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Are you sick of the relentless pussification of Wall Street? Does it just burn you up inside that the majority of your co-workers consider eating 8 items from the vending machine over the course of 12 hours a challenge, which most of them would fail miserably and not be put in a burlap sack and beaten? Do you want harken back to a time when instead of being asked to participate in some dinky little JPMorgan 5k “challenge” or harangued into taking a Pilates class with one of your colleagues and getting your nails done after, you were going around the office signing people up for a feat of strength involving rolling around in the dirt, being lit on fire, and possibly dying? You’re not alone.
A small but growing number of financial services professionals are taking part in “extreme adventures” such as the “Spartan Race” and the “Death Race,” in which participants are forced to, among other things, crawl under barbed wire and defy their food allergies. The events are operated by Peak Races, which was founded by Collins Stewart managing director Joseph Desena, who describes the company’s MO as such: “Our best analogy to present our message is that we are all animals. Visualize this: You come home one day and your pet is watching Oprah, drinking a coffee, toenails painted, smoking a cigarette, and complaining that she needs a new mattress. Or you come home and that same dog just ran 22 miles chasing a bird, killed it, ate it raw, and drank some water. Which animal is the normal one?” I honestly have no idea how that is supposed to communicate what PR’s message is but what I think Desana is getting at, and what I suspect were probably his original words before his quote was cleaned up for print was, “You wanna be a man or you wanna be a f*g?”
Assuming you said you wanted to be the dog that eats birds “raw,” here’s what you’ll have to look forward to in exchange for a $50-70 entrance fee:
“Spartans, prepare for glory!” bellows a bearded man in a cape and helmet as he paces before more than 1,700 jittery aspiring warriors. “No retreat! No surrender! That is Spartan law. Remember to return with your shield—or on it!” Then he grunts—”Ah-roo!”—and a horde of adrenalized hoplites charges forth with abandon. Soil abounds in Brooklyn’s Spartan Race. For more than three miles, racers overcome irregularly spaced hurdles, a 12-foot-high pile of wood and dirt, a horizontal climbing wall, an inclined ramp greased with shortening, and—just before the finish line—two bare-chested men with jousting sticks. It’s messy, but is it really Spartan? “I’m a big fan of the movie 300, and we were looking for a symbol that represented ingenuity, bravery, strength, and the will to overcome adversity,” says co-founder Sevigny. “The Spartans were renowned for that.”
And it’s not just for Spartan dudes, Spartan ladies are welcome, too. Stefanie Bishop, pictured, has been doing these things for about a year and says the events are a great way to put the ax she owns to good use and to also pick up new clients for her day job as a vice-president of equity derivatives at brokerage firm Elevation. She was the first woman finisher and sixth overall in this past winter’s Death Race, in which she had to sit in an “ice-broken pond” for 45 minutes and chug a gallon of milk. “One of the girls was lactose-intolerant,” she said. “She put it down pretty quickly, but part of it came up.”
Another bafflingly cruel Death Race task required Bishop to bushwhack through mountainous woods carrying a pack filled with $50 worth of pennies (about 28 lbs.), 10 lbs. of raw onions, and an 8-lb. Greek language primer (for later use in translating the sentence “The race is only a quarter over”). In the middle of the woods they were met by a crowned man who called himself the Onion King. Contestants were forced to chop up the onions in 1-in.-by-1-in. pieces, sort them into 1-lb. bags, and eat one bag. On the other side of the mountain, they had to eat another pound. It could have been worse: During the winter running of the race, contestants were given a sequence of eight two-and three-digit numbers to memorize. After running four miles, they had to recite it correctly—or else run back up the mountain.