Adventure racing

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Team Wild Rose setting out on the paddling section at Full Moon in June 2009, Panorama Mountain Village FullMoonInJune2009.JPG
Team Wild Rose setting out on the paddling section at Full Moon in June 2009, Panorama Mountain Village
Team Intrepid Travel at the start line of Raid the North Extreme Prince Rupert & Haida Gwaii, BC, 2007 Raid the North Extreme team.jpg
Team Intrepid Travel at the start line of Raid the North Extreme Prince Rupert & Haida Gwaii, BC, 2007

Adventure racing (also called expedition racing) is typically a multidisciplinary team sport involving navigation over an unmarked wilderness course with races extending anywhere from two hours up to two weeks in length. Some races offer solo competitions as well. The principal disciplines in adventure racing include trekking, mountain biking, and paddling although races can incorporate a multitude of other disciplines including climbing, abseiling, horse riding, skiing and white water rafting. [1] Teams generally vary in gender and in size from two to five competitors, however, the main format is considered to be mixed-gender teams of four racers. There is typically no suspension of the clock during races, irrespective of length; elapsed competition time runs concurrently with real-time, and competitors must choose if or when to rest.



The roots of adventure racing are deep and the origin of the modern adventure race is debatable. Some point to the two-day Karrimor International Mountain Marathon, first held in 1968 as the birth of modern adventure racing. The Karrimor Marathon required two-person teams to traverse mountainous terrain while carrying all the supplies required to support themselves through the double-length marathon run.

In 1980, the Alpine Ironman was held in New Zealand. Individual competitors ran, paddled, and skied toward a distant finish line. Later that year, the Alpine Ironman's creator, Robin Judkins launched the better-known Coast to Coast race, [2] which involved most of the elements of modern adventure racing: trail running, cycling and paddling. Australia's 2-day WildTrek ran from 1981 through 2005.

Independently in 1982, the first expedition-length adventure race, a week-long, North American event called the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic debuted. The Classic involved wilderness travel—no roads, no pack animals, and no support team to carry food and equipment from start to finish—with less than 50 of its 150-mile length on a trail. It continues today, changing courses every 3 years.

Modern adventure racing

In 1989, the modern era of adventure racing arrived with Gerald Fusil's launch of the Raid Gauloises in New Zealand. Inspired by the Paris-Dakar Rally, Fusil envisioned an expanded expedition-style race in which competitors would rely on their own strength and abilities to traverse great and challenging terrain. The race included all the modern elements of adventure racing, including mixed-gender teams competing in a multi-day 400+ mile race. Building on Fusil's concept, the inaugural Southern Traverse was held in 1991.

In the early 1990s, Mark Burnett read a Los Angeles Times article [3] about Raid Gauloises and was inspired to compete and bring the race to the USA and promote the race as a major televised sporting event. [4] After purchasing the rights from Gerald Fusil, Burnett launched the first "Eco-Challenge" race in 1995. Burnett promoted his event with Emmy-award-winning films (tapping the talent of Mike Sears to produce the films for the first two events). This incarnation of Eco-Challenge was last held in 2002 when Burnett shifted his focus to Survivor, the Contender, the Apprentice and other reality-based television shows. With the Eco-Challenge also came the name "adventure race", a phrase coined by journalist and author Martin Dugard, to describe the class of races embodied by the Raid and Eco-Challenge.

Ian Adamson and Mark Burnett at Eco-Challenge Fiji 2002 Ian Adamson and Mark Burnett at Eco-Challenge Fiji 2002.png
Ian Adamson and Mark Burnett at Eco-Challenge Fiji 2002

The United States Adventure Racing Association "USARA" was formed in 1998. The USARA was the first "national governing body" for the sport of adventure racing and arose from the need for safety standards, insurance and to promote the growth of adventure racing in the United States. USARA has added national rankings, a national championship, and ecological standards to the list of benefits provided for the sport of adventure racing.

In 2000, the inaugural United States Adventure Racing Association Adventure Race National Championship was held in Kernville, California. The USARA National Championship is typically held the first weekend in October and is considered the premier adventure race in the U.S. The USARA Adventure Racing National Championship has continued each year drawing the best US teams for a chance at earning the title of national champion. The National Points Series Champion is also awarded at the National Championship.

In 2001, the inaugural World Championships were held in Switzerland with Team Nokia Adventure crossing the finishing line first. The concept of a world championship lay dormant until it was revived in 2004, with Canada's Raid the North Extreme serving as the AR World Championship event in Newfoundland & Labrador. The Adventure Racing World Series and its ultimate event, the AR World Championships have been held every year since. The 2013 World Championships were in Costa Rica, 2014 in Ecuador, 2015 in Brazil, 2016 in Australia, 2017 in the United States, and 2018 off the coast of Africa on the Reunion Island.

