According to the Canadian Death Race website, no one has actually died while participating in the grueling endurance event.
But given the course specifics, if you’re able to traverse the entire distance and live to tell about it, you’ve accomplished something.
The race, held annually in Grande Cache, Alta. on the edge of the Canadian Rockies, features a 125-kilometre course, and runners have a 24-hour time limit to reach the finish line.
“The town is at 4,000 feet, and you go over three peaks that are between 6,500 and 7,000 feet,” explained Brock Currie, a 34-year-old science teacher at Abbotsford Traditional Secondary who has run the Canadian Death Race twice in the last three years. “It’s all trail running, pretty much – there’s just a little bit that’s on the road.”
Currie first caught the running bug four years ago when he ran his first marathon – his sister convincing him on a Tuesday to run an event on Sunday of the same week.
In 2011, he and his brother-in-law Jeremy Spainhour decided to take on something a little more intense, and settled on the Grande Cache event.
As it turned out, they had bitten off more than they could chew. A nagging knee injury forced Spainhour out of the race, and Currie didn’t drink enough water, got dehydrated and cramped up. He too failed to finish.
Two years later, the duo took another crack at it, and this time they got the job done.
“Once I got to the summit in the fourth stage, around 80k in, I knew I was going to make it,” Currie said. “You could see the town way in the distance. I knew I had 45k more to go, but a lot of it was downhill.”
In 2011, Currie and Spainhour had purchased two victory cigars in anticipation of finishing the race, but they went unlit as the moment never materialized. Two years later, as they approached the finish line, Currie pulled out those same cigars. They lit them up and crossed the line together, in 66th and 67th places in a time of just over 21 hours and 42 minutes.
“It was a relief [to finish], but we were so excited,” he said.
Most of the field participated as part of relay teams, but of the athletes who attempted the entire course solo, only 148 of 371 (40 per cent) completed it.
Having conquered the Canadian Death Race once, Currie isn’t sure whether he’d try it again.
“I don’t know if I’d do this exact one,” he said. “My wife hates the training – I probably ran 25 marathon distances this year, and it’s so time-consuming. I’d like to try an Ironman triathlon next.”