The race waiver said, “I might die.” Ronan Conlon signed it anyway.
“No big deal,” the 26-year-old said. “I could sign a waiver today that says I may die driving in my car.”
So Conlon registered for the Spartan Death Race, an event that bills itself as the ultimate challenge. “Every man dies, but not every man lives,” the website reads.
The obstacle-driven event requires competitors to complete a series of 15 to 20 tasks, both mental and physical, through a 40-mile course in the Vermont woods. Those who do finish – and most don't – take more than 36 hours to do it.
Conlon, who lives in Omaha and graduated from Creighton University in 2008, is convinced he has what it takes. “Failure,” he said, “isn't an option.”
“The only way I'd stop is if my leg was broken or something.”
“It's one of the most elite races on the planet,” he said. “I want to be able to cross the finish line.”
He doesn't know exactly what he'll be doing – the obstacles are kept secret until the event starts on June 15 – but organizers instructed him to bring a life jacket, ax, hand saw, pink swimming cap, chopsticks and black dress shoes.
Maybe he'll have to cut down a tree or carry a log through the duration of the race. Maybe he'll have to translate a Greek sentence to English after a long-distance run or memorize a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite it. Maybe he'll have to build a fire and crawl through mud.
It's all happened before.
Thousands have participated since the annual race kicked off in 2005. About 100 people have succeeded, and no one has died. “Yet,” an organizer said in an email.
Though there's no way to prepare, Conlon said he's in the best shape of his life and mentally ready, too. Conlon has run four marathons, the most recent in April. He lifts weights, too, and he's resourceful. Conlon emailed the man who won in 2010 and 2011 for advice. The reply? “Make sure you have plenty of food, and take care of your feet.”
The defending champion isn't competing again this year. “That means first place is open,” Conlon joked. His only goal is to finish and enjoy doing it.
Ronan Conlon is also fundraising for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the families of fallen and wounded Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel.
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