2006 Adventure Race World Champions Ian Adamson, Monique Merrill, Richard Ussher, Dave Wiens 2006 Adventure Race World Champions.jpg
2006 Adventure Race World Champions Ian Adamson, Monique Merrill, Richard Ussher, Dave Wiens

In 2004, professional geologist Stjepan Pavicic organized the first Patagonian Expedition Race at the bottom tip of the American continent, in the Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Truly demanding routes through rough terrain of often more than 600 km soon made it be known as "the last wild race".

In 2010, the German Adventure Race Series was held for the first time in three different locations all over Germany. Since then the popularity of the sport in Germany has grown every year. More races and venues have joined the series and the number of competitors are still growing from year to year. Competitors can start in teams of two (male, female or mixed) within the categories Master (15–20 h), Challenger (8–10 h) or Beginner (4–6 h).

In 2010 in Australia Adventure Junkie company was launched. It formed a grassroots movement to help promote and expand the sport of Adventure Racing in Australia. They have started a series of short sprint races and longer expedition-style events up to 48-hour events.

In 2012, Commander Forer of the Royal Navy organized the first Sea-land navigation discipline race The Solent Amphibious Challenge. The race demanded the competitors split up between sailing, running, and cycling in parts of the race and rendezvous at the end, and sail the yacht to the finish line.

In December 2017, the Adventure Racing Cooperative (ARC) was launched in the United States. It was formed in a grassroots movement to help promote and expand the sport of Adventure Racing in the United States. ARC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit business.

In June 2018 Eco-Challenge announced it would re-launch in 2019 with Bear Grylls and the original production team [5]

In December 2018 launched Warrior Adventure Racing in the US and has become one the largest event groups in the World with adventure races like the famous "Sea to Sea Expedition Race" across Florida, Expedition Alaska and Expedition Colorado.

Race types



Setting up a kayak sail just before the start of Primal Quest 2003 James+Pre-+race+by+sail.jpg
Setting up a kayak sail just before the start of Primal Quest 2003
Preparing for the climbing section at an adventure race (Adrenaline Rush) in Scotland Scotland AR.JPG
Preparing for the climbing section at an adventure race (Adrenaline Rush) in Scotland

The majority of adventure races include trail running, mountain biking, and a paddling event. Navigation and rope work are also featured in all but the shortest races. Races often feature:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Orienteering</span> Group of sports that requires navigational skills

Orienteering is a group of sports that involve using a map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain whilst moving at speed. Participants are given a topographical map, usually a specially prepared orienteering map, which they use to find control points. Originally a training exercise in land navigation for military officers, orienteering has developed many variations. Among these, the oldest and the most popular is foot orienteering. For the purposes of this article, foot orienteering serves as a point of departure for discussion of all other variations, but almost any sport that involves racing against a clock and requires navigation with a map is a type of orienteering.

Mountain marathon is an extended form of fell running, usually over two days and often with a strong orienteering element. Competitors usually participate in teams of two, and have to carry their own food and tent. There are various classes of event.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fell running</span> Sport of running and racing, off-road, over upland country

Fell running, also sometimes known as hill running, is the sport of running and racing, off-road, over upland country where the gradient climbed is a significant component of the difficulty. The name arises from the origins of the English sport on the fells of northern Britain, especially those in the Lake District. It has elements of trail running, cross country and mountain running, but is also distinct from those disciplines.

The Raid Gauloise or The Raid is considered by many to be the first modern expedition adventure race and was first held in 1989 in New Zealand as "la grande traversée". Its creator, Gérard Fusil, took the existing concept of long distance endurance races like the Whitbred Round the World Yacht Race, and focused on the team aspects, requiring each competitor to be part of a five-person co-ed team supported by a two-person logistics crew. The Raid had no set course, with competitors being required to rely on their wits and judgment to reach the specified checkpoints. The Raid was named after its original sponsor, the Gauloises Cigarette Company.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountain bike racing</span> Competitive cycle sport discipline

Mountain bike racing is the competitive cycle sport discipline of mountain biking held on off-road terrain. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) recognised the discipline relatively late in 1990, when it sanctioned the world championships in Durango, Colorado. The first UCI Mountain Bike World Cup series took place in 1988. Its nine-race circuit covered two continents—Europe and North America—and was sponsored by Grundig. Cross-country racing was the only World Cup sport at this time. In 1993, a six-event downhill World Cup was introduced. In 1996, cross-country mountain biking events were added to the Olympic Games. In 2006, cross-country mountain biking events became part of the World Deaf Cycling Championships for the first time in San Francisco, USA.

John Howard is considered the central pioneer of adventure racing.

<i>Eco-Challenge</i> American TV series or program

Eco-Challenge: The Expedition Race is a multi-day expedition length adventure race in which teams of four competed. It originally aired on TV from April 1995 to April 2002. Based closely on the Raid Gauloises adventure race, the broadcast of Eco-Challenge led to the popularity of the adventure racing.

