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“You need to wear compression shorts, too,” Mr. Canino said. “I went for a training run out on Long Island, and I thought, ‘Who needs this? The ancient Greeks didn’t run with compression shorts.’ By the end of my run, I was so amazingly chafed I could barely walk.”

A death race for life

A few weeks ago, Mr. Canino woke up on a Friday morning. Worked out. Went to the office. Came home and completed a 23-mile hike. Didn’t sleep. Spent Saturday with his daughters; spent late Saturday night and early Sunday morning alternating between walks around his neighborhood and attempts to solve simple math problems.

The next afternoon, Mr. Canino — who ultimately forced himself to remain awake for 62 consecutive hours — drove his daughters to a movie theater.

“Dad,” one of them asked, “are you going to crash the car and kill us all?”

Despite its name, Mr. Weinberg insists, the Death Race isn’t about death. (The event has a detailed safety plan, and competitors in serious physical peril are removed.) It’s about life. The kind of life we no longer live, an existence fraught with danger and discomfort — but also meaning and exhilaration.

As Mr. DeSena once put it, the Death Race is for “the hunter-gatherers in society, the few who can still deal with risk and uncertainty.”

“Go back thousands of years,” Mr. Weinberg said. “If you were cold, you had to figure it out, go find wood and start a fire. Hungry? Go catch an animal. You couldn’t just hop in a car and get McDonald’s.

“We’re so soft now as a society. We live a sedentary lifestyle. Everyone is catered to. We’re all told we’re winners and we can do it. People just kind of sleepwalk through life. With the race, we’re trying to re-create that everyday life struggle.”

Mr. Canino concurs. The Death Race costs $900 to enter. Competitors who complete the event receive a jacket. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

“When you stop growing mentally, when you’re no longer seeking to expand yourself in some way, that’s when you start to age,” Mr. Canino said. “That means you’ve stopped. It’s easy to stop. But you can’t.”

“The thing about everything hard is that it ends. That hill? It has a top. That swim? It has a shore. You just have to get there.”