Peters Township man plans to finish Death Race

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On its website, the race is advertised as "the ultimate challenge."

"Ninety percent of you will not complete this endurance race," the website warns, adding that participants can expect mud runs, obstacle courses and mental challenges in the 48-hour race. "Please only consider this adventure-style race if you have lived a full life to date." Even the name, Spartan Death Race 2012, evokes struggle and bloodshed.

But Christopher Bertini, 25, of Peters, is unfazed. En route to Pittsfield, Vt., he will begin the race with his competitors on Friday.

"I'm not nervous," said Mr. Bertini, a mesomorph with short blond hair and a quick smile. "I could die any day at work or crossing the street. I'm not going to die racing, I hope."

The race's website,, says competitors will be asked to complete roughly 20 tasks over a 40-mile course in the Vermont woods. Among possible tasks: "carry a 20-pound stump around for hours," "build a fire," "crawl through mud under barbed wire" and "memorize 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."

Although Mr. Bertini does not know what challenges his race will hold -- the Spartan Death Race does not release specific instructions for the race before it begins -- he has trained for the past year based on footage of previous races. His preparations have ranged from the conventional, running and lifting weights, to the unconventional, chopping wood and shot-putting logs.

His mother, Karen Bertini, said she is constantly surprised by his workout regimen.

"The other day, my husband and I were in our hot tub when we heard a noise," she said. "We turned around and saw that Christopher was throwing a log over the hill, which he would then pull back using a string. Then, he put on a 40-pound vest and started doing squats all the way through the length of the backyard."

Mr. Bertini enjoys the challenge, said Michelle Grottenthaler, his best friend of seven years. The two traveled to Ecuador together last year, where they camped and climbed waterfalls. She recalled that once, when they were climbing Mount Chimborazo -- the country's highest peak at 20,702 feet -- he filled his backpack with weights to make the hike more difficult. At the top, he ran and danced around, she said, completely energized.

This thirst for adventure is nothing new, said his mother. By age 3, Mr. Bertini could already ride a bike without training wheels. Neighbors would stop and stare, she recalled, struck by the sight of his small body dwarfed by the large two-wheeler. As a teenager, Mr. Bertini constructed an entire paintball course from scratch in the woods near his house, chopping up dead trees to create obstacles and bunkers.

Even his dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, seeks excitement.

"His dog is as extreme as he is," she said. "Instead of throwing a stick into the creek for him to catch, [Christopher will] throw him almost a whole tree branch. His dog will jump into the creek and grab that tree branch, swimming all the while against the current."

Mr. Bertini, who studied business and accounting at Temple University and now works at the Iceoplex at Southpointe, said he chose to participate in the Spartan Race after growing bored with regular races. In a "Death Race Essay" published in October on the race website, Mr. Bertini wrote that he registered because he was going through a quarter-life crisis and wanted to "resist the structured life that people in the United States have come to have." Earlier this year he contemplated joining the U.S. Navy SEALs, he said, although he ultimately opted to stay with his family instead.

In fact, some of the Spartan Death Race is based on SEAL training. Run by the company Peak Races, the race has been held in Pittsfield annually for roughly 200 competitors since 2005. Registration costs about $500, and organizers correspond with competitors via email in the weeks leading up to the race. No organizers could be reached for comment.

Asked how he would spend Thursday night before the race, Mr. Bertini smiled.

"I'm going to eat a lot of spaghetti for the carbs," he said. "If I'm lucky, I'll even eat some gnocchi."

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Nikita Lalwani:


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