Why Adventure Racing?
Adventure racing is known as boosting a distinctive habitus, very similar to those found in the corporate world. It is a multi-sport, multi-day endurance competition and anything but a new sport. Its origins can be traced back to the ‘Coast to Coast’ race in New Zealand in the 1980's. Competitors crossed the South Island of New Zealand, a distance of some 200 kilometers of extremely arduous terrain, by trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking and other forms of non-motorized transport. After the initial success of the race, several others developed, but the turning point for this new genre of sport came in 1995 with the establishment of the ECO-Challenge.
First staged in Utah, USA, for MTV it has subsequently been held in Canada, Argentina, Morocco, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Fiji. The ECO-Challenge became hugely successful and was the signature sporting event for the Discovery Channel, which was considered the world's premier and benchmark adventure race. Following on from the success of ECO Challenge, other similar events have developed such as France's Raid Gauloises, New Zealand's Southern Traverse, Mild Seven's Outdoor Quest and ESPN's X-Games which in turn have spawned a world-wide industry with dozens of other adventure races being held annually, ranging in duration from four hours to 10 days.
Adventure racing is now a worldwide phenomenon and reputedly the world's fastest growing team sport. Races are generally structured to suit the venue environment and can comprise a wide range of sports, hence the term multi-sport race in use by a number of organizers. Events are designed to meet the expected benefits of its participants. Competitors usually compete in teams of two to four, often co-ed, although a range of categories exists, with team's having to cross the finishing line together. Events are meant to excite, to challenge, but above all they shall add to, or build, a person’s identity.
What does the concept of habitus imply?
The concept of habitus from Pierre Bourdieu is a set of incorporated schemes of disposition, perceptions, and appreciation that orients our practice and gives meaning to them. This paradigm can be used to understand how a specific group’s preference for a specific sport practice is linked to its relative position in society and to the particular benefits expected from practice it. I would like to assert that there are parallels between conceptualizations, perceptions, and judgments of practices embedded in such events and a new corporate discourse that ought to develop.
It could further claimed that these challenges bring values into action. Offering the benefits of transfer-ability of acquired personal development, knowledge, and skills. The competition is meant to be a symbolic practice that has value in the construction of an individual’s identity and understanding of the difference one can make towards an ideology of morally just behavior.
How can my corporation benefit from adventure racing?
Corporates can benefit from adventure racing in three distinct areas:
Firstly, it can be part of a public relations awareness campaign, as it provides immediate benefits in promoting a company’s citizenship activities. Particularly as it is a unique opportunity to promote environmental stewardship and sustainability activities. Participants not only learn about the ecology, environment, and history of the set location, they also showcase how to protect it.
Secondly, the individual and team challenge is a development and training opportunity, as it allows to learn about:
- Team dynamics and leadership,
- Proper communication and orienteering.
Thirdly, the duration and distances of Adventure Races provide a big challenge for all teams. As the event is meant to be achievable for each and every one, it allows to bring corporate values into action, such as:
- Inclusion – Everyone can take part, whatever their starting point
- Participation – We all have something to give and something to gain
- Development – Physical, social, and emotional development through participation and training
- Partnership – Pooling experience and expertise to deliver the best projects possible
Attitude is everything and Adventure Racing is probably THE gem of action sports that allows a company to strategically leverage it - for the benefits of business and socially.