The 2017 North America Adventure Racing Report

With the 2017 adventure racing season coming to a close, it’s time for the 2nd annual analysis of adventure racing from Adventure Race Hub! 

It’s our “state of the union”, where we use the metrics collected from our race calendar to identify the trends and insights from the 2017 season, as well as some year over year comparisons with previous seasons. This is a DEFCON 1 nerd alert people, we are talking statistics! None of that fancy-pancy “feelings” and “emotions” and other nonsense. Plain, hard facts.

Check out my original analysis of the 2016 race year here: https://adventureracehub.com/2016-adventure-racing-analysis/

Before we jump right into it, a quick disclaimer as always:  This analysis represents the best efforts of a single individual to track a loosely organized sport across a whole continent. I undoubtedly miss a race or three, get details incorrect as race directors update their races, and sometimes miss critical updates like RDs canceling races.  A favorite saying of mine is “all models are wrong, but some are still useful” and I try to keep that in mind.

I welcome anyone who spots an error to reach out to me, and always, the ARHub calendar is open to anyone to submit a race. It’s a community tool and if you enjoy or use the data in this article, I ask you to help keep me accurate by submitting races and race corrections to the calendar!

But overall, I’m confident this is at least 90% accurate. Just don’t try to use it in a court of law. Good? Good.

Drumroll, please.


In 2017, there were 155 adventure races, up 14 from 2016, when there was 141. This was thanks in part to existing race organizations like Bend Racing, Krank Events, and Adventure Addicts Racing expanding the number of races they ran in 2017, as well as the launch of Soggy Bottom Boys racing, which hosted 3 races in their inaugural year. Definitely, a great signal for the sport to see existing race organizations decide to execute new races as well as new race organizations finding the courage to launch. As they say, ‘if you ain’t growing, you’re dying’ and I’m glad to see it looks like AR is growing, at least at the organizational level.

Now, before anyone says “yeah, we’re up from 2016, but we still aren’t as good as 2015!” keep in mind that I’ve gotten better each year at finding adventure races and being more precise with my measurements. There are some “adventure races” in my 2015 data that probably shouldn’t be there because they weren’t actually ARs by even my own liberal definition (which, FYI, is multisport (mountain bike, trek/trail run, paddle, etc.) and includes navigation. That’s it.)

 

Across the 154 races, there was a total of 2781 hours of adventure racing. This is calculated by summing the total number of hours a race offers across all their length options (e.g. a race offers a 12, 6, or 3-hour option, they get a total of 21 hours), then totaling all races together. That’s a ton of racing!  According to my data, in 2016 there were 2562 hours, so those 14 additional races between 2016 and 2017 brought with them 219 hours of additional racing. That’s an 8.5% growth rate year over year!

So we’re not roaring ahead or anything, but that’s pretty good! This is the first positive indicator of the sport’s health since I started monitoring. Dare I say it? Are we starting to see glimmers of the sun after the long AR winter?

Across the year, there were definitely preferred months for racing, with June the most popular, hosting 23 ARs. Interestingly, when you look at the # of races by month for 2016, there are real differences in the month of September and July. Beats me why. Changes in parks granting permits?


Hold up. Shameless plugin before we go on. Did you know ARHub sells t-shirts? Like, super cool t-shirts, designed for adventure races?

Instead of asking for donations, I’m trying to make content and products adventure racers would be happy to spend money on.

How nuts is that??? There’s actually shirts made for adventure racers! We no longer are limited to just the ratty shirts from races that are covered in sponsor logos. We can wear comfy, top-quality shirts with kick-ass graphics that help proclaim our sport to the world.

And since you’re reading the most popular article on ARHub, I’m giving you a limited opportunity. The first 100 readers to buy a shirt off ARHub’s store can use the code “datanerd” for 30% off!!!

Check out our newest shirt, Race Happy:

Does the thrill of competition make you smile? Is nothing in the world as fun as racing through the woods, alive and free? Then share with the world your little secret – that you Race Happy!

This super-soft, baby-knit t-shirt looks great on both men and women – it fits like a well-loved favorite. Made from 100% cotton, except for heather colors, which contain polyester.

So if you like adventure racing, like shirts, and want to help ARHub, head over to our store (after finishing this awesome article, of course!) and treat yourself!


Now, on to the most popular data point – what’s the current capital of AR? What state hosts the most ARs? In 2016, it was Pennsylvania and Florida tied by the # of races, but since PA had more race organizations, I gave them the win. Do they hold onto the throne?

Holy cow, we’ve got a shake-up! Virgina for the win!  Huge props to Adventure Enablers, Adventure Addicts Racing, Dominion River Rock,  Happy Mutant, and Soggy Bottom Boys for making Virgina the new ADVENTURE RACING CAPITAL OF THE US!!!

