Surviving A Most Dangerous Game

Valley Man Reflects On ‘Death Race’

Posted: July 12, 2014

HARRISONBURG — Darrell Haslacker’s experience in the 2014 Peak Death Race ended the way it did for most of its participants — bloodied, bruised and on the wrong side of the finish line.

Haslacker, 37, of Penn Laird ran the grueling course through the woods of central Vermont for 34 hours, before missing a time checkpoint.

“I didn’t have any skin left on my feet, two of my toes were broken, and my legs were shot,” Haslacker said Tuesday via telephone.

The Death Race started June 27 and lasted for 66 hours, finishing in the early morning hours of June 30.

During that time, competitors hiked over 40 miles with loaded packs; carried rocks weighing in excess of 50 pounds up a mountain; built an ax out of wood and stone — then used the ax to chop wood; completed an orienteering course, which involves using a map and compass to visit specific locations over a large area; built a fire with a bow drill; took a 100-question test on famous historical explorers; and sewed a buckskin outfit with at least 180 stitches.

This was in addition to random pushups, burpees and other exercises thrown in to keep the competitors on their toes, according to Doug Drotman, a spokesman for the event.

At the end, only 65 out of 250 racers, or about 26 percent, finished the race.

Those who finished the course were rewarded with an appropriate trophy as a symbol of their accomplishment — a plastic human skull emblazoned with the words “Death Race Finisher.”

Haslacker reflected on his seemingly paradoxical experience.

“It was miserable and it was awesome at the same time,” he said.

Despite not finishing, Haslacker was able to raise more than $2,000 for the Breast Cancer Clinic at the Sentara RMH Funkhouser Women’s Center.

“Hopefully, our little bit of contribution will help,” he said.

Even though his experience did not end the way he would have preferred, Haslacker is in high spirits, and has already signed up for next year’s Death Race.

“I got to get my skull,” he laughed.

Contact Bryan Gilkerson at 574-6267 or

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