The Death Race May Be the Death of Me


I signed up for the Death Race for all the wrong reasons. Here is why I still may / may not do it.

Why it may have been a bad idea…

An introduction…

I love doing Spartan Races.  I don’t consider myself a runner (running being my main obstacle race weakness) but because of these races I have trained myself to be the best runner I have been in my whole life – much better than when I came out of bootcamp some almost nineteen years ago. I like the structure of the races – there are set rules. I generally know what to expect out of each of them.  There is only me to blame or credit for my success on each course. I also enjoy seeing the people I see over and over again at Spartan Race events. The past couple of years that I have been doing these races have flown by.


Being a part of this (obstacle race) community is truly inspiring.  I have met some really physically and mentally tough people in the last couple of years.  If you go by the 2014 Spartan Race points series, I like to think to myself, and definitely only in jest, that I am one of USA’s 50 or New York City’s four most fit people – the top percentile of the top one percent. But the real truth is, after coming to know some of these badasses, I really don’t think I am fit at all. I don’t compare myself to the people I have out trained but only to those who out train me. That puts me in the very bottom percentile in my mind. For the reoccurring role of victim I have played much of my life, the bottom means I have already lost this Death Race thing. So why do it?

So when a business competitor of mine who I don’t care much for, and whom I vainly thought has less grit than me, announced on Facebook that he signed up for the Death Race, immediately I had to do so myself . I hate Facebook. Personally, more bad than good has come through its existence in my life. It was the victim in me thinking I wasn’t at the bottom of this event anymore and in a weird obstacle race business sense, I was keeping up with the Joneses.  This was a really impulsive, immature way of decision making.  You could however, easily argue there is no right or wrong reason to partake in an endeavor such as the Death Race. The point is I signed up.

I am done playing tough guy. Life is too short and it is due time for me to figure out what I, Paul Buijs, really want in life – and much more importantly, what I need to do to get there.  Do I want to play mental games for a few days in Vermont and help Joe and Andy (DeSena and Weinberg, the founders of Spartan Race), who will surely be looking on with huge grins, build up more of their property on the many acres they own there? (last year Death Racers helped build a large rock stair case up a mountain)

I am also not a fan of the fact that one of the requirements for the race is securing a media mention for the race.  Easy task for me as this is my website – a somewhat established media outlet in the obstacle race industry.  I could write some descriptive fluff piece about the event and how Mud and Adventure’s own Paul B is doing the race but there are enough of those kinds of pieces out there.  If you ask me the press requirement kind of takes away the allure and mystery of the race for me and makes it more a business thing – maybe I just see it that way because I have been somewhat indoctrinated to the races and their culture.  To be fair the media requirement is technically not a requirement. There is a 5000 burpee penalty for those that don’t do it, and who likes burpees? So here you go – my media piece just in case I do decide to show up in Vermont June 27.


I dropped a couple hundred dollars on the race registration impulsively. I have no clue how I am going to pay next month’s rent, let alone my monthly health insurance bill or buy the gear I need to do the race. I should just consider the registration a sunk cost and move on.


I am a currently reading an advanced copy of the book Spartan UP! by Joe DeSena.  While I try to believe I haven’t been consumed by the cult that is the Spartan Race way of life , and nor do I  want to be (beyond enjoying the races), parts of the book do resonate with me. Joe (or his ghost writer) mention the term “frame of reference” a few times – something is either  hard or easy to you in comparison to the hardest thing you have done so far.  To Joe who had already completed several multi day endurance events prior to doing an Ironman, his 12 hour Ironman seemed like a warmup.

The hardest race I have done so far, Fuego y Agua Survival Run, was over a year ago in Nicaragua.  Race amnesia has long set in and I think your frame of reference  can and does fade over time – again, bootcamp was nineteen years ago.   The Death Race is outside of my frame of reference – I haven’t done anything like the Death Race, an an endurance race lasting 48+ hours so why do I think I can or would want to do it?  Maybe I should expand my frame of reference by doing the Vermont UltraBeast first?  I can recall telling myself several times in the past year that I am content not running any more races longer than 13 miles…

Why I may still do it…

  • as possible training for another multi-day endurance event, one that doesn’t require its participants to announce their participation in the media –  (yet this article just as aptly sums up my mixed emotions towards my possible participation in that event)
  • the fact that I already paid for it, thus there being no better time than the present to check that box…
  • to reset my frame of reference – both mentally and physically.
  • to kill a part of me – the victim inside me (if I don’t kill him first).
  • why not?



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here