Adventure Racing


Adventure racing had it’s modern roots in 1968 with a two-day race in the United Kingdom.  That race had two-person teams following an unmarked wilderness course over 52 miles.  Competitors were required to carry all their own gear for an overnight camp.  Besides the physical aspect, competitors had to be skilled in orienteering, since the course map was presented to them on the day of the start.

Sanctioned Events

BicyclingToday the sport is more organized with events around the world.  Events in the U.S. are sanctioned by the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA) and lead to regional championships and to a national championship event in the fall.  These events can range from six hours to 10 days in length and may cover over 300 miles.

Adventure Racing World Series

RappelingThe Adventure Racing World Series involves four-person, mixed gender, teams that race for up to ten days and involve hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking along with the use of orienteering skills. This year the World Series includes eight qualifying events at locations around the world (Belize, New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Paraguay, USA, Ireland, and France) and spread throughout the year.  The World Championship is in November in Australia.

The first event this year was the Maya Mountain Adventure Challenge in Belize in February.  It was a 500 km (310 mile) race and involved:

  • mountain biking
  • canoeing
  • pack rafting
  • trekking/running/orienteering
  • caving/spelunking
  • fixed ropes/rappeling

As you might imagine, these races are for skilled athletes.

The Rules

KayakingThe basic rules are pretty simple:

  • no motorized travel;
  • no GPS
  • teams must travel together the entire race, within sight of each other
  • no outside assistance is permitted except at designated transition areas
  • teams must carry all mandatory gear (gear varies by race)
  • Teams must complete the race course through race checkpoints and transition areas, using the racing discipline specified, with the maps provided by the race organizer

Individual races may have additional rules that specify the number of team members and so forth.

Learning the Skills

There are various ways to learn how to do all the activities that are required in these races.  One of them is offered by High Profile Adventures  L.L.C. in Illinois.  They say their High Profile Adventure Camp is, “The one and only, and longest running adventure camp in the United States,  will give aspiring first timers to experienced racers the skills and knowledge needed to participate and excel in adventure races.  The camp is also ideal for adventurers who may not be not interested in racing but in adventure travel and for those preparing for mountaineering,  rock climbing, backpacking, or canoe trips.”


This short video offers an idea of what to expect in a basic adventure race.  This one is the Stubborn Mule Adventure Race in Northern Wisconsin.

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