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Adventure Racing History

In modern times, we pride ourselves on testing our physical & mental limits. The marathon was the standard of the 1970's while the triathlon was the endurance choice of the 1980's. In all cases, we pushed ourselves to go longer, farther, & faster. Many feel that the great car rallies such as the Baja 1000 & the Paris-Dakar are among the toughest endurance events in the world -- as hard on the human drivers as the vehicles which propelled them. In 1988, however, Gerard Fusil created an event which would ellipse all others -- the Raid Gauloises -- "The Challenge of the Warriors."

Gerard Fusil, a renowned French journalist & adventurer conceived the Raid to reflect both the grueling aspects of ultra-endurance racing & the remote terrain of the great car rallies. Moreover, the Raid would reflect Fusil's keen awareness of the environment as not only would competitors use only natural forms of transportation, but also Mother Nature's most untamed wilderness would serve as the athletes' field of play. To be sure, Fusil created a race which would invariably test the limits of both body & mind.

The Raid Gauloises is held in a different country each year. To reflect the race's location, Fusil often incorporates native modes of travel whether they be horses, camels or canoes propelled by sail. The inaugural Raid was held in New Zealand in 1989. 1990 saw the Raid move to the jungles of Costa Rico; in 1991 new Caledonia was the site; 1992 crossed the deserts of Oman; 1993 conquered Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island; 1994 visited Borneo & 1995's Raid was held in the mountains of Patagonia.

The first American team to compete was Team American Pride in 1992's Oman Raid. Mark Burnett would captain that team as well as teams for the next two Raids. Burnett's crew was the first American team to ever complete the Raid - they finished ninth in 1993's Madagascar event. Burnett caught the adventure racing fever & and has not looked back since his first competition in the deserts of Oman. All the while he was competing, his ideas for an adventure race of his own were taking shape.

An entrepreneur by nature, Burnett was determined to bring adventure racing to America & his dream came true with the inaugural 1995 Eco-Challenge in Utah. From its inception, the Eco-Challenge set new standards of excellence for adventure racing as not only the largest group of competitors ever assembled, but also well organized, extensively covered by network television & print media, & totally committed to preserving the environment & promoting ecological awareness.

The Utah race was followed in June of 1995 by an Eco-Challenge held as one of the events of the 1995 ESPN Extreme Games. Burnett realizing that he was on to something big, has already secured British Columbia as the site of the 1996 race, with other countries in North & South America clamoring for the privilege of hosting the race in subsequent years.

In June 1996 another entrepreneur, Dr. Bill Lionberger and his partner Karen Livesay held the inaugural Four Winds Adventure Race, from Durango, CO., to Taos, NM. It is billed as more than a competition, it is an opportunity for participants and others to learn about themselves and traditions of ancestors on the lands upon which they will race. This race is set up for all levels and emphasizes a high percentage of the five-member teams reaching the finish line.

The 1970's saw a running explosion in America & the 1980's witnessed a boom in the fitness industry as health clubs were all the rage. Well, in the 1990's we are embracing a return to the great outdoors, as our fitness crazed society ventures beyond the clubs & embraces more natural surroundings. The Adventure Race tests the boundaries of this exodus as men & women seek the answer -- what are the body's limits...what are the mind's?

This history is sponsored by the adventure racing team, TEAM HABITAT for HUMANITY. For more information about this team, or to support it with sponsorship, email to

Contributed By: Jack Crawford

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