Why we love the sport of Adventure Racing

Back in the beginning of the year, 913 folks submitted their thoughts to the 2018 AR census over a variety of subjects, from their favorite outdoor brands, how much time and money they spend traveling to races, they most frequent race lengths they do, and many more. One of the last questions of the census asked participants “what do they love about Adventure Racing?” Because the answer was a write-in, the responses had to be slowly reviewed by hand to try and group and classify them by themes. It quickly became apparent there was a significant commonality across the board. Bluntly said – we pretty much all love AR for the same reasons.

What were those themes? I did my best to classify them, using the following definitions:

  1. Adventure – Not surprising (since it’s in our sport’s name), but this theme is defined as enjoying doing something different than normal races/activities, exploring new places, going off-trail, etc. You know, not being boring
  2. Challenge – Getting pushed out of your comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Steep hills, fighting the sleep monster, trying to stay calm despite being lost at 3 AM, etc. Learning what you’re made of when all the armor is stripped away.
  3. Teamwork – The enjoyment of doing the sport with your friends/family. Camaraderie¬†and shared suffering that creates unbreakable relationships (usually…)
  4. Navigation – The only sport-specific theme that repeatedly came up, some folks really love having to navigate around instead of following race markings. This could arguably get placed under the Adventure theme, but there were enough responses that it warranted its own theme.
  5. Complexity РThe requirement to blend so many different things together to succeed at AR. Multiple sports, navigation, off-trail movement, competing against yourself, the field, the clock and the terrain all at the same time. 
  6. Outdoors – The sport gets us deep into the woods, covered in dirt, with lots of vitamin D (unless of course, it’s rainy, but some of us love that too).
  7. Uncategorized – Everything else that didn’t fit the above. Some folks love using the race as a reason to stay fit, as an escape from the drudgery of corporate America, etc.

Now granted, most folks didn’t say just one thing. A standard response was something like “The adventure, the navigation, going and doing things I otherwise wouldn’t, plus the camaraderie.” How exactly do you code a response like that? All of the above? That’s the bedeviling thing with our sport, it defies definition and for someone like myself, who needs a definition to measure things, this is troublesome. So I did my best to code each response to one of the above themes. Here’s how they ranked:

Theme# of Responses% of Total

As you can see, Challenge led the day by a country mile. The phrase “physical and mental challenge” showed up over and over in the responses. Clearly, adventure racers like the chess-like nature of our sport!

Because we all like pretty, pretty pictures, I decided to put all of the responses into a word cloud to isolate which individual words appeared the most often. Based off the above response evaluation, you can imagine which word dominated.

Challenge showed up so often, I actually had to reduce it’s weight, as it overpowered everything else by such a large margin that all the other words were nearly unreadable!¬†

Use this image as you see fit and be sure to incorporate these learnings as your market/advertise/preach about AR to others!

Word cloud answer to the question “what do you love about AR?”

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