All too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable in our own lives. We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier, seeking what we consider personal fulfillment. We believe that there are things we can do and things that we can’t, and we become conditioned to that distinction. It creates our everyday reality and it makes us feel secure, because we think we know what to expect of the world and what to expect of ourselves. Enter Joe DeSena, the man who will turn that world upside down.

Growing up in Queens, Joe’s mother valued healthy eating and living and passed on that value system to Joe.   It’s been well-documented that he worked hard growing up and ultimately got to Wall Street, where he made his mark and made himself a small fortune.  He moved his family to Pittsfield, Vermont and quickly entrenched himself and his family in the local landscape.  Joe moved to Vermont in an attempt to get back to the way things used to be.

It’s also well-documented that Joe turned an interest in endurance racing into a passion.  His racing resume is the stuff of legends – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman Events in one year alone.  Most of his races are 100 miles or more with a few traditional marathons in the mix.  (He once told me that my running a 26.2 marathon distance was “adorable.”)

To put it in perspective, he did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra… in one week.  For those that don’t know or just don’t want to hear the gory details, the elevation climb for Badwater is over 8,500 feet up to Mt. Whitney and temperatures soar into the 120’s.   Joe also rode cross-country to the Furnace Creek 508 which has been coined “The Toughest 48 hours in sport.”  It’s no wonder his favorite quote is, “Death is the price we pay for life, so make it worth it.”

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A montage of some of Joe DeSena’s races.

In 2005, Joe decided that the world needed a new race, something that had never been done. And so, together with Peak Races, he created The Death Race, a 24-hour mental and physical test filled with unknown obstacles.  Racers couldn’t and wouldn’t know what to expect.  The fear of the unknown would either break or motivate, and all they could do was try to survive.  The race waiver consists of three words: “I may die.” It doesn’t get any more real than that.  No way to train, no way to prepare, just show up and make it to the end.  And don’t expect any love from Joe or the volunteers.  They want to break these people, make them quit.  Joe’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. We’re basically holding your hand to help you quit. The same way life does, right?”

9 Responses

  1. avatar

    Thanks again for letting us sunday sign ups race this morning it was an experience beyond expectations. I already want to go at it again, see you in phoenix for some more punishment.

  2. avatar

    Hi Mr. DeSana,

    I have just recently learned of Spartan Race’s existance!
    I am a Certified Health Coach with Take Shape For Life. Prior to losing weight, my middle name was “slug” and exercise was a foreign thought to me…everything was a struggle.
    With the help of TSFL and my amazing Health Coach, I am now ready to train for a Spartan Sprint.

    I would love to talk with you about how our Take Shape For Life program could help people that are training to race get the most of their nutrition to support their muscles in both endurance and recovery!

    Thank you!

    Frances Pierce
    Certified Health Coach ID# 30144542
    Take Shape For Life

  3. avatar

    Hi Joe

    I would like to put forward a ‘Hero’ WOD as part of the Spartan WOD blog for my friend Captain Ben Babington-Browne who died serving in Afghanistan on Monday 6th July 2009.

    Ben and I used to do British Military (BMF) fitness classes together all year round for about 3 years. He was always smiling, even through yet another set of burpees in wind, rain, snow, sleet and more rain. BMF support this idea wholeheartedly.

    I have asked his family’s permission and it’s been granted – they really like the idea.

    I did this WOD on 11/11 (Remembrance Day here in the UK and in Europe) whilst preparing for the Spartan Beast in London on 11/18 which I just completed.

    Hero WOD Name: BBB’s 3-Ton Burpee WOD
    (a ‘Ton’ = 100 in british slang).
    Ben’s nickname was BBB and his family have okd this name. It consists of:

    20km run, stop every kilometre and do on average 15 Burpees ( =300 Burpees). It is simple and absolutely brutal. I was hanging out at the end. I did it in 2:10:31. I say on average 15 Burpees every km to allow people to get creative.

    Many of Ben’s colleagues have left fitting tributes on the M.O.D. website that show how widely loved and appreciated he really was:

    Please let me know who I need to apply to to have this accepted as a Hero WOD.

    Thanks in advance

    Rupert Potier

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