What is an adventure race? Some of you may be reading this and thinking I have never even heard of adventure racing? It is an exciting form of multi-discipline racing that is gaining popularity. Moire O’Sullivan was already an accomplished mountain and fell runner but once she’d had her children she set her sights on a different challenge…
Do you love running, but are itching to try something new? Do you like the outdoors, but are unsure of where to go? If so, adventure racing could be the perfect sport for you.
One-day adventure races are the latest phenomenon sweeping the UK and Ireland. Typically combining trail running, biking and kayaking, these races bring together competitors from a variety of sporting backgrounds, luring them into some of the most spectacular and remotest parts of the country. With fully marked courses, racers don’t even need a map or compass to discover some truly stunning parts of our native wilderness.
I am a mountain/fell runner. However, back in 2012, I was living in a part of Ireland where there just aren’t enough mountains for an active fell running scene. When I found out about an ‘adventure race’ just down the road, I decided to enter it. The fact that I didn’t own a road bike didn’t put me off. I just borrowed one from a friend. Fortunately double kayaks were provided for the paddle section, so I knew I’d have a partner to make up for my poor technique.
The adventure race swept along the Atlantic Ocean, taking in some of the best of Ireland’s rugged coastline. I ran along quiet rural roads overlooking pristine deserted beaches. I biked up and over heather-hued hills, and ran trails that that I didn’t even know existed.
Arriving at the finish line, I was amazed by how friendly the other competitors were. No one asked me how fast I’d gone or where I had come. They were more interested to hear if I’d stopped for a second and seen the incredible views along the course.
I soon found out that no one was an ‘adventure racer’ per se. They were bikers who wanted to do more running, preferably off-road; triathletes who wanted to do something a bit more relaxed and fun; or like me, runners who wanted to use a bike to get quickly between different scenic trails. While we loved our respective primary sports, we all had a hankering for the outdoors that only adventure racing seemed to satisfy. The sport also provided a new challenge that most of were unsure we’d rise to, but all of us conquered in the end.
Adventure racing eventually became the focus I needed after giving birth to my two kids. I needed a clear goal to motivate myself to get fit again after pregnancy. For some reason, signing up for an adventure race four months post-partum was what got me lacing up my runners and back in the saddle again. Training gave me a break each day from my mothering responsibilities, so that I could just be me again for a little while.
The amazing thing about one-day adventure races is that there are a variety of courses on offer at each event, depending on how ambitious or fit you are. For example, at the annual Quest Wales Adventure Race there is the 53-kilometre Expert course, the 42-kilometre Sport course and, for beginners, a 25-kilometre Challenge course that gives a taster of everything. Adventure racing is perfect for bringing total newbies and seasoned competitors together on the same trails, mountains and lakes.
My advice to anyone interested in trying adventure racing is to just give it a go. Like most things in life, you don’t know if you’ll like it unless you actually try it out. Quest has a rookie Facebook group for beginners to ask questions and discuss all things adventure racing. They also run free training days where you get to try out the disciplines you’re most nervous about.
Alternatively, you can go cold turkey and just sign up for a race. You could even drag a friend or two along. You will enjoy an incredible workout in stunning scenery, before relaxing at the finish line with a beer, swapping stories and posting selfies wearing your well-earned bling medal.
About the author:
In 2009, Moire O’Sullivan became the first person ever to complete the Wicklow Round, a 100km circuit of Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains, which has to be run within twenty-four hours. She is now married and the mother of two young sons born in 2013 and 2015. During this hectic time, Moire won Ireland’s National Adventure Race Series in 2014 and 2016. She wrote a book, Bump, Bike and Baby about this personal journey.
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If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read Ultra Curious – One Mum’s story of Run to the Stones and Six Ways to Take Your Trail Running to the Next Level