Despite the frigid temperatures, 170 participants turned out for the bi-annual exercise event known as “Death at Dawn,” which took place on Tech’s campus Jan. 13-24 and ran from 5:30 to 6:30 each weekday morning.
The program was originally founded in 2004 by Larry Epps and consists of exercises such as running and core workouts. It was initially developed to benefit local high school athletes.
“It originally started out as a way to have the athletes conditioned before the season started,” said Epps.
“It started out as just the players and me and another dad,” said Epps. “Then, we were concerned about breaking TSSAA rules for having practice before the season started, so we just made it open to everyone. At first, it was just parents who came, but now it’s turned into this.”
Jenny Iwanyszyn, a pre-physical therapy major at Tech, endured the negative temperatures and early hours to become a first-time participant in the recent Death at Dawn session.
Iwanyszyn said the weather did affect her workout.
“Although I did not particularly enjoy the ridiculously cold temperatures or the super early mornings, I absolutely loved the running and all the motivation from everyone who attended. It makes it so much easier to push yourself when you have people right there beside you doing the same thing,” Iwanyszyn said.
“The cold made it slightly harder to run because my muscles were not engaging as quickly as they do when its warm, but the cool air gave me more energy, so there were some pros and cons to running in the cold,” Iwanyszyn said.
Hannah Dunn, a senior soccer player at Cookeville High School, also participated.
“We work hard, but we have fun,” Dunn said. “We’re like a family.”
She said that she enjoys the atmosphere of Death at Dawn as much as the conditioning she receives.
The event, which takes place semiannually, in January and at the end of July, is open to the public, but you won’t find any public announcements for the occasion.
“We don’t use social media at all,” said Epps. “We don’t advertise. I have an email list with a few people on it, like the other leaders, that I send information to, but other than that, it’s all word-of-mouth.”
Although the sessions are open to anyone looking for an additional workout opportunity, Epps said it might not be for everyone.
“If you’re not going to work hard and you’re not going to run, go home,” Epps said. He said the 11-year-old program has a reputation for demanding intensity from participants.
“I just want to add that, overall, Death at Dawn is an outstanding program that is perfect for any skill level,” Iwanyszyn. “It’s organized really well, and Larry and Tracy Epps and the rest of the group leaders are wonderful people who genuinely care about the experience the participants receive, as well as their health and fitness. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a jump start in their fitness and needs a little extra motivation.”
Death at Dawn is set to take place again this July.