Why is Mark Petersen selling his truck?

Mark maneuvers under a log at the Spartan Beast in Montana.

Mark Petersen, a Utah resident and Spartan racer, underwent a staggering transformation this summer. At hour 20 of the 60-hour Spartan Agoge, he broke his foot. He refused to quit. He turned his mind relentlessly to the needs of his team, his pain disappeared, and he finished the event. Rather than see this as a sign he went too far, he wants more. Mark has signed up for the Agoge-003 in China, and he’s bringing an army.

Read our interview below.

David DeLuca (DD). | Let’s talk about the Agoge in October. Most people are afraid of doing something like this, but you are going at it with an entire team. Who are you bringing?

Mark Petersen (MP). | We’re taking people who have expressed interest in the past, my current Warrior State of Mind racing team…but as they have been registering, we encounter more and more people who are interested.

We’re approaching it in the same way as most people do for a regular Spartan Race. Once you make the commitment, the rest of the challenge just falls into place. Anybody who registers today (read: 29 July 2016) has 11 weeks to get ready, find a flight, finance their hotel, plan their training…but once they make that commitment to registration, the momentum carries over to get them through the rest of the obstacles. Once we identify people who are committed and have a good “why,” we remove the financial obstacle (the registration cost) by raising funds. Once we pay for that, the rest is up to them.

Mark and his team have taken every avenue to generate funds: a local 5K, a group garage sale, lemonade, a bake sale, selling merchandise, taking donations, and even sending flyers out to local companies asking them to sponsor an athlete. Most recently, Mark and his wife have decided to sell a pickup truck they owned but used infrequently.

MP. | The truck is paid-for, we don’t drive it every day, it’s kind of just an extra truck just for fun, and it didn’t make any sense to have it parked in our driveway while other people benefit from [the money]. We put it on an auction status, and we’ve decided not to list the truck by how much it costs in dollars, but by how many lives it can change. We’re pumped. Right now, we have 19 people registered — already funded.

DD. | You’re going to China. What are you telling these 19 people is going to happen? They must be asking you what they should expect. What do you tell them?

MP. | As far as Asian culture goes, the only thing I’m telling the group is that it’s a really rare opportunity to do an event like this outside of the U.S. There are obviously some amazing opportunities we can’t get exposed to in Vermont — such as the Great Wall of China, the sights of Beijing. I’m approaching the location of this event as I would approach any other Spartan event; regardless of its location, the event itself is a life-changing opportunity.

Whether it’s in Utah or in China, the fact is that you do not come home the same person. I’m telling my team to be prepared to be broken, to be prepared to want to quit, to be prepared to face failure and then overcome it. People have said, “I don’t know if I should spend so much time away from my family.” “I don’t know if I should spend all my vacation time.” But the way I see it, you’re going to come home a better employee and a better parent. Is that worth the cost of the trip? The vacation spend? The people who have signed up agree: yes, it is.

DD. | You’ll also be participating in the event, also. I remember you broke your foot again at the Agoge-002; what makes you want to go back to an event like this where you could suffer a similar injury?

MP. | For whatever reason, when I went to the Agoge the first time, I came back a different person. I found new limits. I found that what I thought were my limits before — were not real; they were imagined. My next question is: what’s the next tier for me? What’s the next level for me? When can I take this new person? Can this new person become even more motivated, even more selfless, even better? I think the answer is yes.

The motto of Spartan is “building better humans.” I came back from the Agoge a better human. Now, I want to know: can I get to the next level. While I think most people would be satisfied — done it once, bucket list check! — but you’ll notice that on our registration list, I’m not alone in repeating the event. Several people from 001 and 002 are signed up for 003 because they realize how much personal change happens there.

DD. | Tell me about the people you got to sign up. What’s special about them?

MP. | They’re too numerous to list, but I’ve got…

  • Megan Casey from Denver, CO | my nutritionist and personal trainer who got me prepared for the first event. She’s an amazing athlete.
  • Scott Crane from Chicago, IL | ranked in the top 10% of all Spartan Race participants. He should be on the podium in the next few races.
  • Martin Parr | attended the Agoge-002
  • Oleg Boyarko | attended the Agoge-002
  • Amanda and Rusty Keel
  • My two nephews Tim and Drew Dahlberg from San Diego, CA | superior surfers and mountain climbers looking for an adventure.
  • My son Jeff | a powerlifter from Portland, OR
  • Brandon Baker | a sort of adopted son of mine. He and his father talked me into doing my first Spartan Race.
  • A bunch of local folks from my Warrior State of Mind team who are fantastic athletes in their own right. After hearing me talk about the Agoge and give my final report, they said, “I want in. When’s the next one? Let’s go!”

DD. | I imagine you’re getting a ton of requests for funding. Are you turning anyone away?

MP. | We’re not just taking anyone who says they want to come. They have to submit an application to the team, give their reason for wanting to go — they need to have a solid “why.” We’re turning some people away. If people want to go just “for fun,” we don’t accept the application. If they say they can’t afford the whole thing, we also don’t accept their application — we don’t want to sponsor athletes 100 percent and not have put some skin in the game. If they want to go, they’ll find a way.

DD. | How do you feel about this project? You’ve got 19 people signed up to go to China. Does it feel like a great accomplishment?

MP. | I don’t think so. Getting them registered is certainly something to be happy about, but I’ll feel accomplished when the people we got registered finish the event. I’ll feel accomplished when we’re all on the plane coming home from China with our notebooks out writing down the details of what we’re going to do with our lives next. That will be the real accomplishment.

DD. | Let your team know that I’d be happy to read anything they write.

The Agoge is an integral part of the Spartan TRIFECTA Delta, a nine-part journey of learning, growing and overcoming limits in Spartan events. After two life-changing iterations (001 and 002) in Vermont, the Agoge moves to Beijing, China, where participants will endure a new test on the Great Wall.

[Editor’s note: As of August 1st, 2016, Mark has 22 people registered for the event.]

Learn more about the Spartan Agoge, or join us in China.

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