An Adventure Like No Other
Plot a course and challenge yourself
By Traci Berry and Michael Roberts / Photos By Danny Henkel/Courtesy Of Raid The Rock
Last year, when the Physical Activity Council released its Fitness and Leisure Activities Topline Participation Report, adventure racing came out on top of the “fastest growing” sports category with an increase of over 20 percent. To folks who have competed in these unique races, such growth in popularity won’t come as a surprise—the sheer thrilling challenge and variety of activities involved in a typical adventure race make these events a must-do for adrenaline junkies of all stripes.
Of course, a growth in popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to the general public knowing what something is, so perhaps we should start out with the most important question: Just what the heck is an adventure race, anyway? Simply put, adventure racing is a multidisciplined race involving teams that race for hours through stages that often involve mountain biking, foot racing, paddling various waterways and even rappelling. And if that isn’t enough, teams must navigate the pathways of each stage on their own, often using nothing but topographic maps and compasses. The sheer excitement of showing up to the starting line not knowing exactly where the day’s course will take you is a rush that can’t be beat.
Unlike other racing events, adventure races require teams to work together in order to successfully meet each challenge. From calling out coordinates to plotting a course to keeping gear in check, each race team member plays a vital role in navigating a pathway through each section of the race course.
In winter, adventure racers flock to Raid the Rock in Little Rock, which hopes in its 16th year to reinstitute the paddle portion of the race that was canceled last year due to rain and dangerous water conditions last year. Still, despite the uncooperative weather, racers faced extreme situations during the foot and bike portions of the event—starting with the 35-degree starting temperature. Even without the paddle section, the 2015 Raid the Rock course covered 24 miles of biking and 12 miles on foot, with checkpoints located in hard-to-reach spots like the middle of a creek or a culvert underneath the interstate.
Further north, the springtime brings adventure racers to Pack Rat Outdoor Center’s Brewhabushwhack at Byrd’s Adventure Center in Ozark. Unlike Raid the Rock (and other adventure races), this race isn’t dependent on fast times, but rather points awarded for teams that complete tasks. In the Brewhabushwhack, teams can complete their checkpoints in any order—but all checkpoints must be located in order to receive the most points. In addition to these navigational points, teams earn extra rewards by completing survival tasks such as fire-building (without use of lighters or matches), knot-tying, knowledge of local flora and more. It’s an interesting spin on the concept.
Because of the challenges associated with these races, there’s never a dull moment in an adventure race—which explains the explosive growth in popularity the sport has experienced in recent years. Why simply run, paddle, bike or climb alone when you can do all those things in a single race? It’s the ultimate test of an athlete’s endurance, not to mention a chance to build a team from close friends and fellow adventure-seekers.