The Ultimate Challenge

race 2For the first time the Spartan Death Race, the world’s most challenging endurance race, has attracted an Irish competitor who is also a garda member writes Bronagh McCrystal 


This summer Garda Rory O’Grady, who is stationed at Roxboro Road, Limerick, will be the first Irish competitor in the Spartan Death Race in Vermont, USA. The Death Race is classed as the ultimate elite level obstacle course race in the world and can last for three or more days. Over 300 participants have taken part each year since its inception in 2005, including military, special forces, elite and amateur athletes. Yet only 10% of those who start will finish the race.

Scheduled to begin on June 27th 2014, the 300 elite endurance athletes will be given the chance to test their mental and physical prowess like no other event on earth.

race 3O’Grady said, “I am competing in the Death Race to raise funds for what I believe are three very deserving charitable causes, Temple Street Children’s Hospital, the Central Remedial Clinic and Erbs Palsy Ireland. My one year old son Callan suffers from Erbs Palsy and he is primarily the reason why I’m both doing this race and fundraising for the charities. Callan has had surgery in Temple Street and regularly attends the CRC. I want to be able to show him in later life that no matter what obstacles are put in your way it’s about getting back up and keeping going despite the odds.”

The obstacle and challenge-driven race requires competitors to complete numerous gruelling mental and physical challenges throughout a 40-mile course that runs through the Vermont woods. During the Death Race, competitors may be asked to chop wood for two hours; complete a 30-mile hike with rocks and weighted packs; build a fire from scratch; cut a bushel of onions; or after 24-hours of racing, memorise the names of the first 10 U.S. Presidents or a Bible verse, hike to the top of a mountain and recite them back in order — miss a word and you get to do it again…and again.. and again.

Unlike other endurance races that offer a detailed map, death racers have no idea what to expect next as the course map and list of challenges are kept secret. This provides competitors with one of their biggest challenges as the length of the race can range from 48-72 hours. For an endurance athlete, not knowing where the light is at the end of the tunnel can be sheer torture.

“Just like life, the Death Race is designed to push and aggravate people to such a point race 1that even the most stoic eventually fail,” said Joe De Sena, co-founder of the Death Race and the Reebok Spartan Race Founder. “Only those people possessing incredible discipline under the most insane and even delusional circumstances can call themselves a finisher. These athletes are willing to complete the journey at all costs. The fact that people endured for 70 hours to see what they are made of, is just remarkable and awe-inspiring.”

O’Grady, originally from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, now lives in Thurles, Co. Tipperary. No stranger to physical activity, he has been a martial artist all his life and spent three years living in Northern China studying Shaolin Kung Fu prior to joining the Force.

While it can be difficult to fit in the extensive training required between shifts, O’Grady utilises the gym at Roxboro Road and his local gym in Thurles before and after work. O’Grady said, “My training currently includes anything from flipping truck tyres, hikes with an 80-100lbs pack, to chopping wood to regular gym work and any random difficult task I can imagine in between. I spend as much time as possible in the mountains and hills of Tipperary. This will be my first Death Race but hopefully not my last!

“The race takes place in the unexpectedly challenging terrain of the Green Mountains in and around Pittsfield and has lasted over 70 hours in the past. They provide no support. They don’t tell you when it really starts or when it ends. They don’t tell you what it will entail. They want you to fail and encourage you to quit at any time.”

You can follow O’Grady’s progress on the following: 



Twitter: @rorysracing

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