There are as many different motivations for running as there are runners. Some find motivation from a bib number or a structured training plan. Others chase it in the wild. While races can satiate our thirst for competition, they can also be expensive. They also narrow down your potential for places to run and distances to cover. When you look more toward exploration and adventure, running can open you up to places you’d never imagined.
Adventure running combines the experience of traveling to a new place with the ability to accomplish a physical feat. It allows you to pack more fun into less time, and let you tick off travel objectives and bucket list items at the same time. And it’s a sport that you can take into the mountains, canyons, and rainforests, past alpine lakes and along craggy cliffs—basically any type of landscape you want to explore. Here’s how to add more adventure to your life b running places instead of races.
Use the sport to see more.
Running allows you to see more, in less time, with fewer things to weigh you down. The camaraderie, the structure and the prizes all make great incentives to sign up for a race, and appease human nature’s tendency towards competition, but I would argue that these same people would find even greater joy and fulfillment by setting out on their own and using the sport as a vehicle, using running as a way to see and experience and travel.
Experience the world by foot.
There’s no better way to get your bearings than on the run. Unencumbered by windshields and air conditioning, unfettered by soaring airplane heights or speedy jet boat waves. Running is a simple, natural reconnection with Mother Nature, feet in the dirt, sun on your face, breeze and sun and weather against your bare skin as you cut through a canyon, meadow, timberline, or anywhere else.
Allow yourself more freedom.
Races are inflexible. When you’re organizing an adventure run among friends, times can be adjusted according to weather, campsites can be relocated, or bivys can be placed according to group consensus. In general, runners will feel less pressured and able to give their bodies the relaxed peace of mind they need to succeed their goal. The collective goal becomes completion.
Set your own pace.
Outside, competition matters a lot less than safety. You’re there to be there and enjoy your surroundings. Don’t rush yourself. Be sure to allow enough time to soak in the sights, get a little lost, and with enough room for a spontaneous sun tan break or jump into an alpine lake. The world will only move as fast as you make it.
Lighten your load.
There’s something to be said about complete self-reliance on a trail. Running doesn’t require heavy overnight gear, awkward cooking supplies or bulky layers for downtime. Running itself is meant to be freeing, both the experience of feeling featherweight soaring down a trail, and the psychological benefits of releasing endorphins and running off steam and stress. So when you’ve managed to whittle down a 50-mile trip into a seven-pound pack, you’re right to demand a certain amount of pride.
Stretch your dollar.
Races are expensive. Between the organization, structure, swag bags, and safety precautions, you’re paying for much more than a ticket to cross a finish line. Plus: The bigger the city, the bigger the price tag. Spend your money on the gear that will help you go farther, and put your race ticket cash toward a tank of gas or post-run happy hour.
Adjust your expectations.
20, 50, and 100 miles is going to sound daunting for anyone’s first try. But with the right pace, gear, and mindset, I promise that you’ll surprise yourself with how far you can go and how much you can accomplish. Always have a backup plan – but keep it as a backup. You won’t know whether you will fail at something until you make yourself vulnerable and give it a shot.
Find out what stokes your run.
Ultimately, it’s up to you and personal preference. Some folks live for the finish lines, the collector’s race bibs, and the ticking off seconds from a PR. But if you can forego the cushy post-race brunch spread and settle with a squished PB&J, and trade the cheering sidelines for wildflowers and gaping canyons, chances are you might enjoy the landscape of adventure running far more than pavement.