Kingwood resident to compete in Spartan Death Race
- Written by Susan McFarland
Few organized races encourage participation by promising death as a possible outcome and have a website address of youmaydie.com. There is one race, however, that does. The Spartan Death Race, held the weekend of June 21 in Pittsfield, Vermont, takes place over a 40-mile course strung between two mountains, and includes various extreme physical challenges, such as carrying 10 to 30 pounds of rock for five hours, carrying a 20-pound wood stump for several hours, chopping wood for two hours or crawling under barbed wire. Kingwood resident Bryan Wollam, a 2006 cancer survivor, is gearing up to defy the odds and participate in this year’s race. Wollam is a race veteran, having been one of the 10 percent of participants who completed the 2010 Death Race. “I said in 2010 I’m glad I did it, and I will never do it again, but I find myself three years later doing it again,” Wollam said. Wollam says the mental and emotional challenges of the Death Race are often much worse than the physical challenges. “Once you are food and sleep deprived, and exhausted from the physical challenges, that’s when they start the mental challenges and when most people start dropping out. They try to get you to quit. They will tell you you’re dehydrated and you’re exhausted. You finish one of the challenges and there are hot pancakes being cooked for the race staff. They will tell you, come on over here and have some hot pancakes, but you have to quit the race first,” he said. Race participants are given little information about the race, other than it starts Friday and ends by Tuesday morning. Wollam has been training for several weeks in area parks. “I’ll carry a military style backpack with 150 pounds of sand and a four-foot log on a four or five mile hike, then I’ll get in the water for another 10 hours. It’s exhausting,” he said. Many race competitors are highly trained athletes, with members of most branches of the Armed Forces, and even Special Forces, in attendance. “You will mentally break before you physically break. I was military police in the Marine Corps for Desert Storm and Desert Shield and I went through extreme training, but my training for the Death Race doesn’t even compare. It’s much more difficult,” he said. Participating in the race has changed Wollam’s life. “I first did this to show cancer patients that it’s not a death sentence. [In 2006,] I had 120 tumors and every lymph node station was impacted. My first oncologist told me I had six months at best. Now I’m six years out and a PET scan can’t find a trace of cancer. I do this race to tell people with serious illnesses that it’s not a death sentence. [The 2010] Death Race was tougher on me than fighting cancer. It was not the three days of physical challenge, it was really the mental challenge and pushing myself way beyond my limits,” he said. Photo: Kingwood resident Bryan Wollam completed the Spartan Death Race in nearly 40 hours in 2010. The 2013 race will last 60-plus.