Spartan Race founder's Olympic dreams - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Spartan Race founder's Olympic dreams

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Energy is high at the start, but survival instincts set in quickly at the Spartan Race. Don't waste your time feeling bad for these racers, they paid to do it.

Joe Desena and his counterpart, Andy Weinberg, are natural-born competitors. They like to challenge each other to outrageous physical feats. Out of that passion they developed this -- a 12 mile course winding through the mountains with obstacles that test your physical and mental strength. This year's course took athletes anywhere from 3 to 12 hours to complete.

In the last three years Desena's Spartan Race has turned into a global business with 80 employees based is in Pittsfield, Vermont. "This business that started as a hobby up here has turned into a giant industry," Desena said.

The event has grown from 1,500 participants at the very first race to 650,000 competing annually in more than 60 races held world wide -- in places like London, Canada -- even Australia. The Killington event served as this year's World Championships. Hodie Call of Utah took home first place. Desena says the formula for this exponential success is a product of basic human wiring. "Signing up for an event with friends works. you're on the hook and told everybody you're doing it, so now what are you going to do -- not show up? people are competitive," Desena said.

This year the Vermont-based group partnered with Reebok. Desena admits he was hesitant to go the corporate route, but he says Reebok showed the company is on board with the extreme fitness lifestyle that is the Spartan Race. "They crushed me.  I went down there to work out with them. These guys are tough as nails -- you wouldn't think it at Reebok. I was thinking headbands and Jazzercise but they crush it," Desena said.

But that's not the only reason -- Desena has Olympic dreams and knows these alliances help legitimize that goal. "You've got ping-pong, curling -- what's that dance with the twirling ribbon dancing? Come on, the Spartan Race should be in the Olympics," he said.

With all the success, Desena doesn't have much free time anymore -- the cost of being the boss.  Most days he's flying a desk, but he travels the world to see his passion catch fire.
Reporter Molly Smith: Do you go to every single one of these races?

Joe Desena: I go to a bunch of them.

Reporter Molly Smith: Do you participate?

Joe Desena: I carry a sandbag and walk around -- I'm not really racing. If they want to race me on answering emails, no one could beat me.

The Spartan Race is far from over, but most participants will tell you their favorite part is the finish line.

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