When Joe DeSena started the first "Spartan Race" in Pittsfield, Vermont, about eight years ago, he had no idea it would become an international phenomenon drawing 300,000 plus people.
Nor did the former Wall Street exec/pool cleaning company owner/exercise fanatic know he would be jamming Oleta River State Park this weekend with thousands of athletes who will crawl through mud, scale walls.throw spears and jump over fire.
"I thought, what if we create an event that brings us back to our roots, makes us become the people we have been the last 900,000 years," he says. "People who get shit done...not unlike Rocky Balboa, Braveheart, or Mother Theresa."
His races have piggybacked on the marathoning trend to grab the imagination of athletes and those who just want to find the animal in themselves. They are now held not just in the United States, but also in England, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.The race's Facebook page has more than 800,000 friends.
Last year was the first race in Miami. It drew 3600 to 4000 people. This weekend DeSena expects to run double that for races of three and eight miles. Runners take off in waves rather than all at once. Online registration and some times are sold out, but sponsors urge those interested to show up. The cost is about $100. Check the website for more information. Hundreds of spectators will be there to watch.
DeSena offers two pieces of advice to participants: "Hydrate and have an open mind. People tend to get so stuck on what they did yesterday. When things go awry, they panic. This event is specifically designed to make things go awry."