Adventure racing is a combination of two or more endurance disciplines, including orienteering (if an orienteering 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.
Adventure racing historically required teams to be of a specified size and to include both men and women, but many races no longer restrict team size and include single-sex divisions. Some also include age-based categories.
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, which involved most of the elements of modern adventure racing: trail running, cycling and paddling. Independently, a North American race, the Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic debuted in 1982 and involved six days of unsupported wilderness racing (carry all food and equipment, no roads, no support) over a 150-mile course. It continues today, changing courses every 3 years.
In 1989, the modern era of adventure racing had clearly 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-90's, Mark Burnett read an L.A. Times article about Raid Gauloises and was inspired to not only take the race to the USA, but to promote the race as a major televised sporting event. 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). The Eco-Challenge was last held in 2002. 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.
In 2002, the first major expedition length race to be held exclusively in the United States was launched. Primal Quest has become the premier U.S. expedition race, being held each year since its launch. In 2004, the death of veteran racer Nigel Aylott over-shadowed the race, and raised debates about the nature of Primal Quest and adventure racing.
In 2004, professional geologist Stjepan Pavicic organised 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”.
How can I get involved around London?
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Founded 1968 the OMM is the originator of the 2 day mountain marathon type event and is for teams of 2, carrying all clothing, equipment, tent, sleeping bag, food for 36 hours, navigating one's own route and including an overnight camp.
Teams are totally self supporting, no GPS or outside support is allowed and teams NOT arriving at the the overnight camp are assumed to have camped safely.Your team partner is your first source of help and assistance.
There a 7 different classes, (the course distances quoted are over 2 days) the longest being the Elite which is literally 2 consecutive marathon length days or thereabouts and with c2,500m of ascent over 2 days.
There are 2 different types of class; Line (check points in a pre-designated order) which is the Elite, A, B and C classes and Score, (long, medium, and short) which needs higher levels of navigation skill to make choices to optimise points scored and which must be completed within the time allocated.
This is the premier UK event to test teamwork, self-reliance, endurance, outdoor and navigational skills. The reputation of the event is worldwide and every year we have entrants from between 12-14 countries.
The ethos of the event is to be totally self-reliant, in the wilds, carrying all equipment, no outside support and without GPS or cell phone. Your first source of help is your partner and if you retire you are responsible for getting yourselves back to base. Any teams not arriving at the overnight camp are assumed to have camped safely. In these days of 24/7 contact and total support this is an event to test and indeed help develop teamwork and self-reliance.