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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Changing Perceptions

We had our first event for 2011 two weeks ago, and I think that it was a success. If, by success, we mean that no one got seriously injured, everyone finished under their own power, and the finish line was all smiles.

We do events for that feeling of bringing joy to other people. We genuinely enjoy trampling through brush and being itchy for three months straight because we love those smiles at the events. You know it, and we know it, there is something magic about being a part of an “Event.” You are part of a community. A shared experience. Really knowing what you’re capable of that day. The whole she-bang.

A lot of conversations lately have gone toward why Adventure Racing isn’t so big. We’re working with a Cal Poly class who is developing a Public Relations campaign for our races. I told them the same thing I’m about to say here, that their efforts aren’t just a school project. If we can implement an effective strategy, we’ll share them with the larger community. What they do in this class has the potential to have a lifetime of impact if they put the effort in.

Just like the events can and do for many.

Every time I tell people what I do, people look up to the sky and whistle. Especially if I say, “Adventure Race.”

And I have to wonder – is it partly the name?

I was on the phone last night with Glenn Millar of Desert Dash who was saying he was in Brazil at the EcoMotion race and the same thing came up – that we need to do something to change how the outside world see us.

Yeah, there’s an element of surprise, but it’s not out of control. It’s not even a “race” like a triathlon or a trail run is “a race.” While some people are machines, most are very, very much chill and having fun. That’s the difference. You don’t always “go go go,” you stop, you check your map, you have a snack. It’s cool.

Even “sprint race” is a misnomer. If the top finishers come in at 2 hours, and the last come in at 4, that’s hardly sprinting. Do we need to change it to “short form” or something even more awesome?

Instead of people describing it as a run, paddle, and bike . . . we’ve got to figure out a way to show people for what it really is – a morning, a day, or more, of going out with your buddies or with your best friend (you) in the back country and seeing some beautiful stuff along the way.

Besides, most of us don’t actually run the whole time, anyway. And nearly everyone sucks at paddling.

So, what do we all do as a community to change the perception? To get AR where trail races, gran fondos, tris, etc are? Accessible yet challenging and always worth it? I mean, look at mud runs – some of them shock you and make you crawl through barbed wire – that’s torture! This is fun!

Adventure racing,  you’ll never feel the same about yourself.

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