By Mathew Katz
HELL'S KITCHEN — He's got a death wish.
Hell's Kitchen resident Richard Kurtzer, 31, will travel to Pittsfield, Vermont to run the 70-hour Peak 2014 Summer Death Race in June — and he's using the city's parks and streets to train for it.
The race is described on its website as a "48+ hour event that is created to break you physically, mentally and emotionally. All of you will enter, 90 percent of you won’t finish. Only consider this race if you have lived a full life to date."
"It's got death in the name, so it sounds like it's going to be pretty good," Kurtzer said. "It's designed to be the ultimate physical, mental and emotional challenge for an athlete."
During the race, Kurtzer will have to lug a five-gallon bucket filled with rocks up mountains, run around the forest, chop wood and even memorize quotes from Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" — all without sleeping for days.
To train for it, Kurtzer spends his days working out with CrossFit NYC and running around city streets and Central Park with a 30-pound backpack. The only thing he can't practice in the city is wood chopping, so every once in a while he'll head up to Rockland County to hone his skills.
"I spend a lot of time in the northern end of Central Park, doing hill work, up and down," Kurtzer said. "You don't get bored because you make the route random."
Originally from New Jersey, Kurtzer struggled with obesity when he was a teenager and his weight peaked at over 300 pounds.
"I was a nice Jewish kid, so of course I was a little overfed," he said. "When I got into my 20s, I realigned my lifestyle to really enjoy this kind of activity."
Kurtzer swing dances in his spare time and ran his first marathon and triathlon in 2010. He completed the NYC Ironman in 2012.
The Death Race, he said, was the next logical step.
In April, Kurtzer attended a 25-hour Death Race training camp where he learned some of the basics of orienteering, map reading and general physical preparedness he'll need for the race — all while carrying a rock the size of a football.
With a thick build, Kurtzer admits he's not a natural runner and said that speed may be his biggest challenge.
"They cut you if you can't do something physically or if you're not fast enough," he said. "I know I'm physically able, but I'm afraid of either being not fast enough or going crazy from being awake for 48 hours."
Right now, Kurtzer is training between 12 and 18 hours a week for the race — but plans to amp that up as the competition gets closer.
"Yes, I am insane," he said. "But when I'm pushing myself to that limit, that's when I feel most alive.