MIDDLEBURY — What is the most extreme race — marathon, triathlon, Iron Man?
Andy Weinberg has been there and done that, more times than he can count.
While an Iron Man race sounds like a challenge — it is comprised of 2.4 miles swimming, 112 miles biking, and 26.2 miles running — one look at Weinberg’s racing résumé is all one needs to understand the passion this Middlebury resident has for pushing himself to the peak of his ability.
Meet a Death Racer
Who would willingly register for something called the Death Race? Click here to learn more about one of the many athletes eager to meet the challenge head on.
It includes several double Iron Mans and even a triple in 2007.
About seven years ago Weinberg realized he had pushed himself as far as the existing palate of ultra endurance races would allow him to go.
“I figured out that every single race you go to, you know what to expect,” he said.
Weinberg, along with several of his endurance race buddies, realized they weren’t at their peak at all.
“If you run a 26.2-mile marathon, anywhere in the world it’s 26.2 miles,” he said. “Anytime you sign up for a race, you know what time it starts, you know when you’re gonna finish.”
An athlete who knows how far they’re going, of course, can train for that distance, whether it’s 5k or 50 miles, and set the pace accordingly. It was with this in mind that Weinberg, along with friend Joe DeSena and several others, created the Death Race, which will begin its fifth race on June 24 in Pittsfield.
The Death Race is designed to be the final word in extreme racing, where competitors are pushed to their mental and physical limits by an endurance race spiked with various challenges. Weinberg described the three challenges that appear in every year’s race — wood splitting, river running, and crawling under a length of barbed wire. Beyond those, new challenges are introduced every year, selected from a database of over 100 potential obstacles, designed to keep Death Race veterans from having an unfair advantage.
From a field of competitors that caps at 200, Weinberg, known affectionately as “the undertaker,” expects roughly 10 percent to finish the race.
Weinberg believes that those who finish the Death Race are united more by their mental fortitude than physical characteristics. He identifies those with military experience — especially Marines, Navy SEALs and Army Rangers — as particularly likely to withstand the mental challenges posed throughout the race.
Ultimately, however, Weinberg remains convinced that the Death Race is merely a reflection on life itself.
“There are a lot of tough things in life,” he said. “And the race is a lot like that. So we’re looking for the people who can push through adversity, they can deal with the mental challenges, they’re physically fit, and emotionally they’re in tact.
“The people that can push through everything are extraordinary people. Those are the athletes who can deal with adversity in life.”