by Joe Desena and Andy Weinberg, Race Directors, 2012 Spartan Death Race
Now that the dust has settled, the race has officially ended, results have been tabulated and distributed, and life in Pittsfield is returning to normal, we wanted to take a moment to offer our reflections on the 2012 Spartan Death Race: Year of Betrayal. Like every year, this event was different than all the year’s before and there will never be another year like it. That’s how we envisioned them when we started the event in 2005. Like every year, there are some notable and heroic events to speak of, like at the 60 hour mark, when racer Mark Dibernardo, suffering extreme sleep deprivation and severe exhaustion, went off-course, requiring the race staff to scour the mountains and fields for hours in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning only for him to return to the race and ultimately finish the race’s final challenge. Or the incredible story of Joei Harrison, who emotionally completed her final task to go on to be a finisher of the full course over the 67 hour mark, putting a poetic finish to the 2012 Spartan Death Race. There were those who were told they would not and could not finish, after missing check-in times who forged ahead regardless earning themselves a skull for not counting themselves out and staying committed to what is ultimately the goal – to never quit.
What did Mark, Joei, and all the finishers of this year’s Spartan Death Race have in common? They didn’t quit, they simply wouldn’t. Finishers are the type of people that can survive for a week in the woods, they are able to stay calm under stress, they are able to persevere with or without support, and they have a spiritual or personal quest that overrides reason as well as every obstacle in the path of rising to fulfill their goals. The race is very unique and it’s unlike any other race on the planet. Some people get that and some people don’t. No matter how brutal the challenge, no matter how long or seemingly impossible the task was, there are people that quit and people that won’t.
The Spartan Death Race was designed to push and aggravate people to such a point that even the most stoic and composed will eventually fail. Only those people possessing incredible discipline under the most insane and even delusional circumstances can call themselves a finisher. These athletes are willing to complete the journey at all costs. Mohammed Ali used to say he was the best because he was willing to “die in the ring.” The better athlete doesn’t necessarily win but the more determined one does.
As in past years, this year we have heard a thousand reasons why people quit during this event and most of them are completely logical and perfectly reasonable. We, meaning Andy and myself (as well as the DR staff), are not primarily concerned about whether they finish or not, or what their reasons are; the only reason we do this is to get inspired by the people that prove themselves to be immovable objects and don’t quit in spite of all the logical and reasonable reasons not to. They don’t quit under any circumstances.
Death Race finisher in 2011 and Canadian native Johnny Waite returned to Pittsfield this past weekend to tempt his fate against the Betrayal themed race that awaited him and all the others who sought a Death Race finisher skull. He returned home this year without a skull but with perspective after battling nearly 35 hours on the brutalizing course. Waite offered this paragraph detailing his experience:
“I elected to enter the 2012 Death Race by my own volition. I was promised that it would be harder and last longer than any previous DR.
I was also promised it would infuriate me and make me face and manage my own strong emotions. When I quit at 34 hours, that was also my own free choice. The organizers respected my decision, just as they respected the same decision made by the vast majority of racers (each for their own individual reasons) at all times throughout the race. In re-reading the race emails, and reflecting on the announcements made throughout the event, it is very clear to me that we were given all the information we required and that this was an unquestionably fair, albeit brutal, race. Everyone who finished pushed themselves for 60+ hours and honoured both themselves and the Spartan philosophy. Much respect to those who were able to master their body, mind and spirit and claim their DR 2012 skulls.”
From Andy and myself, and all of our incredible staff and volunteers, we would like to say congratulations to all the 2012 Death Race Finishers.
We are now left to wonder who will try their hand at the 2013 Death Race, it’s the Year of the Gambler.