Don’t be afraid to really live

Paul Januario is a happy husband and the father of two beautiful children; a U.S. Navy veteran; and a city of Sacramento firefighter

As a Sacramento firefighter, you’d think my work would include all the death risks I’m willing to take. But on June 15, I’ll be in Pittsfield, Vermont, participating in a race with the motto “You may die.”

The Death Race is a 48-hour-plus ultra-endurance adventure race, with a completion rate of about 15 percent. It’s made up of both physical and mental elements, including just about any ridiculous or grueling challenge the race’s organizers—called “undertakers”—can think up. Some of the events from past races include 1,500 dead lifts of 40- to 60-pound stones and hay bales while wearing a 50-pound pack. That’s been followed by a 3-mile river hike upstream in 45-degree water, finished up with seven loops on a mile-long obstacle course, using only a hand-held candle to navigate the mud and cold in the darkness.

And that was just the first five hours of last year’s race.

Since last year’s theme was religion, competitors had to memorize Bible verses while climbing 2,000-foot inclines—with penalties, including starting over, for forgetting a single word.

In short, it’s a crazy race. So why do it?

Because it’s not often that you have the opportunity to truly test yourself; to find the limits of what your body and mind can take. I want to push myself to my absolute limit—and then push myself a little further. I figure the best way to do that is simple: one step at a time.

Oh, yeah, and never, ever quit.

When I try to explain to people what this race is or what I will be doing or even why I’m doing it, it’s always the same response: “Why?”

As crazy and impossible as it may sound, I know that the human body and mind is capable of much more than what the average person believes it can do. I am going out there to prove that, especially to myself.