adventure racing such a dynamic and fast-growing sport worldwide? What has attracted young people in their twenties to compete alongside teammates old enough to be their parents? There are many answers to these questions, but the truth is that nearly every individual has a unique reason and motivation to become an adventure racer.
The sport began with a cadre of eclectic individuals who loved the outdoors and exploration, and, yes, they were a bit driven and competitive, too. They would climb mountains, cycle or ski to the bottom, kayak a bit, and then down a few beers together when it was all over. It was fun, exhilarating, and competitive all while doing what they loved in the outdoors. Today, this type of camaraderie and friendly competition still attracts many people to adventure racing.
For some, adventure racing is the chance to learn new sports and develop new skills. If it werent for adventure racing, the two of us may never have learned to scuba dive (for the Eco-Challenge 2000) or had the opportunity to hydro-speed (whitewater swim) for the Raid Gauloises 2000. Many adventure racers have learned to kayak, ascend and descend ropes, and navigate using a map and compass since becoming involved in the sport. Others, such as those with a military background, enjoy the sport because they can continue using some of the skills they learned while in the service.
Triathletes, endurance runners, and others seeking the next thing: the activity that will test their abilities, their mental as well as their physical strengths, and keep them active in something new, exciting, and cutting edge. A number of these individuals have helped take the sport from an expedition mindset to a more competitive one, creating a demand for shorter, faster adventure races, while pushing the limits of physical ability in the longer races.
For many, doing an adventure race provides a challenge that is not only physical but mental as well. Adventure races contain three interrelated components: 1) the race itself the competition, race course, format, and exploration of new areas, new cultures and nature; 2) the team both intra- and inter-team dynamics; and 3) the individual the self and the ego. All three related components provide an opportunity, each time you race, to learn something new about your surroundings, either in foreign lands or your own backyard, to work together with others to reach a goal, and to stretch your perceived limits beyond what you thought possible to discover that you can do more than you thought you could. A number of top competitors have referred to adventure races as a microcosm of life pretty heady stuff, but certainly an appealing aspect of the sport to many racers. Some competitors describe the race experience as one in which the body is finally broken down enough to begin to discover our universal connectedness and true existence as more than just a body, namely, the beginning of the letting go of ego.
The beauty of adventure racing is that there is plenty of room for all competitors with different backgrounds and athletic abilities those who are still seeking the beauty and thrill of pure exploration while pushing their bodies physically, as well as those seeking good competition. The Salomon X-Adventure Race, a successful European race series held in seven different countries, came to the United States for the first time in 2000. The race featured world-class teams racing to win alongside many beginner teams whose goal was just to finish and have fun. Adventure racing allows each level of team, from the most experienced and competitive to the beginner, to have the experience they want.
Adventure races take place throughout the world. The opportunity to travel to new destinations is another appealing aspect of the sport. Top adventure races in 2000 were set in such exotic locations as Tibet, Nepal, Borneo, New Zealand, Brazil, and China. The perspective you gain for a country, its land, and its people is unique as you race through on foot, by bicycle, or on water. Traversing the countryside unlike an ordinary tourist, going through jungles or caves few people ever see, and interacting with the local people as you pass through their villages gives the adventure racer a view like no other. Even doing an adventure race in an urban area, such as downtown Chicago, or in a familiar place, like a state park near your hometown, allows racers to see the area in a new way perhaps, in a more primitive or unencumbered way.
Historically, many of the top competitors in adventure racing have been in their late thirties and early to mid-forties. This is certainly appealing to lots of us older folks. Maturity, experience, and skill in interpersonal relationships combined with a base of endurance goes a long way in adventure racing. Much of what is sought and gained by participating in an adventure race is also not always predicated upon speed or winning. It is often the experience, the achievement of a goal, or just doing something fun with friends.
For many, the team aspect of adventure racing is one of the most appealing features
of the sport. The opportunities and challenges that each team member might face
during an adventure race help that person to grow and better understand him- or
herself. Sometimes you might be the team member in need of support, whereas at other
times you will be the supportive team member. Traveling with a team throughout a
race allows you to see others in a novel setting; you will observe how they respond
to different situations and challenges, and see emotions, including your own, that
otherwise might be kept hidden or rarely seen. All of this adds up to an incredible
journey of self-discovery while doing something you love.