The Spartan Death Race Revisited


Death Race 018

It’s been over five years since I first heard of the Spartan Death Race. I was at SOLO in 2009 getting my Wilderness EMT  that I met Rob a hardy Vermonter from the Northeast Kingdom who had already completed the Death Race twice and was going back for a third year. He told me about the race, and about the people, and really about it all. I was intrigued but like many stories filed it away and said, yeah right maybe someday.


In 2010, after finishing my first Spartan Race in Vermont that May I watched from a far as the race grew bigger. I lived only 10-miles from the race but still it seemed like a foreign thing, so far outside of what I could imagine doing that I didn’t even dare go over to check it out. As I learned more about the Death Race I learned friends in the ski industry had not only taken it on but finished. All of a sudden around me were people that not only knew of this event but had completed it. This was still the old guard of the Death Race, pre-Spartan days when the race was just a mixture of mostly Vermonters and a few endurance athletes venturing into town. A far cry from the hundreds of athletes and their crews descending on Pittsfield right now as I type.


In 2011, a month or two after my first face-to-face meeting with Joe Desena I found myself actually at the Death Race volunteering. Things in my life were starting to change and well I was a bit crazy back then, I detailed that crazy day in these blogs Day 21…Live From the Death Race and Day 22.. Out of the Fire, Into the Frying Pan. Little did I know that day would set into motion a series of events that with no pun intended would change my life. It was shortly before that year I signed up for the 2012 Death Race and during the 2011 race that I met Forest Call who was crewing for his brother Hobie Call. It was from that fateful meeting in the rain, in 50-degree weather that me started a friendship, that turned into a long distance relationship, which brought me to Utah, and where I am today. This was the first of two big things the Death Race did for me on a personal level. During the 2011 race other than meeting Forest, I was immersed in a world that was still foreign but was alluring. As I met the competitors whom to me were like superstars, little did I know years later many would become some of my best friends and allays.


SPARTAN_RACE_LEVELS_DEATHIn 2012, I returned to the race as a competitor this time. I had helped out now at a couple races and sort of knew what to expect. As the race started I knew it was something I didn’t want to do, but everyone around me wanted to do it and felt the pressure of the social media, friends, and local people to complete the Death Race. I endured 25-hours of the race, physically it wasn’t that bad, but mentally I fought one of the toughest battles of my life. I took a few hours of rest than went back and volunteered for the rest of the race and helped my friends and Joe and Andy with the race.  I had to come to the realization that my ego was driving me not anything else. I learned a very hard lesson, one which I preach today – do not let the ego drive your racing. I quit and I am proud to say I quit the Death Race in 2012. My race was over before it started, as a good friend told me after the event while pacing her at a race a year later, “you never needed the Death Race. Some people need the race and you never needed it.” She also told me I had nothing to prove and those words were meaningful and again lessons I have carried on. But it was none of the things listened above were the real lesson I learned in 2012.


Quitting the Death Race was not easy, in fact I cried about it. I was super fearful of what my peers would think. I was suppose to be this badass (in my mind) and I was letting everyone down. One racer said a seriously painful and hurtful comment as I pulled myself from the race, “well maybe Death Racing isn’t for you” and it stung, honestly it was still sort of a bitchy thing to say to another competitor but I have made peace with it. But what I did gain from the race was the power to continue my own life. Quitting the Death Race was the first and I truly mean it decision I had ever made in my life that was truly on my terms. It was the first time I did something for me and quit because it was the right choice for ME. Up until that point in my life I had always done what was expected of me, what I was suppose to do in life, with school, my family, etc… I had a very good on paper life, but found at almost 30 I hadn’t actually made my own life at all. In the moment I saw none of this, not until later did I realize this was my first real quit in life and doing so my first real adult decision I ever made for myself. A month later I would quit my job to pursue my passion among a sea of naysayers. Quitting the Death Race gave me the courage to quit other things in life that did not make me happy. This is why to me quitting the Death Race was one of the proudest moments in my adult life.


For the last two years I have watched from the sidelines the summer Death Race. I see it get bigger and bigger each year and people now train for it, they prep all year for it and to me it has changed. I don’t want to say whether it is for the better or worse but it is a different animal from the original Death Race I first heard about in 2009. These are my reflections from last year at the eve of the race… The Death Race – Reflections.

To those tackling the race this year for the first time my humble advice: Just Be, Just Do, and Laugh the whole way. Make sure you have a purpose for why you are racing, racing without an internal purpose will make it much harder for you. At the end the Death Race is not about a skull, it never has been, it is about learning more about yourself and learning a bit about who YOU are!


Finally, if you quit or something happens to you, don’t bitch about it. Own it, use it and learn the lesson in it. There is always a lesson to be learned at the Death Race.

From a Death Race Quitter 2012

Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
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