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.”
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?”