Suitable for novices

article015I have been involved in a number of AR events that were advertised as being ‘Suitable for Novices’. A number of people – experienced adventure racers included – seem to have been caught out by the term ‘Suitable for Novices’. I believe that the meaning of the message is in its interpretation, not its intent. So… in an attempt to be more explicit…

The Brainy Dictionary has this to say:
Novice – ‘One who is new in any business, profession, or calling; one unacquainted or unskilled; one yet in the rudiments; a beginner; a tyro.’

I can’t be any clearer than that. A race that is suitable for Novice adventure racers makes allowances for unskilled participants. Specifically, if you are racing in an event that is advertised as “suitable for Novices” then you can expect the following.


  • Checkpoints and Transitions will be at easily identifiable points.
  • Waypoints will be included to guide less experienced navigators.
  • Organisers will be on hand to assist teams with their route planning.

Route Disciplines

  • Cycling will not require a high degree of technical proficiency i.e. steep technical downhills, very rocky terrain and such will not be included
  • Hiking/Trekking will not require a high degree of technical profiency i.e. you won’t be expected to descend steep scree slopes or spend hours on long bundu bashes etc.
  • Paddling will only be on flat water.
  • Ropework will be under supervision and will never be of a technical nature.


  • No place on the course will be more than 20-minutes of hiking from road access.
  • Multiple short course options will be planned for back markers – not neccesarily announced at race briefing.

That’s what I mean by suitable for Novices.

Here is what I don’t mean.

Just because…

  • You did a 30km offroad triathlon in 2-hours does not mean you can lick a 60km adventure race in 4-hours.
  • You rode Sani2C and finished in the middle of the bunch does not mean you can do 30km of AR MTB’ing in 90-minutes.
  • You can run a sub 3hr marathon does not mean you can kill a 10km hike in 45-minutes.
  • You paddle the club dice every Thursday does not mean you can paddle accross an open lake in a strong wind.
  • You did navigation on your sailing course does not mean you can navigate in an adventure race.

Don’t look at the distance. Look at the estimated time to complete. Understand that if the event information lists the estimated duration at 8 – 16 hours then know that the leaders are expected to finish in just over 8-hours and that those back teams will finish in 16-hours. This time estimate does not allow for transitions that take more than 90-minutes or teams being lost for more than 2-hours.

I hope this clarifies the term ‘Suitable for Novices’.

Author: Fred Richardson | Photo by Craig Dutton, Bull of Africa 2005