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 competition 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 mix and in size from two to five competitors, however, the premier 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 people debate the origin of the modern adventure race. 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 to 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 teams, carry all food and equipment from start to finish—with less than 50 of its 150-mile length on 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 an 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. The USARA has added national rankings, a national championship, 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.

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 Merrel, Richard Ussher, Dave Wiens 2006 Adventure Race World Champions.jpg
2006 Adventure Race World Champions Ian Adamson, Monique Merrel, 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 were 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 in 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 to 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]

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

Orienteering Group of sports that requires navigational skills

Orienteering is a group of sports that require navigational skills 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.

Endurance racing (motorsport) Motorsport over long distances and time periods

Endurance racing is a form of motorsport racing which is meant to test the durability of equipment and endurance of participants. Teams of multiple drivers attempt to cover a large distance in a single event, with participants given a break with the ability to change during the race. Endurance races can be run either to cover a set distance in laps as quickly as possible, or to cover as much distance as possible over a preset amount of time.

Fell running 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.

Mountain bike racing Competitive cycle sport discipline of mountain biking held on off-road terrain

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.


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 will take place from 17–30 November 2018.

Steve Gurney

Stephen Bruce Gurney is a New Zealand multisport and triathlon athlete. He has won the Coast to Coast race a record nine times.

Rally raid Long distance off-road racing

Rally raid, also known as cross-country rallying, is a form of long distance off-road racing that takes place over several days. The length of the event can be as short as 2–3 days for a cross-country baja to as long as 15 days with marathon rallies like the Dakar Rally; with other cross-country rally events lasting 4–5 days. With skill in navigation being key, the driving skill and endurance of riders, drivers, co-drivers, and machines are put to the test. The total distance covered can be anywhere between 600 km to over 5,000 km with terrain ranging from sandy dunes, forest roads, mountain roads, and dry river beds; among others.

Frontier Adventure Sports & Training

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.

Mountain bike orienteering

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.

Obstacle course racing 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.

Underwater orienteering Underwater compass navigation and speed competition on scuba.

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).

Rebecca Rusch American athlete

Rebecca Rusch is an American ultra endurance professional athlete, seven-time World Champion, author, entrepreneur, Emmy Award winner, and motivational speaker whose career has spanned numerous adventure sports including rock climbing, adventure racing, whitewater rafting, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. Rusch was nominated to the International Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2019 as well as the inaugural class of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame in 2022 and owns seven World Championship titles in multiple disciplines. Rusch was a member of the US National Whitewater Rafting Team as well as several international adventure racing teams, participating in the Eco Challenge (1997–2002), Primal Quest (2002–2006) and Raid Gauloises series.

The Bruce Peninsula Multisport Race is a multisport race with no navigational component, held on the Bruce Peninsula since 2011:. Racers follow a marked course on a combination of private and public land and race in multiple stages of paddling, mountain biking and trail running. The course is announced only to the racers on the morning of the race, is five stages long and approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) in length, and can be done solo, in teams of two, or as a relay race. There is also a sprint distance which is typically 25 kilometres (16 mi) in length, as well as a children's race that takes place concurrent with the full distance. The event takes place annually on the second weekend in August and is based out of Wiarton, in Ontario, Canada.

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>

World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji is 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. "Adventure Racing 101". USARA. AR Pathfinder.{{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. "Home » Coast to Coast". Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  3. MARKMAN, JON D. (1991-02-27). "Last Among Finishers, but First in Their Own Hearts". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  4. KLEIN, GARY (1994-03-05). "Topanga Man Seeking to Stage Race of Endurance : Adventure: The event would be a California version of the Raid Gauloises, a 300-mile contest. Obtaining permits is key obstacle". Los Angeles Times. ISSN   0458-3035 . Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  5. Littleton, Cynthia (2018-06-07). "Bear Grylls and Mark Burnett Team to Revive 'Eco-Challenge' Race Franchise". Variety. Retrieved 2018-06-09.

Further reading