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What is an Adventure Race?

The word adventure has never been far from popular culture and has long since conjured up tales of intrigue, danger and romance. 

But what does it mean to you? 

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that whether used as a verb or as a noun, it manages to signify a certain degree of risk and danger. An adventure is an exciting and unusual experience. A bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome. 

It's the whole unknown element that gets my juices flowing.  

What is an Adventure Race? 1With the growing number of adventure races cropping up here in the UK, the trend seems to be that by adding the title ‘Adventure’ to a race increases its sex appeal. But where do we draw the line? 

Not wanting to diminish my point by descending into semantics, but the logical part of my brain seems to need calcification. 

So, what is an adventure race? And for that matter, what is an endurance event? 

I think we can all agree that a race is a race. Everyone involved must complete a set task and the person that completes it the quickest is crowned the winner. Or best at that particular age, but let’s not get sidetracked by that conversation. 

My point here is to gain some sort of distinction, a general way of categorising an event. Is it important? Probably not but, as I mentioned the OCD riddled half of my brain needs answers. 

Let’s get to it. Does a multi-discipline race constitute an adventure race? Really? Are you sure? Is a triathlon an adventure race? No. Multiple modes of transport are certainly great ingredients for an adventure, but my confusion comes when the route has been pre-plotted, and even course marked for you to follow. This is not an adventure. It’s just another race. A kayak or a stand-up paddleboard is without a doubt an exciting way to travel, adventurous even, but when provided for you by an event to get from point A to point B it’s just the same as the track matting in the car park. That may seem harsh but allow me to liberate.  

A few years back a couple of mates and myself took part in the Killarney Adventure race. I can confirm without a doubt that it was indeed an adventure. The race started with a fell-run, followed by a bike ride, another fell run, a kayak, another bike ride an finished with a run. The event was very well organised, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fun way to see Killarney national park on the West coast of Ireland. 

The adventure part of my experience started at home when I packed the car with a bike, tent and running shoes. The adventure ended when I arrived home and unpacked that same kit, and cleaned it ready for the next adventure. My point is that the adventure was the overall experience and not just the race. By this extension, all races are adventure races. You must pack a bag, travel to a destination, complete a task and travel home. An adventure! The ‘Adventure’ race was, in fact, the least adventurous part of my entire trip. Had I packed a bag, a bike and a tent, then travelled to the west coast of Island to explore under my own steam then the adventure would have been ten fold. 

What is an Adventure Race? 3The closest I came to an adventurous race format is the mountain marathon style of event. Between the start and the finish of a mountain marathon, there are a series of checkpoints each worth a certain amount of points. The winner is the person who reaches the most checkpoints before crossing the finish line. The finish time of the event is pre-determined and lateness results in the deductions of points. Very exciting and adds an excellent dynamic to a race. My point is the removal of a pre-determined route or cores increased the sense of adventure. Admittedly there is only ever a few different options to take depending on speed and navigation ability, but still the more options there is, the more possible it is for the unknown to appear and kick you in the balls. After all the whole point of an adventure is to learn new things. I’ve always learnt a great deal when an adventure chucks up an unexpected challenge, and I’ve had to adapt to overcome it. All adventures finish with a moral to a story, right?  

My struggle continues further if I try and categorise endurance events? 

The dictionary tells us that it is the ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. My confusion is easier to manage in this instance as the word endurance is often used as an adjective to describe the very events I'm pondering. Easier to manage but no less annoying. 

Is a Marathon an endurance event? Whatever your level of fitness, you’ll defiantly need to ‘endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way’ to get that new PB. 

What is an Adventure Race? 5The events I am concerned with here are not necessarily a question of self-motivation or drive. These events are designed to create an uncomfortable situation from the word “go”. The only way to make it to this finishing line is to simply endure whatever is put in front of you. In this state of enduring whatever has been put in front of you too complete, I strongly believe you will gain that same learning experience you would gain from any adventure. Unforeseen problems and challenges that need to be negotiated to succeed. It is part and parcel of these events that the course is kept a secret from the participants. They are pre-determined, and the event marked all without the information been reviled to those determined to endure. For me, this adds to the adventure.  

Imagine back in the day when you had an exam looming on the horizon. You would revise and study those topics to be tested. Now imagine that same test was sprung on you as a complete surprise. What one would you learn more from? What one would you remember longer? 

Like these long-forgotten exams of the distant past, all my adventures, races, challenges, expeditions and day trips are undertaken with the same goal in mind. To better myself. The only difference now is that I’m looking to improve my body as well as my mind in a way I believe works better. And of cores willingly, unlike my old exams. 

Training is training, but an event is either a social or a test. I guess, like most things, it all depends on your point of view… either way, it is getting out there to find your adventure!

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