Speed Freak-Out: sprints vs multiday

article009Adventure sprint races (20-40km distance, 2-4hrs duration) were launched as introductory events to give entrants a taste of adventure racing. They’re great for newcomers, weekend warriors, families and experienced athletes.

“But, over the past few years we’ve seen little crossover of adventure sprint participants to multi-day adventure races,” says writer Lisa de Speville, the founder of www.ar.co.za.

AR organiser Fred Richardson recently remarked that: “The helter-skelter pace of sprints gives new people the wrong impression. They are left thinking that the same pace has to be maintained for long races as well”.

He has a point that may explain the poor follow-through from sprint to adventure races. I have always maintained that adventure sprint races are not adventure races. Here’s why:

Sprints are sprints… speed is inversely proportional to distance
The International Association of Athletics Federations provides substantiative evidence. 100m can be run in 9.77-seconds. That’s 1km in 1:38 and if Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell could sustain this pace they would cover almost 37km in one-hour. But, they can’t. The greatest distance run in one-hour is 21.285km* by Haile Gebrselassie and the fastest 100km time is 6h13, which is a 16.08km/hr pace. Winning Comrades pace is around 16:68km/hr). It is physically impossible to take adventure races at adventure sprint race pace.

* Record set on 27 June 2007, result awaiting ratification

Sprints are races… but only if your objective is to get to the finish line as quickly as possible. For most people sprints are fun outings and time is irrelevant.

Adventure races are a totally different animal. They require navigation, strategy, planning, logistics, transitions,taking racers over difficult terrain, with individual sections that take as “little” as six, to more than 24-hour to complete. These elements just don’t have time to surface during a sprint.

If I can encourage you to set one goal for next year it would be to enter an adventure race. Pure adventure racing is challenging, enthralling and liberating. I guarantee too that you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

Author: Lisa de Speville | Published in Go Multi Magazine, Oct/Nov 2007