Death Race No More

Death Race Finisher Skull

Death Race Finisher Skull

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.  He then sent us the following:

Have we lost our way as a society? Have we lost our way everywhere?

What is the Peak Death Race? Death Race was started as a metaphor for life. It was started in Pittsfield Vermont for a very specific purpose- to find amazing people. I had spent my life looking for them and they are hard to find. When you do find them they inspire and you learn from them.

-People that didn’t want to pull the “entitled” card in life- we all know those that feel entitled. They try and take advantage of the system.

-People that don’t have “quit” in them.

-People that were inspiring and would push until they were broken and then push some more.

-People that take risks- it’s one thing to talk about things you want to do in life or be involved in, its another thing entirely to put all your money, family, and reputation on the line- thus the DR requirement to participate in the media challenge pre Death race. I always wanted people to “feel” what its like to put everything you have on the line and then work like hell 24/7 to make sure you don’t lose it all.

Through this race, Pittsfield Vermont, and more specifically, my farm, has become somewhat of a social experimentation lab with people showing up to live, test their own resolve, train, cry, start businesses, or catch the first ride out of town in a hurry. Some, very few, have what it takes to last. Its not just about being able to hike or ride a bike or chop some wood. Its about being able to day in and day out prioritize on what will move the ball forward. Its about doing the job when the job sucks. It could be sitting in front of a computer 18 hours a day for 7 days a week. It could be using your entire life’s savings you saved for 30 years to build what you believe in, it could be leaving your family behind for 10-20-50 days to get the job done.

How many people say “I’m not doing that job it doesn’t pay enough?” How many people say “I’m not doing that its not fun”, How many people say “That is too much work, I don’t have time” Or my personal favorite: “I deserve to be a winner or finisher or get the credit or the money because because because”?

How many? Almost everyone. Almost.

At the end of the day their are a few people that move the mountains, dig the holes, inspire the followers, and lead the world. They are amazing people to be around. They are the ones that make things happen around us. They don’t put their hand out, they don’t complain, and they never act entitled. They do the job for the sake of the job and in that find reward.

My vote is Death Race should go down in history as one of the single greatest challenges a human could have taken…and not offer it anymore. It would go down in history like all the “greats”. Maybe it would come back some day. Maybe it wouldn’t. Those that did it would know and those that didn’t wouldn’t.

My whole life I have tried to take the tough road, the road less traveled, live in the town with no one in it where very few like me, and shuttering this legend of an event certainly seems like the “hard” thing to do…and so in that respect, it feels right.

Who knows time will tell. its not an easy decision but neither is anything great in life. We’ll see.

After receiving this, we called Joe and asked him the following:
“On a scale of 1-10, 10 being absolutely positive that you want to cancel the next Death Race and refund  2015 registration money?”

His answer:  “10.”

Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.
  1. Sorry to hear. Never would do myself but respect those that do. Maybe 20-25 years ago a slimmer Lt kelly would have. Joe it’s your ride thank you for running it!

  2. Maybe it just got too hard for him… Sorry couldn’t resist.
    I guess I can take that off my list of things that I wanted to try, which makes me a bit sad.

  3. Gee… Instead of calling it quits… Make it harder. Peak may be getting bored with it….but its every contestant who pays… But make it a ine time only trial…. You finish the first time you try ir you never get another chance!!!!

  4. “I think people are lazy and awful so I’m done with this. I’m taking my caber and boulder and I’m going home.” – Joe DeSena

  5. Nooooo! The death race is my goal. It is the reason I’ve started changing my life. Last year I ran the spartan 5 k and had a blast and it made me wonder, “what more can I do” this pushed me to sign up for trifecta this year and was going to push me to death race in Future years. I strongly believe we as a society need this death race, have it as not only people’s goal but as that proving grounds that you are alive. I work with people day in and out that just coast in life and i don’t want to be that. I want to be part of that elite few that say I have pushed myself and came out on top. That’s my two cents. I believe that we should keep death race 100% and that it should be something people earn to get in.

  6. Perhaps he is saying he has found those people, the people who dont know quitting, the people who can take charge and get things done… and he is hoping some of them woll continue what he started. Why does the death race have to be in VT? Why does it have to be run by Joe? Why does it have to be called Death Race?

  7. The Death race might be dead but the best endurance race in the world is alive. Survival Run Nicaragua, Hunter Gatherer or The Celts. Your pick of the greatest, most varied, most extreme, most interesting most alive endurance races on earth. Check out Fuego y Agua events. Challenge your body, discover your world. Join the tribe!!

  8. I think the race the way it was intended to be is wonderful but they way it is turning out is not. As a spectator to the Death race I noticed a large percentage of the racers skirted around the tasks, took lots of short cuts and really manipulated the race so they could finish. I wouldnt consider myself a winner of this race unless I could complete each thing that was asked of me the way it was intended to be performed. The bigger this race gets the more people will cheat to win. It needs to be brought back to the basics- DO THE WORK RIGHT, WORK HARD AND PUSH YOURSELVES. I listened to several people complain about doing 1500 burpees and they did like 50. I watched crew members meet their racers with bikes and I watched people start the race hours late and allowed to do so.

  9. Whether the DR continues or not, I know I am one of the lucky ones because I was there to feel the magic of the Death Race. As cliche as it sounds, the Death Race was my personal life race. I now know that a breed of people exist that I never could have imagined before experiencing it and I learned to embrace others in their life journey in a better way with less judgement. If Joe and Andy decide it has run its course, there are other ways to dig inside and see what we are made of. We all have the tools to do it on our own. Maybe that is the point?

  10. I think Joe has nailed it, it is all about taking the road less traveled(finding those individuals that are different, the ones that represent something that has been lost in our society) that through trials that take you to your breaking point and maybe beyond contain composure, lend a helping hand, that are about the greater good of the event or life. Finding those individuals is the road less traveled, continuing that pursuit, passion and development of others that maybe there is something more for peak there. Could the Peak Races and the Reebok Spartan Race develop additional or future levels of leadership through putting people to the ultimate test. I see these two groups, the many events, the people that volunteer, crew and race as a new ecosystem. Joe, can we grow this ecosystem by finding, testing, identifying and hand picking….you have clearly done this already to a certain level….whats the next level or should I say turn to a new road less traveled?

  11. Sounds like he has “quit” in him after all. This strikes me as someone who couldn’t figure out how to solve a problem, so he just quit. Hypocrisy? No, just proof of a breaking point.

  12. Jesus Christ Joe, adjust your damn skirt. No one wants to hear you b**ch about how other people never live up to your standards. Narsissist much? I will be glad to give someone else my race money. There are other, harder and more reputable events. Joe can take that skull and shove it.

    1. Steve… why the sexism? Did you see how many women earn’t skulls this year! ‘Adjust your skirt’?

  13. Well that’s a shame he’s decided to give up om helping people test themselves in a modern desk-driven society, i recently went on a 100km trek, didnt train properly so as a result didnt complete it and was thoroughly pissed off with myself. I have immediately signed up again and started training as i will not be defeated, and am also looking to do all sorts of other physical endurance tests because sitting on my arse working behind a desk just doesnt cut the mustard, now theres one less challenge out there for me to attempt and just when ive discovered what great fun they are! Give me your farm, i’ll bloody do it!

  14. Hmmmm… lots of interesting and not so good comments in this thread…. I am not, yet, a finisher of the Death Race. I am a former French Navy Seal and at 49 years old DR is the only event that makes me re-live my younger adventuresk days. I have done 3 WDR (2011 / 29h injured, 2012 / 0h 2 dislocated ribs, 2013 / 19h back injury) and I will keep at it even if I get my Skull. What Joe and Andy have created years back is an event that brings resolve and determination in people. Especially in some that didnt know they could ever achieve such an event. On the dark side of the event it also has brought a lot of “wanna be”, “cheaters” and “show offs”…. Therefore I am not surprise that Joe would want to drop the event, he and Andy, can see that more and more racers are taking short cuts, bitching about the tasks at hand and just plainly wont do what they are required to do.
    So, my advise, if you sign for it RESPECT IT !!! Stop whinning, criticizing and stand up proudly to the challenges thrown at you…. Get into it, push harder, help your teamates and show the DR organization that this event is wanted and respected. The work and time put into it, the behind the scene actions and commitment from the staff and the dedication from the creators to bring new challenges is amazing. Yeah, Joe is a “dick” during the event and Andy the “motivator”…. thats their role during the race…. but outside of it, they are awesome guys that will listen to you, support your endeavor and share old stories of DR with you.
    Ultimately, DR is an endeavor that brings like minded ppl and forces you to act out of the box…
    I hope DR will continue to live, as well as the arrival of new and different events as they are all beneficial to our desire to thrive and succeed….. and to tell stories 😉
    Cheers all

  15. To: Joe
    From: Arturo
    It saddens my heart to hear this. Ever since I was that fat overweight kid that thought to be himself a nobody, I always wanted to be greater than I was. Even now I want to be grater than I am. About six years ago I said to my self, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” so I put down the snacks and picked up the weights, and along with it my self-esteem. I ran for health and dreams alike. I began to change, so did everything around me, including my goals. I was able to see what I can do but I was not yet able to see I can become . Spartan Race helped me do that. I am grateful to you for that. You helped me and you don’t even know me , are aware of me. The instance where received my first medal at Malibu Sprint 2012 I went from being a nobody to realizing that I can be somebody. That moment was epic to me. Every race I have attended has challenged me and broken my spirit. Funny thing though I became stronger each time because of that, I was hooked. So seeked to challenge my self further training harder attending races with increasingly more difficult terrain. My body may not be at elite condition but I know my heart is. In regards to Spartan Race, the death race was the ultimate goal I desired the most, but now it is no more and so is my goal. I have no more Spartan Race aspirations to achieve. So with your announcement of the end of Death Race I make one of my own. In regards to Spartan Race it will end where it all began for me. Malibu Sprint will be the last Spartan Race I will run, it will also be the last trifecta I will acheive. Thank you Joe, for helping me discover whole new worlds and helping me master several areas of life. But this does not mean I will stop, you have set the wheels in motion of a perpetual machine of infinite I inertia. When it comes to physical acheivemen I continually strive tirelessly toward their accomplishments. That includes the marathon of every city I have step foot in, attaining the physique I deserve and the ultimate physicals endeavour, Iron Man Hawaii. HISTORY WILL REMEMBER ME!!!!
    Joe, thank you for everything.

  16. Looks like people will have to really take a look at The Suck and The Ultimate Suck as race alternatives. I don’t know of a more challenging race out there that is in the same vein as The Death Race.

  17. This had better be false… I’m ready for the 2015race. Been racing Spartans for 4 years now and will have a 3rd trifecta this year. I’llbe wholely pissed if I can’t compete next year.

  18. R u kidding me really no more death race??? I must be behind the times, how long has this been decided? This sucks I mean what the point of the Spartan races if not to build toward the death race.

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