Donaldson survives Death Race intact (almost)

Jason Donaldson of Springfield finished the Spartan Death Race on June 19.
Photos courtesy of Jason Donaldson
July 2, 2012

By Katelyn Gendron

SPRINGFIELD — It only cost Jason Donaldson of Springfield 10 toenails, maceration and infection of his feet, 65 hours without sleep, severe dehydration, malnourishment and 16 pounds but he finished the Spartan Death Race in Pittsfield, Vt., from June 15 to 19.

Donaldson was one 51 finishers out of 344 participants in the annual extreme endurance challenge, which included a 25-mile 12-hour hike while carrying a kayak, a two-mile body roll through a sheep paddock, wood splitting, a 250 multiple choice exam and origami, among many other mental and physical challenges.

"You think there's going to be this huge moment at the end but you're so beat up you can't [celebrate]. The race sucks the life out of you," Donaldson said, adding that he told his brother, who was waiting for him at the finish line, that he'd "never do it again!"

However, 16 hours of sleep, three days of not walking, a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics later, and Donaldson changed his tune.

"The race organizers said it's a life changing experience and that seems a bit far fetched but it really is and you really learn a lot about yourself," he explained.

Doug Drotman, spokesperson for the Spartan Death Race, said organizers had to up the ante this year, opting for a 60-plus-hour race as opposed to last year's 45-hour race as well as tougher challenges, because "we had a better trained group and highly trained athletes."

One challenge that Donaldson described as the worst was actually the final obstacle. The event required participants to roll numerous laps on their sides through a field in the middle of the night, then answer a trivia question, which if they got wrong the lap wouldn't count, then stir a pot filled with animal intestines and start again.

"The last challenge was a brutal. People were getting motion sick and throwing up everywhere," he recalled, noting that he doesn't suffer from motion sickness.

"I kept my head together until Sunday [but the race didn't end until Monday]. It's like you're sleepwalking," Donaldson said.

Despite the extreme conditions, he explained that he never once contemplated giving up.

"I was worried that my body would give out but I never thought I'd quit," Donaldson said, crediting the "mentally brutal, beat down" training sessions he'd received from Geoffrey Sullivan, a trainer at Continuing Performance Center in East Longmeadow.

"I was never going to face them [at Continuing Performance Center] if I didn't finish the race," he added.

When asked what advice he'd give to prospective Spartan Death Race participants, Donaldson replied, "Don't listen to a single word the race organizers say. They lie, cheat and steal to get you to quit. They say, 'Even if you finish, we won't count you as a finisher.' It wears on you mentally."

He said he'd like to race again, provided he can convince his wife, in addition to participating in Ironman marathons and other extreme challenges in the future; however, for now, Donaldson explained that he's just enjoying the relaxation and family time associated with the recovery process.

To see if you've got the moxie to earn your skull in next year's Spartan Death Race, visit

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