Joe De Sena is standing at the end of the mud pit, stance wide, arms crossed, ball cap pulled down to shield his eyes from the piercing California sun. “Why are you WALKING? Come ON! This is a RACE! The finish line is closing in 12 MINUTES! You GOT IT! You’re AWESOME! RUN! RUN!” He’s shouting, cajoling, haranguing and laughing at Spartan Race participants slogging through waist-high, icy cold water.
The racers’ irritated half-smiles turn into full grins the instant they recognize who’s “coaching” them—the founder and CEO of Spartan. “JOE! Mr. De Sena! You changed my life! Can I take a picture with you?” A very fit young man stops for a selfie. A mother introduces her son. De Sena takes another selfie with a pregnant woman whose pink T-shirt is printed with a tiny bow and skull and crossbones on her baby bump.
The course is teeming with people you might not expect to see hustling and struggling together, stopping and dropping for burpees—and stopping to help one another. At the tire-flipping station, a man is coaching a stranger while our 24Life photographer starts yelling encouragement.