Two years ago, Call left the suburbs of Salt Lake City in a 10-year-old Dodge Caravan and drove 11 hours to Temecula, Calif., to compete in his first Spartan Race. Call, who has the fastest known time for lunging a mile (24 minutes, 56 seconds) and has run marathons, thought it would make for a fun vacation. He packed his own food and slept in his car. The next day, he blew away his competition in a race that involved climbing a slippery wall, running through flames and solving one side of a Rubik’s Cube.
Since then, Call has gone to extraordinary lengths to win six Spartan Races in a row. He sold his TV, he said, to buy a plane ticket to a race in Austin. Thanks to a cult following, fans and competitors helped cover some expenses and offered up their hotel rooms so he does not have to sleep in his car.
Race organizers are looking for someone to defeat him. De Sena, an institutional trader, said he invested his life savings in the series and will have to pay $100,000 out of his own pocket if Call reaches the goal.
“We were told we should get insurance,” he said. “We laughed and said no one could do this.”
Spartan Race staffer Jason Rita has been charged with finding the perfect athlete to beat Call. He has asked everyone from mixed martial-arts studios to the Navy SEALs to send someone. All have declined. In one race, Call nearly lost when he was asked to drag bricks using a rope. A competitor caught up to him, but Call out-sprinted him to the finish.
Call looks nothing like the hulking Spartans in the Hollywood film “300.” He has the stature of a distance runner, wears glasses and has a quick smile.
“I don’t have that rough look, but when it comes time for the race, I have that rough mentality,” he said.
He said runners do not have the upper-body strength to beat him, and the buff guys are too slow.
“It’s my combination of strength and speed,” he says. “Good luck finding somebody.”