A step up from your standard running, biking or paddling event, adventure racing combines all three—and often more activities—in one package. Largely popularized in the United States by Mark Burnett’s Eco-Challenge show that began in the 1990s, adventure racing has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. Single-sport endurance racing is becoming more mainstream, too, although it’s far from easy. Whether you’d like to test the waters with a short, local race or are ready to tackle a multiday expedition in a foreign land, these events all have one thing in common: They’re certainly not boring.
Odyssey Wild, Wonderful 24-Hour Adventure Race
Oak Hill, West Virginia
May 16, 2015
Outfitted with a topographic map, a compass and hopefully a keen sense of adventure, you’ll race 70 to 80 miles over a full day (that’s right, no sleep). That includes mountain biking, hiking/trail running and even whitewater rafting class III to V rapids. Competent navigation is necessary over some challenging terrain.
After the race: Drive an hour north to Charleston, the state capital of West Virginia, where you can see the largest state capitol dome in the country. It was designed by Cass Gilbert, the same architect who designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building.
Baja Bike Race
Tecate to Ensenada, Mexico
June 21, 2015
Head south of the border for a 73-mile ride that climbs almost 4,000 feet through Baja California. If you’re the competitive type, gun for a top-three finish for prize money ($250 to $750), or try to be the fastest up one of the hills to be proclaimed King or Queen of the Hill. If you’d rather treat it as a ride as opposed to a race, that’s welcome, too.
After the race: Celebrate your finish at Hussong’s Cantina, a local institution since 1892. John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Steve McQueen and Marilyn Monroe all stopped by this watering hole; join their illustrious ranks with a strong margarita and a handful of peanuts.
The Beast Adventure Race
Port Gamble, Washington
May 23, 2015
Ease into the sport on the lovely Kitsap Peninsula with a day of paddling, mountain biking and trail running. No navigational skills necessary on the marked course. Choose from the Mini Beast category (5K, 10K, 5K) or the Beast category (10K, 20K, 10K), participating as an individual or a team. There’s also a 24-hour Beast (a continuous loop for 24 hours) for teams only.
After the race: Wander the shop-filled streets of nearby Poulsbo, known for its Nordic heritage. Sluys Poulsbo Bakery makes for a delicious stop. The only problem is what to choose—the Viking Cup (a cinnamon roll filled with cream cheese), a gingerbread man the size of your head or the classic maple bar offer just a glimpse of the many tempting treat options.
Canadian Death Race
Grand Cache, Alberta
August 1, 2015
If having “death” in the name doesn’t scare you away from this race, perhaps the three mountain summits, 17,000 feet of elevation change and major river crossing will. If that still sounds like fun, lace up for 77 miles of good times in the truly scenic Canadian Rockies. Despite that foreboding name, the race has never had a casualty—although you do need to ensure you’re prepared to keep it that way.
After the race: Make your way to Banff National Park, check in to the Fairmont Banff Springs and make an appointment at the luxe Willow Stream Spa for a little rejuvenation. You can also visit Banff Upper Hot Springs well into the evening for stargazing and soaking in sulfate-rich mineral water.
SUP 11-City Tour
September 2–6, 2015
Stand-up paddleboarding is fun. Stand-up paddleboarding five straight days across more than 135 miles of water—that’s where it starts to get grueling. Fortunately, it’s also very beautiful as you float through the province of Friesland’s pastoral terrain, dotted with traditional windmills, idyllic townscapes, and plenty of grazing sheep. If you’re not up for the entire distance, you can paddle as part of a team or for just the weekend.
After the race: The Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Franeker was completed in 1781 and is the world’s oldest-functioning planetarium. The impressive solar system model—said to be built by Eisinga to prove to people that the planets were not going to collide and incinerate the Earth—uses 10,000 hand-forged nails.
Seattle Super Spartan
October 17, 2015
What you’ll run into over the eight- to 10-mile obstacle course is something of a mystery, but you can expect mud, barbed wire, fire, water and at least a little bit of suffering. The average finish time is about two and a half hours, with the most elite knocking it out in 80 minutes.
After the race: Once you’ve picked up your swag (a finisher’s medal, clean T-shirt and free beer) and indulged in the post-race festivities, go home and take a nap. You’ve earned it!