The Death Race – What It Means To Finish


We have a correction to make to yesterday’s Death Race posts. As the final burial was being prepared yesterday morning, we were on the phone with Peak Race founder Joe De Sena and this year’s Death Co-Race Directors Johnny Waite and Pete Coleman. They feverishly filled us in on what had taken place up to that point over the weekend. They also informed us of their intention to have 6 finishers.

Shortly after that, Johnny Waite had a change of heart, and had a conversation with all participants still in the race without Pete or Joe present.

If you have ever been to Pittsfield for the Death Race, you are aware that there are always amazing staff and volunteers to ensure that the participants have an amazing experience.  What they don’t have is an elaborate computer program called All Things Death Race. It is rather a lot of handwritten notes and personal/walkie talkie conversations. We have been covering it since 2012, and in that time, have witnessed things change on the fly consistently.Often times in the past, Race Directors Joe and Andy, were in heated arguments behind the scenes making determinations of what to do next, or what to do with certain racers. When the race starts, there is a general blue print, but once it begins, its a very fluid process. That is part of the Death Race magic.

This is how different racers in the same Death Race, can have very different experiences.

The Death Race is NOT a marathon, a triathlon, or even an obstacle race. It is, as Patrick Mies II has put so eloquently “The Mother Fuckin’ Death Race”

At 9:00am EST today, we reached out Johnny Waite, and here is what he told us.

“When we set out this year’s race, we structured it to have 6 people recognized as “Finishers”, each to receive a tombstone and a chance to distribute a share of the $80,000 charitable donation. Once again, we were blown away by the tenacity of the racers, and saw far more make it through the barefoot Bloodroot hike than we expected.

When we set the standard as nine laps of that hellish swamp/hill repeat, it looked like we may not even get our six, but people just kept going.

Ultimately, we plucked the top six from an unbelievably unstoppable group.

And then had the rest continue working in the pouring rain, on day 4 with zero sleep, digging graves for the finale, with no expectation of reward.

At that point, they had been told they were unofficial finishers.

Just before the “funeral”, we announced this status to the media, and that is what was reported. That said, a short time later, looking at 30 bedraggled souls, in suits, holding shovels, with dirty faces and dead eyes, I used my authority as Race Director to declare them, in fact, Official Finishers. Even if we didn’t have skulls to hand them, they did complete the standard of everything up to the required laps of the rock carry (9 for men and 5 for women).

The top six were recognized with the tombstones and the opportunity to allocate the donations.

I always appreciate the patience and diligence of Obstacle Racing Media when reporting on our events. It is a confusing, fast changing environment, and we as race directors are often guilty of not providing timely information. Thanks for working hard to get the news out, and to update it as the fog lifts.

A quick comment. There are so many “words” now that we have assigned, intentionally or unintentionally, meaning to in this race. Winner. Finisher. Unofficial Finisher. DNF. DNQ. DNS. DFL. Medical Drop. None of them really matter. Did you show up? You know. Did you toe the line? You know? Did you give it absolutely everything you had? You know. Did you conduct yourself with integrity? Beyond that it is all blah blah blah. That’s just my two cents worth.”


When Joe De Sena was reached this morning for comment, he told us “If Johnny is good, I am”

Congratulations to all finishers.

Daniel Kaali
Eric Anderson
Dallas Daost
Scott Gregory
Chris Rice
Mike Shadow
Wynona Luz
David Magida
Matthew Waller
Kevin Brodsky
Margaret Seymour
Jack Lynch
Dylan Davis
Joshua Fiore
Alexander Stardal
George Dennison
Christopher Humphries
Vincent Spencer
Christina HB Armstrong
Brian Davidsen
Ed Shelton
Anthony Dorsey
Aaron Brazier
Lauren Cisneros
Thomas Sherber
Richard Dymond
Scott Weir
Ian Nichols
Corey Herzlich
Chiemi Heil
Jessie Jamnik
Radostina Townsend
Shane Ellison
Bob Halpin
Tera Spencer


We good? Now, everyone go sign up for Agoge, which looks to pick up where Death Race leaves off.

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. Congratulations to everyone that participated. This event leaves me awestruck every year. Just the fact anyone is bad ass enough to sign up is impressive in my eyes! Looking forward to what events evolve from this event in the future.

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