The recent Amazon Prime series “The World’s Toughest Race” hit the screens and had people wondering where all these mad people were hiding. But the event, called The Eco-Challenge, did not happen in a vacuum and is just one of many adventure races.
There is a vibrant community of adventure lovers and celebrities, like Nathan Fa‘avae, Eco-Challenge winner, who head out into the hills and test their limits against nature, other teams and their past performances.
Put simply, adventure racing is a multi-discipline endurance sport, usually in teams. Participants follow maps and are usually denied the aid of modern GPS. They can be expected to run, hike, cycle, swim, kayak, raft, horse ride, abseil or swim. If the organisers are feeling imaginative, they may throw in another mode of transport.
Part of the beauty of adventure sports is the unknown. On most races, the course and means of travel are kept secret until the last minute. But if you are expected to use some specialist mode of transport, like a horse or a belay device, the organisers will list the required experiences before you enter, so you do not end up in the middle of nowhere unable to get back. If you are worried, contact them and double check. They won’t reveal everything, but if you say “I cannot swim”, they will advise if this is the race for you.
Adventure races can range in distance. It could be a one-day event, or like the Eco-Challenge or Adventure Racing World Championships, it can be over 600km and the winning time around five to six days.
You do not need to be an action man and women and have a whole week of your life free. Start by trail running and cross-country biking. Get your all-round fitness up, practice time on your feet or in the saddle for hours.
Then, through google or one of the many adventure racing Facebook groups, you can find a race near you that suits your free time and experience level. Many adventure races are in teams, so you will also be able to find willing teammates on these social media groups.
Make sure you have the correct equipment, including running shoes and suitable clothing for the climate. Organisers may expect you to have life jackets or helmets too, or they may provide them. Check the list before the day.
If you are expecting to be out for days at a time, train with the food you intend to eat on the course. Do not try a new meal, or dehydrated food, for the first time on race day. It may upset your stomach and ruin your experience even if you can finish.
Remember, your body reacts differently to food when it is tired and pushing its limits. Even if food sits well, make sure you practice eating it when training.
Now get out there and enjoy the wonders of nature.