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A bit of background to Adventure Racing

Adventure Racing has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years. These challenges are extreme in their nature and push each participant to the very limits of their endurance… and beyond…

I first came across adventure racing when I was investigating the Sabah Eco-Challenge in Borneo.

The Eco-Challenge was created by Mark Burnett having been inspired by an L.A. Times article about Gerald Fusil’s Raid Gauloises Adventure Race in Costa Rica. Burnett formed a team and competed in two Raid Gauloises events. Although his teams did poorly, he decided to create a similar race in North America. When the race went international, Burnett purchased the rights from Fusil and set out to make the Eco-Challenge the world’s premier adventure race. Thanks to SilverBullet1999 for this video:

Each team comprised a mandatory mix of both men and women, racing non-stop, 24 hours a day, over a rugged 300-mile (500km) course, participating in such disciplines as trekking, whitewater canoeing, horseback riding, sea kayaking, scuba diving, mountaineering and mountain biking. Teams originally consisted of five members, but the team size was reduced to four members early in the event’s history.

A race was held once a year, starting in 1995. Sadly, Burnett decided in 2002 that Fiji would be the last Eco-Challenge.

However, this has not been the end of adventure racing as we all well know. The Raid continues in France, where the concept of Adventure Racing was first dreamed up by Gerard Fusil.

The Raid Gauloises, or The Raid, is considered by many to be the first modern Adventure Race and was first held in 1989. Fusil took the existing concept of long distance endurance races, and focused on the team aspects, requiring each competitor to be part of a five person co-ed team. The Raid had no set course, with competitors being required to rely on their wits and judgment to reach the specified checkpoints. The Raid was named after its original sponsor, the Gauloises Cigarette Company.

Fusil left the Raid in 1998 to begin a new Adventure Race series: the Elf Authentic Adventure. 2003 was the last year for the Raid Gauloises. In 2004 the Raid Gauloises was retooled into the Raid World Championship.

The Raid World Championship operates in the same way: it is a long distance non-stop race lasting between 5 to 7 days and nights. The distance covered is often in excess of 200km. If all team members do not complete the race the team is  eliminated. The final results are then ranked by total distance and  time. The team that covers the longest distance or the shortest time wins. All teams participate in the ranking. The Raid features various disciplines depending on the terrain present in the given course. The course changes each year, but kayaking, mountain biking, sea kayaking, hydro speed, in-line skating, cross orienteering, mountain climbing, caving, snow shoeing and skiing are the most popular disciplines encountered. The X Adventure Race consists of up to 50 teams from different countries in the world, each team has 4 racers and 1 assistant, teams are usually mixed, at least one man and women per team. Racers are always on the course, the assistant is not. The best team from each zone (geographic region) qualifies for the semi-finals.

Back in North America, Primal Quest has taken over from Eco-Challenge – it is said to be the most difficult athletic event in the world. It is known as the Super Bowl of Adventure Racing and has the biggest purse for the winning team. Each race lasts up to ten days, with winning teams completing the course in approximately six days. Each team is required to have four members and must be co-ed.

Each team also has to carry a GPS monitoring device allowing race organizers and spectators to track each team real-time via the Internet on the Primal Quest website. This device does not offer any navigational assistance to the teams, but can be used in an emergency to signal for help.

The first Primal Quest race was held in 2002 in Colorado. This year it will be in South Dakota – 2009 Primal Quest Badlands Adventure Race. Beginning 14th August, contestants from around the world will compete in co-ed teams of 4. They will run, bike, paddle and navigate their way over 600 miles (965+ km) of some of the most diverse terrain anywhere on the planet. They will experience towering spires, rolling hills, open vistas, dense forests and steep-walled canyons as they scramble up rock faces, go spelunking in the local cave systems, and explore miles of local back country. The race will include the traditional long treks that PQ is known for and beautiful kayaking sections.

Watching the PQ promotional video (bridgeport69) for 2008 will give you a very good idea of what this race is all about:

Wow…

Then of course there’s Southern Traverse in New Zealand which I have written about many times. Southern Traverse Ltd. is a premier international Sport Event Management company.  It operates and manages elite events around the world, including the Adventure Racing World Championship, the AR World Series and New Zealand’s icon adventure race, the Macpac Southern Traverse.

The Swazi-Xtreme Adventure Race (adventurelisa) is held  in late-April/May in Swaziland (a Kingdom within South Africa) in South Africa annually.

There’s Raid the North, Odyssey, Max AR, Frontier AR Canada (DrWheels) and so many others. Adventure Racing grows in popularity as each year goes past, and watching the following video will help you understand why…

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