Adventure Racing is one of the extreme sports that we blog about regularly, and it is best to remember that it is an extreme sport – witness the tragic death of 3 participants in the Raid du Mercantour last weekend, 21st June.
Adventure Racing is an example of how the mixture of terrain and weather conditions can catch out even the most experienced of runners and trekkers.
When I first started writing about Adventure Racing, the first thing that crossed my mind was that, whilst physically and mentally challenging, a long hike through difficult and varying terrain was a bit ‘tame’.
I apologise profusely to all Adventure Racers – and hasten to add that that thought lasted less than 10 minutes as my research broadened.
Since then I have been impressed and amazed at the antics that the sportsmen (and women) get up to, and think that, as an extreme sport, it is probably one of the best.
Don’t shoot me down in flames if you don’t agree… but Adventure Racing is quite something.
For those of you who are not too sure what Adventure Racing is all about, it’s a combination of two or more disciplines, including orienteering (if an orienting map is used) and/or navigation (when non-orienteering maps are used), cross-country running, mountain biking, paddling and climbing and related rope skills. An expedition event can span ten days or more while sprints can be completed in a matter of hours. There is typically no dark period during races, irrespective of length; competitors must choose if or when to rest.
You need to be superfit. You need to have a team you know well and trust. You need to have mental and physical stamina. And you need to know how to do all the above disciplines … and more.
It’s many sports all rolled into one…
The first official Adventure Race was “The Raid Gauloises”, held in New Zealand in 1989, and consisted of 400 miles of mountaineering, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing and rafting over a two week period. The first U.S. race was the Eco Challenge, held in Utah in 1995.
Adventure Racing has become so popular that it has even had a TV series made in its honour – the Odyssey series (trainingsept ):
So why do it? Well, it has been said that Adventure Racing is one’s own personal road to self-discovery as it allows an individual to find his or her limits and push through them because the ‘Race’ often takes participants out of their comfort zone by challenging them with unfamiliar surroundings, often while sleep deprived and physically exhausted.
Anyone can become an Adventure Racer. It’s an easy crossover for cyclist, runners and water sport enthusiasts. Many former tri-athletes, marathon and ultra-marathon competitors looking to add more spice to their chosen fields have taken it up. Some sportsmen found themselves suffering recurring injuries in their sport and so turned to Adventure Racing as an alternative. Aging athletes, on the other hand, discovered that while they can no longer keep up with 20-somethings in a foot race, in a 24+ hour races, they have some competitive advantages!
As with ALL sports, accidents and tragedies DO happen.
This is the RAID season in France and there are many keen participants.
“I’m used to hiking in mountains since I’m a kid, doing a lot of alpinism, skiing, climbing…I’ve discovered adventure racing about 10 years ago and I love it!” says Carine Porret.
“I like adventure racing because I’m a racer, I like the spirit and the race parties!….” says Franck Salgues
“I’m Brasilian living in Miramas,France,in a beautiful winery,I travelled the world for the past 7 years to compete in diferents AR,” says Karina Bacha.
I could give you hundreds of quotes.
“I was born with a compass in the hand! I participate in a lots of orienteering competitions with all my family…my three daughters and my wife are like me: addicted to!….” says Michel Denaix.
But I won’t!
As I said above, this is the Grand Raid season in France, but on Sunday in the Grand Raid du Mercantour in the South of France about 80kms north of Nice, the region suffered adverse weather conditions and three runners died under tragic circumstances. It was the ‘running stage’ of the race and had already been reduced from 100kms to 80 because of the abundance of snow still around. The alarm was raised as a number of competitors had not returned by the 6pm cut-off time, and emergency services were scrambled in an attempt to locate the missing people. All 3 were in their 50’s and it is suspected that they died of hypothermia and hypoglycaemia. Our sympathies go out to their families.
This is not an extreme sport for nothing…