The Patagonian Expedition Race is an annual endurance adventure race that takes place in the remote wilderness of Chilean Patagonia, run to help protect and raise awareness about the fragile environment in this region. Known as the 'Race to the End of the World', the 10-day event challenges co-ed international teams of four athletes in the disciplines of trekking, sea kayaking, orienteering, and mountain biking. The race takes place on a different course each year, with competitors using a map and compass to navigate through previously unknown terrain. Due to its challenging nature, it is also known as 'The Last Wild Race', and has been described as 'The World's toughest adventure race' and the ‘Dakar’ of adventure racing. The 13th edition of the race took place from 17 to 30 November 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rally raid</span> Long distance, multiday, off-road racing

Rally raid is a type of off-road motorsport event for automobiles and motorcycles. Along with shorter baja rallies, rally raid constitutes cross-country rallying. Both the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) co-organise a common World Rally-Raid Championship featuring the same events for both types of vehicle.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frontier Adventure Sports & Training</span>

Frontier Adventure Sports and Training (FAST) is the most establishedneeds citation adventure race organizer in Canada, in operation since 1997. Frontier Adventure Sports has established an international reputation for solid logistics and challenging racecourses. FAST hosts events under several banners: the Frontier Adventure Challenge, Raid the North and Raid the North Extreme. These non-stop races range in length from 8 hours to six days and require coed teams of three or four to hike, mountain bike, paddle and negotiate fixed ropes, while navigating an unmarked racecourse through the wilderness.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mountain bike orienteering</span>

Mountain bike orienteering is an orienteering endurance racing sport on a mountain bike where navigation is done along trails and tracks. Compared with foot orienteering, competitors usually are not permitted to leave the trail and track network. Navigation tactics are similar to ski-orienteering, where the major focus is route choice while navigating. The main difference compared to ski-orienteering is that navigation is done at a higher pace, because the bike can reach higher speeds. As the biker reaches higher speeds, map reading becomes more challenging.

The Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) is an endurance racing season where adventure racing teams compete in a range of disciplines including, for example, navigation, trekking, mountain biking, paddling and climbing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Obstacle course racing</span> Sports discipline

Obstacle course racing (OCR) is a sport in which a competitor, traveling on foot, must overcome various physical challenges in the form of obstacles. Races vary in length from courses with obstacles close together to events of several kilometers which incorporate elements of track, road and/or cross country/trail running. Courses may include climbing over walls or up ropes, monkey bars, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water or mud, crawling under barbed wire, and jumping through fire. Since the beginning of modern OCR in 1987, the sport has grown in popularity such that more than 2500 events are held annually across the world and several run organizing companies are commercially successful.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Rogaining Federation</span>

International Rogaining Federation (IRF) is the peak international body for the sport of rogaining. The aims of the IRF are to promote rogaining worldwide, maintain the culture and the rules of the sport.

Underwater orienteering is an underwater sport that uses recreational open circuit scuba diving equipment and consists of a set of individual and team events conducted in both sheltered and open water testing the competitors' competency in underwater navigation. The competition is principally concerned with the effectiveness of navigation technique used by competitors to swim an underwater course following a route marked on a map prepared by the competition organisers, a compass and a counter meter to measure the distance covered. The sport was developed in the Soviet Union during the late 1950s and is played mainly in Europe. It is known as Orientation Sub in French and as La Orientación Subacuática in Spanish. Historically, the sport has also been known as Technical Disciplines.

Ian Adamson is a former competitive adventure racer, television professional and president of World Obstacle, the Fédération Internationale de Sports d’Obstacles (FISO).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rebecca Rusch</span> American athlete

Rebecca Rusch is an American endurance professional athlete, seven-time World Champion, author, entrepreneur, Emmy Award winner, and motivational speaker. Rusch's career has spanned adventure sports including rock climbing, adventure racing, whitewater rafting, cross-country skiing and mountain biking.

Robyn Benincasa is an American endurance racer, adventure racer, author, and motivational speaker. She was a competitor in several seasons of the Eco-Challenge: The Expedition Race reality television show. Her team won the 2000 Eco-Challenge in Borneo. She went on to found or co-found two companies focused on team-building for corporate clients. She is the founder of Project Athena, a nonprofit organization that helps women who have experienced medical challenges to fulfill their athletic ambitions. She holds three Guinness World Records.

<i>Worlds Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji</i> TV series or program

World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji is a television series documenting a long-range multi-day expedition race in which teams race non-stop with little to no sleep over mountains, jungles, and oceans. The series is a revival of the Eco-Challenge series first broadcast from 1995 to 2002. The race took place in Fiji in September 2019, and the television series documenting the race hosted by Bear Grylls premiered on Amazon Prime Video on August 14, 2020.


  1. "New To Adventure Racing". USARA.
  2. "Coast to Coast". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  3. Markman, Jon D. (27 February 1991). "Last Among Finishers, but First in Their Own Hearts". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  4. Klein, Gary (5 March 1994). "Topanga Man Seeking to Stage Race of Endurance: Adventure: The event would be a California version of the Raid Gauloises, a 300-mile contest". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  5. Littleton, Cynthia (7 June 2018). "Bear Grylls and Mark Burnett Team to Revive 'Eco-Challenge' Race Franchise". Variety. Retrieved 9 June 2018.

Further reading