eaten by a mountain lion or falling off a mountain.

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