*airhorn noises*

*Mark Harris rips his shirt off and waves it around like a wild man*

Wait, hold up!

What about the total number of racing hours by state? It’s possible that VA hosted a bunch of short races while PA or FL hosted longer ones. This would make them more worthy of the crown, right?

It’s not even close. VA storms past FL, PA, and KY to lock down the top of the podium. Florida follows, led by Ron Eaglin and the FLX crew, then a tie for 3rd place between KY (361 as the leaders of the state) and PA, which hosts 5 different race organizations.

Image if Adventure Enablers weren’t so busy with the whole ARWS world championship over in Wyoming. Virginia would be even farther ahead! And by the looks of their website, they’re getting SUPER busy with ARs in their home state in 2018. It will pretty hard for other states to keep up!

I should also note that the final race of the 2017 season takes place December 31st, and is down in Florida put on by FLX. So if that race falls off for some reason, Florida will fall behind PA and KY to 4th place. Watch out Ron!

I wonder if there will be some back-room negotiations as PA or KY try to lure some races away from VA in 2018? Maybe host a few more short races to plus their numbers up? If I can help stoke the fires of friendly competition between these race organizations, my job here is done!

Here’s the same data, presented over a map:

 

And here’s the map with the races by total racing hours:

What’s up, Arizona, Montana, and Oklahoma? Looks like the Oklahoma adventure racing organization closed up shop last year, and the Sky Challenge Adventure Race that was set for launch in AZ never happened (yet!) I still can’t believe there isn’t a regular AR around Lake Tahoe (I know, PQ was there 2 years ago, but it’s an endurance playground, it should always have a race.) Same goes for ALL of Montana. If anyone has friends in Montana, please get them moving on an AR. You can’t have cities like Bozeman and Missoula, which win awards like Outside Magazine’s ‘best places to live’ and NOT have an adventure race. I’m about to move there just to start one!

Can we take a minute to talk about easily the CUTEST AR of the year, the S’more Adventure Race? If that ain’t a commitment to developing the adventure racers of the future, I don’t know what is!

S’more Adventure Race

Let’s take a look at the race organization level. Who were the leaders? Who put on the most races?

It’s not even a competition. Mr. World Wide, the only RD who makes their racers fire machine guns mid-race, Toby ‘Happy Mutant’ Evans, carries it by a LONG shot for the 2nd year running. The man is unstoppable! Not surprisingly, we see Adventure Enablers, FLX, and 361 duking it for the 2nd through 4th place. Let that be a lesson to other RDs – include machine gun ranges in your races! Although, I hear FLX’s Sea 2 Sea may feature skydiving in 2018? I’m going to need to expand my list of disciplines I track…

Let’s take a look at the year-over-year data by race organization to see if there’s anything interesting!

Yeah, no surprise, Happy Mutant for the TKO.

Let’s take a moment to recognize the race organization that is the clear “Rookie of the Year”, Soggy Bottom Boys Racing out of southern Virginia. As many racers know, Mark launched Soggy Bottom Boys in 2017 with three races for a total of 74 hours of racing and has been absolutely on his GRIND getting the word out. I mean come on, the man has free massages at the end of his races (don’t worry, not from him, from a professional!) His dedication definitely planned a crucial part in getting Virginia the championship! Way to go, Mark!

Now, to be fair, I can’t check every race organization to see if they made good on all the race lengths they posted when I made their entry to the race calendar. And I found a data error – the maximum race length in my system was 96 hours, so I went in and manually updated the max length to 157 for those poor souls who had to keep chugging along at Cowboy Tough for that long, which boosts Adventure Enablers’ numbers up to 2nd place.

Sadly, 2017 also had some losses. It looks like Mid-America Xtreme, KanDo Adventures, Rolla Multisport, Team Dragon AZ Adventures, and Infiterra Sports didn’t host any ARs in 2017. Hopefully, we’ll see them re-join the fray in 2018!

As for the length of the races, we see the same lengths being the most popular in 2017 as we saw in 2016 – The average length of a race was 12 hours, and the most frequent option was 8 hours. I know, I know, all the expedition racers are crying about the shrinking of the sport’s common lengths. No reason to cry over spilled milk, we need beginner-friendly races to help grow the sport, not everybody is willing to make an expedition their first race.

Though that does seem to be a badge of pride…

Did I miss anything? Most definitely. Made an error in calculating who the best states for AR are? Yeah, sure. Email me and let me know what you think and help me improve the article’s relevance and accuracy!

And finally, don’t forget to submit new races to ARHub’s calendar and check out our store! Use the coupon “datanerd” for 30%, but it’s only good for the first 100 people!

See you on the trails,

Cy

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