Photo courtesy of Bradley Wells.
0714 Death Race
On the final day of the race, Bradley Wells crossed over a tightrope, one of the race’s many physical tasks.
There are Iron Men, there are Tough Mudders, and then, there are Death Racers.
Hoover resident and two-time Death Race participant Bradley Wells says the race lives up to its name. This is the second consecutive year Wells has participated in the Death Race, which bills itself as the world’s most challenging endurance race.
Unlike other endurance races, where the required tasks are made known in advance, Death Racers show up with nothing more than the 50 pounds of gear they are required to carry. There is zero knowledge of where they will be or what obstacles await them. Course dynamics change yearly and are kept secret until the start of the event.
In 2013, Wells faced a crushing defeat, being pulled from the race mere hours before the finish.
This past June, however, was a different story entirely. Of the 267 Death Racers who started their journey in Pittsfield, Vermont, on June 27, only 51 finished the event. With a finish time of 66 hours and 19 minutes, Wells was among them.
To earn his skull, Wells covered more than 100 miles, with more than 20,000 feet of elevation climb. During that journey, race challenges required him to create primitive tools, including axes and bowls, from supplies consisting solely of wood, stumps and rocks, and also fashion his own explorer outfit from four yards of buckskin (one of the items on this year’s required gear list).
“Sewing at night with no sleep is difficult,” said Wells, adding that task-driven aspects of the race were balanced out with several physically demanding challenges, not the least of which was carrying large boulders up a mountain to create a stone staircase.
Despite the intensity of this year’s Death Race obstacles, Wells managed to complete the race with little more than a few cuts and bruises. By day three, when sheer mental exhaustion took hold and he felt physically at his limit, Wells said he witnessed a feat that brought his minor pain into sharp perspective.
“By then, my knee was completely shot and every step (carrying 80 pounds of gear up a waterfall ravine) felt like lightning shooting through me,” said Wells. “After I dropped the bag, I wobbled back down the mountain to headquarters, where I immediately began icing my knee and taking painkillers. Not long after, I watched a fellow racer breach the tree line after she had completed this task. The remarkable part about it is that she only has one leg. Her prosthetic had broken during that hike up the mountain, but she finished it anyway. There was not a dry eye around.”
In the days and weeks following the race, Wells focused on giving his mind and body time to heal.
“You can feel almost high for days after, but then you can start to feel depressed,” he said. “You have very strange feelings.”
As he acclimated back to the real world and his job as a business analyst for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Wells said he’s grateful for the experience and what it taught him.
“I really just want to inspire people to do something great with their lives, especially in terms of their health,” he said. “The Death Race represents an idea that we can all push our limits and achieve excellence. This whole experience has changed the way I look at obstacles, work and life in general. If we are not challenging ourselves and those around us daily, then we are wasting our time. Train hard. Work hard. Do something epic.”