The sport has evolved from many different disciplines over the past 50 years into what we have today. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how we ended up with the current structure. The following is a brief and certainly not exhaustive overview of the races which have contributed to the development of the sport.
First held in 1968, the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon is sometimes referred to as the origin of modern adventure racing. It required two-person teams to traverse mountainous terrain while carrying all the supplies to support themselves through the double-length marathon run.
The Alpine Ironman consisting of running, paddling and skiing was run in New Zealand in 1980. Following this, the famous solo & pairs Coast to Coast race was held, also in New Zealand and successfully continues to the present day.
The Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classic commenced in 1982 requiring individuals to race unsupported over a 150-mile course in 6 days.
The Raid Gauloises was launched in 1989 in New Zealand and continued to 2003. In this expedition style race, mixed gender teams covered a 400-mile+ course. Many would consider this the first modern adventure race.
The Southern Traverse began in 1991 and ran for 15 years in New Zealand.
In 1995, the first Eco-Challenge was held in the USA and continued around the world with great TV success until 2002 before taking a long break before its long-awaited return in 2019.
In 2002, the first major expedition length race to be held exclusively in the United States was launched. Primal Quest has been sporadically held since its inception from 2002 to 2017.
In 2004, the first Patagonian Expedition Race took place at the bottom tip of the American continent, in the Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Known as “the last wild race”, it has become famous for extremely tough conditions and long stages. The Patagonian Expedition Race continues to enjoy success to this day.
GODZone in New Zealand was first run in 2012 and has grown year on year to be the largest adventure race in the world at present.
The first Adventure Racing World Championships were held in Switzerland in 2001. It has continued unbroken from 2004 to 2019. The Adventure Racing World Series (ARWS) has grown from strength to strength with approximately seven expedition races held each year. In 2008 an ARWS race was held over 5 days in Kerry and Cork.
Following the success of the ARWS, the European Adventure Racing Series (ARES) formed to develop and manage the sport in Europe. It generally coordinates approximately seven multi-day races (24hr – 96hr) races annually, culminating in a European Championship Final and in common with the World Series events, is for mixed gender teams of 4.