Death of the Spartan Death Race
This morning Obstacle Race Media posted an email written to them by Peak Races co-owner Joe DeSena… “This morning we received a call from Joe Desena. He told us he wanted this past weekend’s event to be the last Death Race… Full Article” In the article Joe’s statement talks about many things and concludes with a 1-10 assurance there will be no DR next year he answers a 10. Following the Death Race this year online I heard rumors of such all weekend and certain comments had a sense of finality to them. But like all of us who have followed or known the Death Race for a while we either didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe this might be the end of an era.
For many today it is a sense of shock, sadness, and others indifference. For those that have lived in the Peak Races world for a couple years now we have seen the changes in the Death Race seen it’s popularity grow and watch people put it on a bucket list along with Ironman, and ultra marathons. It has become another must do for the thrill seeker. In 2009 when I first learned about it the race was a foreign thing a few people did a year. As it got more press more came to it, and for a while it was the extreme endurance athlete who had already conquered a lot, or the former military looking to get some of what they had in their youth, others used it as a healing process to overcome addiction, divorce, depression, or all three. The band of brothers and sisters of the Death Race were a bunch of freaks and geeks of society living a bit on the fringe.
If you asked many who did the Death Race early on they will not brag but instead say, “yup did it” and that was about it. I grilled friends looking for information before helping out in 2011. One finisher actually didn’t like to talk about it at all despite coming in second the year he did it. People just went and did it and moved on. It was not their identity, it was just another step in their journey.
At some point it changed. Maybe it was my year and I am part of the change, maybe it was after or maybe it started before me. But people started to train and train specifically for the Death Race. To me this was a tipping point. I don’t think the Death Race was ever meant to be something a person trained for. I remember sitting in Joe DeSena’s car with him during the 2012 winter Death Race, Andy was there as well. We had the headlights on the competitors as in the middle the frigid night we watched competitors doing burpees at probably 3 or 4 in the morning. Joe commented that the Death Race competitors has become mutants, that they now trained for this stuff and they had created this new type of racer.
You can laugh about it but it’s true. When the Death Race started it was barely over 12 hours long, then it was 24 which it hovered around for a while. In the beginning it was a 10-mile race, I remember reading the website in 2009 and it claiming to be a 10-mile race (which was probably a lie). Today the race has evolved to 65+ hours of continuous racing and participants now cover close to or more than 100 miles. All this in a span of nine years of evolution of the race.
Somewhere along the way it seems the race lost it’s intent. It lost it’s sense of direction for many athletes and became about the prize. As with many things when we lose the meaning behind it and just look for the reward we have lost our origins. The skull at the end of the race was almost more of a gesture it seemed than something to strive for. Sure finishing the race held a great sense of pride to the individual but it was not about the skull, not about posting a photo on Facebook showing an achievement. It was something very personal, very emotional, and very much something that most kept to themselves.
So as we might be closing a chapter on an era today. This may all end up just a marketing ploy but in my gut something tells me that is not the case. I think it is the end of something special. To those who got to experience it, savor the moments and the people. To those that never did and probably never will, go find your own Death Race. Find something that inspires you to be a better, more compassionate, more independent, and a more accepting person. Enjoy it while it lasted and for us all it’s time to move forward and find our next challenges.
In the words of Dr Seuss…
Edit: This was written in the morning of July 1 when only one side of the story was out. Recently Andy commented back and said, “Joe and I are having a disagreement on how to operate. We have a different opinion on whether or not the race should go on. We’re in the process of working things out. I don’t want DR to end, EVER. It’s inspired too many people and I’m very passionate about it as many of you are.” Whether the Death Race continues or not is up in the air. However, future races if they happen will for sure be changed. The Death Race was always a combination of Joe and Andy. Without this team together the race will be forever changed. The future is uncertain for the race but the sentiments above remain the same.