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Get to know the sport "Adventure Racing."

Let us first begin by knowing, what is Adventure Racing?

"Adventure Racing is a self-supported, multi-discipline race that includes mountain biking, trail running / hiking, kayaking / Water sports, rope activities, and orienteering, where a Team of 4 races to the finish line on an unmarked course and experiences the local culture and traditions. The sport varies from 30KM to as long as 500+KMs."


PC: Expedition Africa - AR World Championship 2023 - South Africa


Here are some of the commonly used terminologies used globally:


  • Bike-O: An orienteering section on mountain bikes.

  • Banned Substances: Athletes may not use banned substances or methods as specified in the World Anti-Doping Code.

  • Bike Drop: A place where you take your bike prior to the race start with the assumption that at some point in the race you will end up at that location and retrieve it. Saves the race organization money and trouble because they don’t have to transport the bikes for you, but some race directors don’t like to do it because it gives away part of the course before the race starts.

  • Bike-whacking – That ever-enjoyable activity of carrying, pushing, or pulling your bike off-trail through thick brush. Often results in flat tires, broken derailleurs, cursing, and spectacular falls resulting in puncture wounds. Often used by teams to take a “shortcut” in a mountain bike section but occasionally designed into the course by particularly sadistic race directors who haven’t gotten laid in a while.

  • Bonking: Also known as “hitting the wall,” this is the AR term for what happens when you push your body too hard without providing enough fuel. Usually you will end up in a pathetic state where you are unable to even move and pretty sure you are going to die.

  • Bushwhacking: Blazing your own path off-trail. Any real adventure race has plenty of bushwhacking to get to the more remote checkpoints. Often results in pain, both immediate (thorns) and delayed onset (poison ivy). Also often results in racers getting to see beautiful places that are visited by very few people.

  • Captain: A mastermind behind the team strategy. They must balance the team's strength and weaknesses against the course.

  • Clue-based Checkpoint: A checkpoint where the race director decided not to use a punch, often because it’s in a public area where someone who is attracted to objects placed might be liable to walk off with the CP board or punches. Instead of a punch, you will be asked to take selfie, note some specific information at the location Then you’ll have to write the info on your passport to prove you were there.

  • Clue/Instruction Sheet: A sheet of instruction/route map Team carry along the entire race which tells you helpful information like checkpoints to go to, how to get there.

  • Control Point / Checkpoint (CP): The primary method of keeping score in an adventure race. Racers must locate these points using map-and-compass navigation. CPs are typically orienteering flags / boards with a punch. Punches have a unique metal tooth pattern and racers mark their passports with such punches to prove they have visited the checkpoint. Adventure races and other navigation-based events are designed so racers visit a series of checkpoints which guide them through the course. Often abbreviated CP and followed by a number (CP2, CP34, CPA etc.).

  • Conduct: Athletes must conduct themselves in a respectful manner always, without cheating, abusive behavior, language, or violence.

  • Cut-Off: Usually, a specified time by which you have to get to a certain checkpoint. If you don’t make it you are usually short-coursed. Usually has to do with the race director not wanting teams to do a certain section in the dark, or needing to send teams back toward the start so they will make the race finish.

  • Dark Zone: A certain section of the race that you will not be allowed to complete in the dark because of inordinate danger and low likelihood of rescue, like a whitewater paddling or swimming section.

  • Declination: The angular difference between magnetic north (as measured on the compass) and true north (as marked on a map). Maps typically note what this difference is, and racers must adjust their compasses for declination to navigate more precisely.

  • DFL: Usually what happens when you make such a bad navigational mistake that you can’t understand the accent of the locals you are asking for directions anymore. Stands for Dead-Fuckin’-Last.

  • DNF / DQ: Stands for “Did Not Finish.” This is what you get when you lose your passport or are disqualified for a rules violation or have to drop out for any other reason are given Did Not Finish or Disqualification.

  • Dot Watcher: They are avid Adventure Race fans. Each team carries a satellite tracker during the race. Their location is displayed on the map and can be viewed globally.

  • Expedition Style: A type of adventure race where there is no resupplying, thus you must carry everything you will need for the entire race. Often race directors will at least transport paddles and PFDs for you, but occasionally they will make you carry those around too if they woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.

