Through the Wilderness
By Charmian Christie
Adrenaline junkies keen on outdoor adventures will find the perfect combination of competition and camaraderie in adventure racing. But this relative newcomer to extreme competition is more about pushing personal boundaries than beating the clock. Opponents pull out all the stops as they battle the elements, terrain and their own physical abilities. While solo versions of these races exist, most competitions involve teams of two to five participants. Whether racers participate on same-sex or co-ed teams, in multi-day or short competitions, these races are addictive.
The Magic Cocktail
Unlike a triathlon, there's no prescribed format to adventure racing. Most competitions include mountain biking and running, but some stretches include climbing, rope work or hiking. Some races are spread over several days, with participants navigating through the course with maps and compasses, while others last only a few hours and require racers to scramble through preset routes. Which sports are included are as unique as the location and the event organizers' imaginations.
Adventure Racers - A Different Breed of Outdoor Enthusiasts
The typical adventure racer is a complicated mix of competitive go-getter and laid-back people person. Although lone wolves can test themselves, most people enter for the challenges that arise from group dynamics. While team members push each other to keep up the pace, winning most often results from cohesion, not speed. Since all team members must stay within a certain range of each other (usually 50 yards), and are often tethered together, those focused on solidarity will cross the line before the speed demons who leave teammates in their dust.
Not only does adventure racing merge competitors from different sports, the age range is more diverse than other single-focus sports. Participants typically vary from their early 20s to late 40s, but there's no reason a fit 50-year-old with keen navigation skills can't join the ranks. With strategy and orienteering playing a major role, athletic youths may find themselves chasing the veterans. As one adventure-racing addict put it: "Old age, treachery and good navigation will overcome youth and skill any day."
Regardless of your current abilities, adventure racing is a life-changing sport that will push you further than you ever imagined and bind you to your teammates like no single-event sport can.