Get ready to run, bike, paddle, climb, snorkel—you name it—to your breaking point when you check these adventure races off your life list. These are no mere obstacle runs, Warrior Dashes or Tough Mudders. Adventure races are team expeditions that combine two or more endurance sports plus navigation and backcountry skills. Those 5K mud runs are mere warm-ups by comparison; six hours is considered sprint distance in this grueling sport that adds a whole new meaning to hard core. Get ready for four hundred-plus miles in 9-ish days. Eighty mile-an-hour winds and underwater checkpoints. These multi-day, multi-sport adventures put everything you have to the test. See if you’re cut out for these:
Patagonian Expedition Race
Patagonia's terrain is rugged and diverse, and you won’t know the super-secret route until the night before the race. The next morning might find you navigating across the Southern Continental Ice Field or the narrow waters of the Beagle Channel. Either way, you’ll be traversing some of Earth’s most remote territory in this, “the last wild race,” and you may go days without encountering another human. Just watch out for hurdles like 80 mph winds and flesh-eating fungus. This year, only half the teams finished. And that was a good year.
Why the Patagonian Expedition: Remoteness. When you do a race in the U.S., civilization is usually just around the corner. Patagonia, not so much. This is one of the wildest, hardest and remotest races on the planet.
Disciplines: Trekking, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, backcountry navigation
Length: Expedition, varies
The location changes for every race, so you don’t sign up for the locale. You sign up because Primal Quest is the quintessential US race. Over the course of 10 days and 400+ miles of unforgiving terrain, you’ll trek, climb, kayak, raft, and mountain bike to the finish line. A course hasn’t been set for 2012, but rumor has it the next PQ will be somewhere in the American West. Measuring by past Primal Quest races in South Dakota and Montana, things could get pretty epic.
Why Primal Quest: It’s the best in the U.S.—just stay tuned for location announcements. Don’t like the locale? Wait a year.
Length: Expedition, varies
This is 435 miles of the craziest and most diverse terrain you’ve ever seen: Underwater checkpoints near the Great Barrier Reef. Treks through remote parts of the Outback. Even vicious vegetation. “There are stinging trees,” says pro adventure racer and XPD veteran Mark Lattanzi. “If you hit one it’s excruciating—like having little tiny microscopic pieces of glass in your skin that don’t come out for about six months… It sounds like a story out of a fantasy novel, but these things exist.”
Why XPD: Wild factor. You’ll traverse super-remote terrain with exotic challenges around every corner.
Disciplines: Trekking, mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, rafting, snorkeling, sailing, underground exploration, navigation
Length: 435 miles, 9.5 days
Speight’s Coast to Coast
To the hard-core adventure racer, there’s not enough navigation in this multi-sport race to qualify as a true adventure race. “It’s more of a triathlon with paddling instead of swimming,” says Lattanzi. Still, “it is some serious kayaking,” he says, and you’ll be sure to get your adventure fix. The two-day event takes you across South Island, New Zealand, traversing 150 miles coast-to-coast across features like the Southern Alps and the Waimakariri River through the Grand Canyon of New Zealand.
Why Coast to Coast? It’s iconic. In the land where the modern adventure race was born, racers face diverse terrain and unpredictable conditions.
Disciplines: Running, cycling, kayaking
Length: 151 miles, 2 days