Adventure Race Length - What are you Getting Yourself Into?

One of the first decisions you'll have to make when choosing an adventure race to do is the length of the race. Adventure races vary from just a few hours to multi-week expeditions. Not surprisingly, the number of racers you'll find who are trained and willing (not to mention financially able) to do a race is inversely proportional to the length of the race. The vast majority of adventure racers start with sprint races and most never do anything longer than that, which is perfectly fine because sprint races are great fun and as challenging as you want them to be. In fact, in some ways they can be harder than longer races because they are much more hectic, whereas 24 hour races are more of a slow burn.

A note about race length: when a race advertises itself as lasting a certain amount of time, let's say 6 hours, then that can mean a few different things:

  1. The cutoff is 6 hours and it's a Score-O or Rogaine-style race where competitors choose how long to spend on each leg and which checkpoints they want to go for. All teams will need all 6 hours to pick up points.
  2. The cutoff is 6 hours but the race director is expecting some teams to finish the course before the cutoff, thus finish times will probably be in the 4-6 hour range.
  3. The race director is expecting the average finish time to be around 6 hours, but the cutoff is higher, maybe 8 hours, so most teams will probably finish in 5-7 hours

As you can see, it's important to carefully read the race information when deciding which race to do as all sprint races are not created equal. The race director will usually specify at least the race cutoff time and format. Race directors will also often tell you approximately how fast they expect the top teams to finish.

Below you'll find info about the differences between each of the major categories of race lengths: