Smells like Team Spirit

Adventure races have come into their own. Time to join the self-punishing fun and tackle your first one.

Jul 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

   Photo: Tony Dizinno

"Humans are animals," says Cathy Sassin, 38, owner of a Los Angeles nutrition consulting firm who has competed in nearly two dozen adventure races and placed first in the 1999 and 2000 Elf Authentic Adventure. "The more time we spend staring at screens and jabbing at keyboards, the more our animal instincts cry out to do something wild and extreme." Along with Sassin, plenty of others are freeing their cubicle-confined inner wildcat by joining the planet's hottest multisport trend.

In recent years, adventure racing—single-day to weeklong competitions in which teams hike, bike, rappel, paddle, and navigate through wilderness—has grown from a cult sport confined to the Raid Gauloises and the Eco-Challenge to a mainstream activity with hundreds of events worldwide. According to the United States Adventure Racing Association, an estimated 350 races will take place in North America in 2001, from the Endorphin FIX in West Virginia to the Cal-Eco Adventure Series in California, up from just two events in 1995. In those six years, the number of participants has grown from 400 to some 10,000. Armchair adventure-racing is on the rise, too; the USA Network's ratings for this year's Eco-Challenge doubled compared to the broadcast last year. Survivor-mania plays a role too. Wipe that grin off your face, Mark Burnett.
Why the adventure-racing boom? Competitors say that training for a race offers a nice departure from the typical endurance-sports formula: There's no asphalt, no stopwatch, and never the same activity twice in a row. "I think of what I do more as a lifestyle than a training program," says pro racer Robyn Benincasa.

Fortunately, adventure races no longer require weeks of sleep-deprived, leptospire-infested competition in the Borneo jungle or the Australian rainforest, thanks to a plenitude of homegrown one- and two-day events (compared to the six- to 12-day races like the Eco-Challenge). Hence the following primer, dishing on everything from choosing a race to choosing your socks. Read on, round up your teammates, and begin your training. After all, you really are an animal. Isn't it time you started acting like one?

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Get tips. Get stories. Get fit.

Looking for the best in fitness? We got you covered.

Thank you!