By Adam Eisenbarth
If the name doesn’t give you a hint, the Grand Cache Death Race is an incredible challenge few can complete.
Despite the 125-kilometre ultra marathon’s gruelling demands, Bentley high school teacher Jason Hazlett conquered the amazing challenge, finishing with a time of 22 hours and 46 minutes.
The race got started on July 31 and finished on Aug. 1 and Hazlett has returned from Grand Cache with great memories and an accomplishment to be proud of.
In 2008, Hazlett participated on a relay team in the Death Race and was inspired to train to complete the task as a soloist.
“In 2009 and last year I wasn’t in good enough shape to do that so basically it took three years to train and to get ready to cover that kind of distance.”
Hazlett is a member of the Red Deer Runners and trains for marathons, but this race was about three times the length of a regular 42.2-kilometre marathon.
“I train for marathons but in reality my real passion is I like the way the Death Race is because it’s an extreme challenge.”
Not only is the length of the race difficult, the running surfaces are much different than the typical marathon. Much of the track is dirt mountain trails, clay, as well as loose shale. On one leg, runners jogged across black coal, which in the hot temperatures, created quite a draining task.
“The convection coming off that road, I would say it was well above 30 degrees. A leg that should have taken me two hours, I think took three hours. That was a gruelling leg.”
Hazlett even had to run through a bog.
“You have to hope that your shoe doesn’t get sucked off, which has happened to racers before.”
The race is five legs long and scales three mountains.
While crossing the finish line was surely a relief, Hazlett’s highlight came much before that.
“When the sun came up after I had ran all night, I realized that I was only 10 to 15 kilometres away from the finish line. I realized that I could actually finish this race because I could now see very easily.”
Hazlett is night blind, which made for a modification to his equipment. With a light shining on his feet so he could see where he was stepping, and a light on his head to trigger the reflectors along the course, he managed his way through the race.
“They called me The Lighthouse.”
Hazlett could hear the loud cheers of fans as they helped spur him toward the finish line.
His determination throughout the race never died, and he never considered quitting.
“I told people before that if I ever do drop out of that race, it will be because I’m injured and I can’t physically go on.”
For Hazlett it was his first ultra marathon, which is any race that is longer than a typical marathon. Fewer than 25 per cent of people complete the death race as their first ultra marathon.
Hazlett will participate in a few more marathons this year and expects to participate in the Death Race again next year.
“My goal was just to finish this race and next year when I go at it I now know the course very well and I know where I can make up time.”
Only about one-quarter of all participants were able to complete the Death Race.