by Carrie Adams
Grad student Eric Skocaj tried the Death Race two years ago and “failed miserably.” The now 25 year old from Illnois explains, “I wasn’t training for it, I was talked into it by Andy [Weinberg] and so this time… well, I was talked into doing it again.” Eric seems conflicted before beginning the event, “I’m not entirely confident I’ll finish it if I’m really honest. I’m going to give it my all, you know, go as long as I can.” In the fist attempt he didn’t make it too far into the race before his race was over. “I was under-prepared. I went in with the wrong mentality. Rather than go in and have a good time. I went in angry.” On one of the first grueling tasks, the river run he continually fell and slipped his way down the river and the trauma to his legs and the frustration made him miss the time cut-off.
Like so many other racers, Skocaj recognizes that it’s not a race about how fast are you and now as a fairly seasoned ultra runner, he knows what that means. The Death Race is a mental race that will challenge how long a person can endure. “I’m more the mental kind of guy but I don’t think ultra translates over for this race.”
Skocaj wants a finish this time around. “I am going to see what I can put myself through a I am mentally preparing to be in this as long as it takes.” He is also focusing on getting prepared with his gear and knowing what to put in his pack and how to carry it all. “Last time, I was holding all this stuff and if it was all just strapped to my back.” That choice didn’t leave his hands free for the river walk and the ability to maneuver with more freedom.
He has learned a lot in two years about himself and about what this race will take to finish. “Last time, I didn’t get far enough in. It taught me to respect it. I went in pretty cocky and this time I’m a lot more humble.”
His first Death Race showing made a mark. He grew as a person and as an athlete. Skocaj laid down an inspired performance just four weeks after his 2009 Death Race, “I had a 100 mile race 4 weeks later and smashed my best time. It turned me into a better person. Made me a better runner.”
He knows that this race will put him through a great deal, says Skocaj, “I’ll suffer more and continue more than I’ve ever done. I am going to want to give up multiple points and I’m going to say “no.” I am going to keep my chin up.”