Who owns a sport? The debate around Adventure Racing World Series intensifies

Adventure Racing World Series organization cites “deliberate copy” of name and attempt to “rewrite history” as new racing series plans to host adventure racing world championships 2022.

Last week, World Obstacle announced that Adventure 1 (A1) will be official partner of the 2022 adventure racing world cup. The announcement, however, was not universally well received.

One of these dissidents was the World Series of Adventure Racing (ARWS). Founded in 2001, the ARWS has previously hosted recognized events such as the annual World Adventure Running Championships. AR World Series events consist of a mixed team of male and female participants who run for 4-10 days.

In response to the press release, the ARWS issued a statement on its Facebook page questioning the ethics and effectiveness of the partnership. (The ARWS went by the name “A1 World Series”, which A1 later changed to “A1 World Cup”. More on that later.)

A1 partnership: the opinion of the One Adventure race director

Longtime adventure racing athlete and race director Jason Magness leads Oregon Expedition, part of the ARWS. He noted that the announcement of the global hurdle has caused confusion in the adventure racing community.

“As an athlete it’s definitely a bit confusing,” said Magness. “It’s good to have a clear path as a competitive athlete instead of [wondering], ‘Which series do I want to participate in and which races?’ “

Magness referred to the history of American adventure racing to illustrate the complications that multiple sanctioning bodies introduce. At one point in the United States, three competing organizations held championships in niche sport.

Since then, the American scene has become more cohesive through consolidation under a single nonprofit governing body: the United States Adventure Racing Association. Magness said athletes on the international stage would likely be confused. They will have to navigate what would effectively be two rounds of the world championships.

On the flip side, he noted that seeing more races in the sport is always exciting. And as a race director, he doesn’t want to limit his draw.

A possible Olympic bid for adventure races

The A1 World Cup announcement follows the adventure race vying for inclusion in the Olympics.

In October, the World Association of International Sports Federations obtained “observer status” at World Obstacle, the international governing body of ninja, obstacle course and adventure racing. The designation is an essential prerequisite for any sports organization seeking to lobby for inclusion in the Olympics.

The partnership with A1 means that all athletes looking to get a taste of this could be able someday an olympic sport should look to the A1 adventure racing series for an introduction.

“The recognition of World Obstacle validates the sport and is an important step in uniting adventure runners around the world. We have worked hard over the past 5 years to provide an event system and structure that represents the needs of athletes and event producers around the world, ”said A1 Founder Todd Vickery.

The GearJunkie team exits a canoe stage, heads for the woods to grab a checkpoint on the 2021 USARA National Championships course; (photo / Randy Ericksen)

A1 was founded in 2017. The international adventure racing producer recently launched its 2022 A1 World Cup, building on its national A1 series. From the A1 site, its National Series races aim to provide pathways for athletes wishing to qualify for their national teams and compete at the highest level on the world stage.

Ian Adamson, Chairman of the World Obstacle Board of Directors, said his organization sees the A1 World Cup as a natural part of the adventure racing world championships. A1’s proven record and excellent reviews among athletes informed his assessment.

“Our collaboration with Adventure 1 provides an accessible format for athletes to compete in this exciting sport. We are excited to help the growth of adventure racing as we expand the series around the world, ”said Adamson.

The future of adventure racing: season 2022

In 2022, the ARWS plans to host 47 events in 23 countries. The series will end in September with the 18th World Adventure Racing Championship in Paraguay. In addition to its international multi-day races, the organization also hosts regional circuits with short distance events.

In contrast, A1 events currently focus on shorter 24-48 hour adventure races. The organization plans to expand its 2022 World Cup season to include events in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Qualifications will take place in over 100 countries with national member federations of World Obstacle.

Eco Challenge Fiji

On December 1, 2022, six-time expedition racing world champion Nathan Fa’avae will present the A1 World Cup in New Zealand. Fa’avae helped bring adventure racing to the public eye as his New Zealand team starred in the Amazon Prime cover of Eco-Challenge Fiji in 2020.

A1 responded to ARWS ‘naming rights concerns and responded to its claims of “appropriation” via Facebook.

“A1 is not in competition with ARWS, it is designed to be [complementary]. We believe that the A1 World Cup races will help more people get started in AR and provide a stepping stone to longer and more complex races like the AR World Series, ”A1 said.

Notably, the organization changed its name from “World Series” to “World Cup” in response to concerns from the ARWS.

Can ARWS and A1 coexist? Olympic inclusion, roots of sport

The ARWS claim that A1 is trying to “rewrite the history” of sport has yet to be confirmed. Only time will tell what the future of “accessible” adventure racing might look like. Whether it can attract the attention of the International Olympic Committee is another matter.

Perhaps the future format of adventure racing could mirror that of triathlon. There, some elites focus on the standard Olympic distance triathlon to compete for a berth at the Olympics. In contrast, long distance triathletes tend to train for the endurance-focused IRONMAN World Championships.

It is not known whether adventure racing can support a similar structure. Enough participants (and sponsors) should be needed to support both ARWS and A1 and continue to grow the sport.

For now, A1 says its adventure racing format is “profitable and accessible”. Adamson echoed the sentiment.

“The A1 World Cup Series, World Cup Finals and World Championships provide an accessible and affordable racing option that complements more expensive expedition races and series,” he said.

Adamson compared the format to the popular Raid Gauloises. From 1989, the races evolved into the “very successful” Raid X-Adventure World Cup. Then, in 2007, it became the Raid Adventure Racing World Championships. He concluded that the format is “designed to support the growth of adventure racing around the world”.

Additionally, Magness said the 48-hour adventure racing format is more accessible than multi-day long events. But he also indicated that strategy and unique planning factors make longer runs the pinnacle of the sport. Specifically, he said most teams wouldn’t face the challenge of sleep deprivation during a 24- to 48-hour race.

“All the amazing stories in the history of sport come from these questions: How do teams deal with sleep and fatigue and have to cross mountains in the middle of the night? It’s a little less of a physical endurance competition, and it’s becoming more of a mental endurance competition, ”said Magness.

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