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Volume 20 No. 41
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What I Like: Joe De Sena, Spartan Race


What I Like …

An influential person in my career: Al Cappucci, who begged me to join a firm on Wall Street, which led to my starting a business.

An out-of-the-box idea: If you can help people understand what they are capable of achieving on a personal level, you open incredible opportunities for them to live a better life.

A missed business deal: I missed the opportunity to buy 10 percent of Vitaminwater and I blew it — it would have made me $500 million. So instead I kept working for a living and eventually built a career in obstacle racing.   

A sports facility: My favorite has to be Reebok headquarters in Canton, Mass., because that’s where we have a Spartan course, a collection of running tracks, and a CrossFit gym I visit whenever we have partnership meetings.

A hire: My best hires are the ones that last. I don’t pull any punches — if they last with me, they must be great.

Joe De Sena
CEO and co-founder
Spartan Race

Where I'm from: Queens, N.Y. Currently reside in Pittsfield, Vt.
Where I Went to School: Cornell University. Graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the College of Human Ecology.
My First Job: Selling fireworks in Queens, N.Y., at the age of 9
A brand: Apple, because they just get it right, from innovation to design. They think it through completely and nail it on every single detail.

A fantasy job: Working every day under a master in martial arts in their native country — in Japan in a traditional aikido studio, or in China in a traditional kung fu studio.

What I Like about …

Obstacle racing: I love people emailing me who say we changed their lives. They met their partners, they lost 300 pounds, they’re eating better, sleeping better and having more sex.

Sports media: NBC Sports is my favorite way to keep up with participatory sports. I’m partial to that network because they believed in us by committing to the first network coverage of obstacle racing last fall.

What I Would Like To …

See more of in the sports business: More focus on participatory sports. We’re creating a nation of bystanders, and that’s got to stop.

See less of in sports: Less drugs of all types..

What I Don’t Like …

Pet peeve: Laziness.

In business: Lack of commitment.


What I Like …

That would surprise those who know me: That I can eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream in a single cab ride. I allow myself about 12 pints a year.   

Heroes: Russell Crowe in “Gladiator,” Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi.

Athletes: Spectator sports aren’t my thing, but if pushed, I admire Muhammad Ali and MMA fighter Johny Hendricks.

Team: I don’t have a favorite sports team because, well, I just don’t go through life as a spectator.

Cities: Bath, England, because of the cold, gray, awesome stonework on the buildings there. You can visualize how many hours people put in to create it. Charlevoix, Quebec: It’s cold, lonely and beautiful.

Possession: My Death Race hoodie from Pittsfield, Vt., which is about eight years old. I wear it pretty much every day.

Time of year: Fall, because it’s the calm before the winter. I love getting ready for the hardship of winters in central Vermont.

Bono of U2
Memento: A piece of stone I took from the Great Wall of China 20 years ago. I’m amazed about the commitment of millions of Chinese who built a structure that can be seen from the moon.

Music: U2. It reminds me of four hard years I spent at Cornell when I started listening to them. It brings back memories of college, when I had no money, no TV, no 500 emails a day, no cellphone, just a futon on the floor. It was pretty liberating.

Author: Ayn Rand.

Magazines: Outside magazine and Runner’s World, because they focus on what humans can achieve if they set their minds to it.

Books: Besides my own book, “Spartan Up!” which is coming

out this spring, my favorite book is “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand. I’m a big believer in capitalism.

Gadgets: My Apple Airbook. I can’t believe how light it is; it helps me answer over 500 emails a day.

Apps: I don’t have any apps that I use. We’re working on a Spartan Race app, so I’m sure I’ll start using that one.

Chores: Chopping wood and sweating through burpees. Between the two of them, that’s all you need to stay in shape.

Movie: I loved “Batman Begins” (2005) — it’s the best Batman film of all time. It was an authentic performance by Christian Bale on the origins of the character.  

TV show: Best show of all time: “Breaking Bad.”

Concerts: U2 or Dave Matthews.

Artist: Bono.

Food: Besides Häagen-Dazs, it would be rice and vegetables.

Drink: Just water. Plain Pittsfield, Vt., tap water.

Scent: Wood burning in a chimney in the fall.

Vacation spots: Necker Island, where I visit as
a guest of Richard Branson once a year.

1929 Ford Model A pickup at Riverside Farms
Cars: 1960 International Harvester pickup truck and 1929 Ford Model A pickup. We use them frequently for wedding photography for guests at Riverside Farms in Pittsfield, our wedding and event facility in Central Vermont.  

Quote: “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” Winston Churchill.