  • Equipment: AR is self-supported sport and each athlete to bring own gears as specified. Teams and athletes must carry mandatory equipment as described in the Mandatory Equipment List, as well as any race specific items directed by the Race Organizer. Equipment's change race to race.

  • Emergencies, Medical and Communications: Any team, who encounters a medical emergency, be it in their own team or another team, or external to the event, must stop to render assistance.

  • Environment: Teams must treat the environment and landscape of the course with respect and leave minimal evidence of their racing

  • Flag: Used to mark a checkpoint, when you find one of these you know you are in the right place (unless you are at the wrong checkpoint of course).

  • Gear Check: This is when a race official stops you at any point in the race and randomly decides on a piece of mandatory gear that you must show them to make sure you are in compliance with the rules. If you don’t have it then you will be penalized usually a checkpoint or two, or you might have to sit a 15- or 20-minute penalty before moving on again. Truly draconian race directors might even disqualify you.

  • Hamburger Foot: Not nearly as delicious as it sounds, this is what happens when you race for too long with poor foot management. Often preceded by hiking or running for miles with wet feet caused by stream crossings, rain, falling out of the boat, or any number of other reasons. Can often be prevented by carrying (and using) a spare pair of dry socks.

  • Hike A Bike: An unrideable section of the bike course due to various obstacles (rocks, water, dead tree, excessive mud, descend or steep etc) participants will carry/push their cycle until they cross the obstacle.

  • Kayak-O: An orienteering section on Kayak.

  • Linear Course: An adventure race or other navigation-based event in which the checkpoints must be visited in order. Typically, racers must complete the entire course and visit all checkpoints within the time allotted to finish the race officially.

  • Manned Checkpoint: A checkpoint where you will find race staff waiting for you. Often instead of a punch, they will just initial your passport. Usually, a manned checkpoint indicates that there will be some kind of special challenge or ropes course waiting for you there, otherwise there’d be no reason for race staff to hang out.

  • Modified Rogaine: A combination of linear- and Rogaine-style courses. Some RDs incorporate Rogaine-style sections within a linear course.

  • Navigator: That brave soul who is leading the rest of the team into the unknown (sometimes even to the navigator) using the arcane art of orienteering. Often alternates between hero and villain, sometimes in the same hour. Can often benefit from good apologizing skills, so married men are recommended. Usually only one per team as good navigators are hard to come by.

  • Orienteering: The sport of navigating using a topographic map and compass. In an adventure race, there are no course markings and teams are orienting the entire time to find their way between checkpoints. For this race we will be providing Google maps and topographic maps.

  • O-Section: An orienteering section in an adventure race where racers usually just have to find as many checkpoints as possible in a certain area before moving on to the next section of the race. Navigational difficulty is usually higher in an O-Section than in the rest of the race. Often Score-O style.

  • Packhorse: Also known as 'Mule' the physically strongest team members who can carry extra weight for the team wherever required. They do twice the work for a team.

  • Passport: A paper card Team always carries around and punches at each checkpoint to prove Team have visited it. Loss of passport will add penalties to the team.

  • Penalties: Teams who do not complete the course as directed, and in accordance with the rules, may receive a time penalty, an Unranked (UR) status.

  • Portage: Any time you are carrying or dragging a boat over land when you really just want to be paddling it in good old-fashioned water. Usually just a short stretch until you get to more water, but sometimes long brutal portages are used by cruel race directors as a way to make teams suffer a little more.

  • Prologue: An introductory or preceding event occasionally taking place before the start of an Expedition length race to give competitors a chance to get used to a new sport, equipment or altitude.

  • Pre-Plotted Maps: Race maps that are already marked with the checkpoints and transition areas.

  • Pre-Race: Teams must comply with any registration procedures, equipment and competency checks and attend all compulsory meetings and functions as scheduled by the Race Organizer.

  • Punch: A unique hole punch you use to punch your passport at a checkpoint. Most checkpoints are unmanned so punches are used as proof that you found it.

  • Racecourse: Teams must complete the racecourse as directed in the course book and maps, through race checkpoints (CPs) and transition areas (TAs), by the racing discipline specified, using the maps provided by the Race Organizer. The first team to complete the race, having complied with all rules, and any penalties taken into consideration, will be considered the winning team.

