joe selby and team UK adventure racing

Adventure racing: the sport that takes you to magical places

From training in south west London to competing in ‘The World’s Toughest Race’ in Fiji, Joe Selby has had some amazing highs and some tough lows thanks to adventure racing.

Joe was a member of the only UK team to compete in the 11 day Eco-Challenge 2019, that saw 66 teams from 30 different countries trek, paddle board, canoe, raft, climb and mountain bike 671km across Fiji .

Joe said: “I’m really hopeful that this Eco-Challenge creates a buzz around adventure racing again because in my mind it stands out as by far and away the most addictive sport you can get into.

“It’s a sport that takes you to magical places either in your own country or in far-flung countries around the world with a group of teammates, friends if you’re lucky enough, for one hell of an adventure.

“It takes you to highs or lows that I think are often missing in our well-manicured lives. For a lot of people working in nine to five jobs, that sense of adventure can be missing, and adventure racing certainly fills that gap.”

Amazon Prime brought the unique sport to the fore this summer as most people watched teams challenge their physical and mental strength in the race while sat at home in lockdown.

Team UK Adventurers came 22nd in the competitive race, completing the course in 208 hours and 24 minutes – less than nine days .

Like many teams, climbing up 17km of mud with a bike on their back, and losing themselves on a Fijian river led to some of the most testing times for the UK cohort.

However these challenges were always followed by adrenaline-boosting sights and experiences.

Joe recalled his favourite moment from shortly after a navigational slip that cost them hours of race time.

He explained: “We were climbing this waterfall, and the sun was rising over the island of Fiji. It was one of those moments where you just had to stop and realise how fortunate you are to be in that racing situation.

“You get to travel to and experience some fantastic places, places that you just wouldn’t get to see as a tourist.”

Although the Eco-Challenge takes competitors to the extremes of adventure racing, where sleep is often limited to three or four hours every other night, and injuries are expected, Brits can get involved in the sport right on their doorstep as amateurs or professionals.

Joe did a lot of his training in south west London and Surrey, taking advantage of what the area has to offer.

He biked and trekked around Richmond and Surrey Hills, paddled on the Thames, and even spent a day climbing up and down Box Hill 33 times with a heavy pack on to prepare for Fiji’s challenges.

One of the next world renowned races for Team UK Adventurers will be the ITERA Expedition Race 2021, in Oban Scotland.

As part of the Adventure Racing World Series, the expedition spans five days and is over 600km when completed in full.

James Thurlow, Race Director, said: “I’m very passionate about that team at the back. I measure my success based on how many teams I can get across the line, not how many I can break on the way.

“In terms of why Scotland, you’ve just got this amazing scenery and this remote wilderness. So much of it is rarely seen and it’s the perfect backdrop for this kind of event.”

Like Joe, James has done his fair share of adventure racing around the UK and is keen for more people to get involved.

James explained: “I do it for the people. They are the best people in the world. They are so enthusiastic for getting into the outdoors and enjoying the environment they’re in and are just so appreciative of it.”

James has been running events for 15 years, having started adventure racing four years prior to that with his wife.

While most of the race is kept a secret so that local teams don’t get an upper hand on those coming from abroad, the ITERA guarantees the expected variety of disciplines that make adventure racing so popular.

James added: “I think the difference with the UK against some other countries is that we’ve got this huge event scene which I would say is the busiest event scene in the whole world.

“Covid aside you can pretty much, every weekend, go and do an orienteering event or an ultra run.”

For more information about competing in the ITERA, visit their website.

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