The finale of the 2019 Spartan Death Race was just as exciting as the start. Here are the scenes from the end of the world’s most grueling obstacle course.
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Here’s a look at the number of Denali challenge laps each racer was able to complete.
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And then there were 24. After more than 60 hours, no racers had their bibs—but there were 24 still fighting for them back. Exhausted to the highest understanding of the word, racers performed sprints, bear crawls, and other exercises. They were hosed down while performing over 50 burpees each.
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With the stakes higher than ever and having just memorized and recited President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech, the teams learned their fate. The two racers who actually completed the Denali challenge were the first to receive their bibs back. Then, anyone whose original partner was still on the field was allowed to grab their bib as well. This cut the racers from 24 to 18 for the final challenge of the Death Race.
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Before the final challenge of the 2019 Summer Death Race began, De Sena gathered everyone around and explained that this was their last chance to prove they were part of the one-percenters who were worthy of getting a skull. De Sena said that for every five minutes that lapsed during the last challenge, he would destroy one skull. To reinforce this point, De Sena had his wife, Courtney, shoot two skulls out of the sky like a skeet shoot. While Courtney missed both shots, a staff member went over and shot one of the skulls while it was on the ground.
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As De Sena explained the next challenge and what he expected, a racer scrambled to her feet and ran across the yard that the shotgun had just been fired across. Athena Ojeda (#73) took a risk, and it paid off when she returned to the group with a skull in hand. The slightly stunned group registered what had just happened, and De Sena declared the Death Race over with Ojeda being the only finisher. She became the first woman to win the event. However, as is the Death Race way, there was a caveat.
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De Sena gave Ojeda two options: take the skull and be the only official finisher of the race, or give it back and continue competing to give the rest of the group the oppurtunity to finish as well.
Ojeda immediately said she’d give the skull back to finish as a group, but someone else within the group suggested smashing the skull into 18 pieces, and that’s what Ojeda did. With her ax, she smashed her hard-won skull into 18 pieces and handed them out. Once every racer had a piece, the staff told them they could accept the piece and be done, or retrieve seven skulls from the beaver pond.
Over 70 hours had lapsed since the beginning of the race, and the group collectively appeared to agree it was about the journey, not the skull. Then, a few racers took off and retrieved skulls. In the end, there were 18 finishers with a piece of skull, eight with whole skulls, and Athena Odeja as the first female to be the top overall finisher in the history of the Death Race.
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Over 70 hours in and a little worse for the wear but still resilient, the 18 finishers of the 2019 Summer Death Race smile for a photo.