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Adventure Racing on the Rise at Merrell’s Oyster Urban Adventure Race

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Text by Associate Editor Andrea Minarcek; Photograph courtesy of Merrell

The She-Roes: From left: Andrea Minarcek; Rachel Sturtz; Liza Jhung; Christina Erb; Sarah Bowen Shea; Dana Sullivan

When it launched in 2001, Primal Quest seemed like the very definition of an extreme sport: The ten-day competition called for trail running, mountain biking, and paddling across 400 miles of brutal terrain in the Colorado Rockies. Who in their right mind, I remember thinking, would want to do something like that? Well, it turns out: A lot of people. The popularity of adventure races has exploded over the past few years. More than 50,000 Americans have tried at least one, the Austin, Texas-based U.S. Adventure Racing Association, found. And there are more opportunities now than ever before: Ten years ago there were only 11 sanctioned races in the country, and now there are more than 400, most about four to six hours long—and catered to teams of amateurs. (Look for more on adventure racing in an upcoming article by Devon O’Neil.)

As a runner and a cyclist, events like these appeal to my inner teamplayer, and I’ve recently jumped on the bandwagon. This past spring, I had the chance to race on National Geographic ADVENTURE’s team in the Drambuie Pursuit, across the Scottish Highlands. And over last week, I joined the ranks again, this time at Merrell’s Oyster Urban Adventure Race, in San Francisco.