  • Race Director: The "ZEUS - Like Figure" who is the mastermind behind the race. A profoundly good race director can put on a race every now and then for your whole life and Team will never guess what he has in mind for the course - Do not forget the blessings.

  • Race Volunteer/Marshall: The army of generous people who help the race director put on the race by manning checkpoints, race check-in, refuel stations etc. without much of any compensation. Treat the volunteers nice, no matter how crappy you are feeling! Without them, you will not be racing.

  • Run-O: An orienteering section on running.

  • Rogaining: Ultra-endurance orienteering events. They range in length but traditionally are 24 hours, during which time checkpoints/controls can be visited in any order. Checkpoints are generally worth different point values, and the most points scored wins. Such formats are common in adventure racing as well; checkpoints are either worth different values as in orienteering, or each checkpoint is worth one point.

  • Skill Test: Event Prior to the start of the Adventure Race where race management observes that each team and team members has the requisite skills required in the race or demonstrate the particular skills and methods used in the race.

  • Sprint Race: Shorter version of Adventure race which lasts for 2 to 4 hours.

  • Stage Race: An Adventure Race that is staged over multiple days. Racing and the cloak is halted at night and resumes the next day, the team with the least running time will be declared winner.

  • Sleep Monsters: The Imaginary creatures that show up after nonstop 24 hour or more mark in a race which is also a condition which affects due to lack of sleep this can cause hallucination, lack of judgement or mind body coordination or more.

  • Skii-O: An orienteering section on Skiing.

  • Special Challenge: Any event in the race that is used more for fun and changing up the pace than as an athletic test, special challenges are sometimes one of the most beloved parts of an adventure race. Often thought of as more of a sprint adventure race category, sometimes longer races can have good special challenges as well. Many special challenges are mental challenges like using measuring the length of a bridge by foot (obviously this is more of mental challenge to walk around to measure much more so than doing it on paper). Or sometimes they are fun or unusual sports or activities that most people wouldn’t have ever done like shooting a muzzle loading rifle or slingshot at a target.

  • Short Coursed: When teams don't get to do the entire course and make it to a race cut-off, in the spirit of the game, race organizers re-route those teams to shorter course so that they cross the finish line and still be able to make it to the points table below full course teams. Time cutoffs are used to determine who is allowed to continue on the full course and who must go on a shorter route. Not a big deal, as in some races few elite teams are short coursed too.

  • Support/ Assistance: Teams may not receive unauthorized race related assistance during the race.

  • Team: Teams must travel and complete the course together, without substitution, and with team members being close enough to see and communicate verbally with each other always.

  • Towing System: Towing System are devices attached from person to another, one bike to another, one kayak to another to assist in team travel by assisting slower or ailing team member.

  • Trail-O: An orienteering section on Trails.

  • Transition Area (TA): An area in the race where teams go in between disciplines to have a chance to resupply or switch around gear. Make sure you park your cycle at designated space. No assistance will be given to any participants during the race.

  • Triad: A strange event contained in some adventure races where a three-person team must travel together while one member is running, one is biking, and one is roller skating (or scootering). Team members can switch off during the event, so it creates a lot of interesting strategic options.

  • Unofficial Team: A team that has been disqualified from the official standings for any of various reasons. Most commonly an unofficial team has lost their passport and decided to continue on and finish the race for fun and personal challenge. Another common reason to be unofficial is that one of your team members had to drop out of the race but the rest of the team decided to continue on and finish the race.

We thank the incredible AR community for introducing so many terminologies over the years. There is more and we will keep adding.



About NthAdventure: NthAdventure is a Bangalore based Adventure Racing company and is the only licensed organization in India to host Adventure Racing from Adventure Racing World Series - USA. NthAdventure’s prime focus is to grow and build Adventure Racing and Orienteering community in India. Both the Race Directors have been part of multiple Expedition Races and have been conducting workshops, training sessions, webinars, and multiple sprint races since 2016 to help Indian teams race ready at global stages.


For more information about NthAdventure and upcoming races visit: https://www.nthadventure.com/ 


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