Author: Adam Bratton
Read Time: 4 mins
In my mind, the concept was simple … create the Southeast’s newest Adventure Race by spreading a few checkpoints across an area that is ripe with trails, greenways, historical landmarks, and a navigable river flowing straight through the middle. The simple concept that I drummed up in the fall of 2021 became a reality on April 1 & 2, 2022 and the response absolutely blew my mind.
Adventure Races, commonly referred to as “AR”, are wildly different than a typical 5K that many are familiar with … show up at the start line, follow the crowd/course markings in a linear route and see how quickly you can get to the finish line. It’s simple, it’s straight forward, it’s singular in focus. Adventure Racing is the polar opposite. It involves multiple sports (primarily running, biking, and paddling in this case) and creating a strategy. It also involves time limits, bonus points, and teamwork (up to 7 in this case). Most notably different from a typical running or biking event, it doesn’t involve any set course or route. In fact, participants have no clue where they are supposed to go and how they are supposed to get there until the start gun goes off. Yeah, that can be a little nerve racking and novel for some.
That’s ok. I’ve never been super compelled to create just another carbon copy event. There are thousands of great running and biking events out there if that is what suits you. Human Powered Movement’s mission is to facilitate greater human powered experiences in all of us. We view “greater” as something new, something dynamic, something different. Something that will get you out of your comfort zone. Something that might even open your perspective to a whole new world that you didn't know existed.
The more I dug into it, the more it became obvious that creating and producing an adventure race was the easy part. The explanation of this fringe concept to the new audience that I was targeting, was going to take some extra effort. Endless hours were spent creating multiple Race Documents, creating and hosting an Intro to Adventure Racing Clinic with highly decorated AR athlete Marcus Barton, hosting a Sampler Preview Event, Example Course Maps and Punchcards (aka "passports") and answering countless individual and specific questions via email. Turns out, all that effort was well worth it!
I know that I’m not the only one that is still soaring from the energy and the feeling of being a part of something pretty dang special this past weekend. That special feeling is more pronounced and clearer now that we’ve collectively experienced the inaugural South Fork Sampler together.
It was truly amazing to watch as we kicked off the weekend with our Corporate Challenge on Friday afternoon. This division allowed for businesses and organizations to get out of the office, work together as a team, and enjoy competition amongst peers and colleagues in an active and productive way. We not only saw fierce battles between teams but also witnessed strides within teams in developing their relationships. The verbatim question that kept coming up … “How can we do more of this!?!” … I think we struck a chord.
Following the Corporate Challenge up with a full day of racing on Saturday including an 8 Hour “Long Course” and a 4 Hour “Short Course” was no small task as the bar was set extremely high. Before the sun even crept above the horizon, Long Course participants started arriving and were beaming with energy. I’ve produced thousands of events in my life, but there is still something amazing about getting up, out and moving first thing in the AM. I knew we were in for another amazing day of action. Boats and bikes … smiles and stoke. The Race HQ was buzzing with energy, enthusiasm, and authenticity. Sure enough, day #2 did not disappoint.
Soon after we sent off the Long Course Participants to scatter throughout the South Fork River corridor in search of both land and water-based checkpoints, the Short Course participants started rolling in. They brought the same level of unknown intrigue and suspenseful excitement to the table, and I couldn’t help but to further stoke the collective fire during the pre-race meeting.
The rest of the day produced many more exhausted smiles, a revolving door of return trips to swap out gear, and difficult decisions whether or not to try and collect extra bonus points. It is safe to say that the Race HQ was alive and well all day long.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of these events is, by far, the meaningful interactions that occur by bringing people together. I love understanding various background stories, hearing about their experiences, and appreciating their memorable takeaways. I still feel honored that people commit their hard-earned time and money to these events. I take the responsibility of delivering a memorable and valuable experience very seriously.
I can’t speak for others, but I do know that the Inaugural South Fork Sampler delivered on our mission of facilitating a greater human powered experience (oh yeah, and we contributed over $2500 to the Catawba Riverkeeper, our non-profit beneficiary of the event). I understand that AR may never be for the masses but based on the feedback from our post-race survey, everyone is way more knowledgeable of what an Adventure Race is, and they are already looking for more. Stay tuned for announcements on round #2 of the South Fork Sampler!
Looking back on this past weekend, I still do think that the concept is simple. It’s pretty clear that people fundamentally like to get out and try new things. Know that we are here to be your human powered enablers.
Journal - A Successful South Fork Sampler
Human Powered Journal
Writings and musings of an active lifestyle
Adam Bratton is the Founder and Head Enabler at Human Powered Movement.
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