Monday, 19 March 2007

The Little Red Hen

This theme has actually been brewing for some time; and I was reminded of it this weekend at the UGE Events sprint in Krugersdorp when I saw the friendly and familiar faces at marshal points along the route...

As you well know, Adventure Racing is not a mass participation sport like road running, road cycling, mountain biking, soccer, rugby etc.

The "adventure racing" event with the most participants is certainly the Mudman series in KZN. The event includes a 750m swim or 4km paddle, a 5km trail run and a 20 km mountain bike ride. Team format is individuals or teams and entrants are members of the public, or school & corporate teams. There's also an U10 kids event. The event welcomed 800 entrants in February 2007.

Ugene Nel's Quantum Adventures had 155 teams (approx. 330ppl) this past weekend. The event included 20km mtb, 5km trail, water crossing & obstacles.

For both of these series the routes are tagged and navigation (even basic nav) is not included (they could be more classified as off-road multisport than AR as such...)

The UGE Events races are 30-45km in distance and also include mtb, trail running and ropes/obstacles/tubing. Basic navigation is included (road maps, orienteering maps etc). Max numbers here are around 200 entrants.

Once you start looking at 100km races... well, entries are in the region of 40-60ppl and as for 250km events (Swazi Xtreme being the biggest at approx. 160ppl) an average is in the region of 40ppl.

Although I have digressed, what I hoped to illustrate above is that AR is a small sport.

Most event organisers have day jobs. They organise events because they can and because they enjoy putting on events. But, each event needs man-power in the form of volunteer marshals to oversee transitions, certain checkpoints, start, finish, registration... there's a lot that happens on the ground to make an event possible. And, as you've probably noticed, it is the same faces you see at each race. Up country at UGE Events, organised by Eugene, Michele, Nicholas and Ryno, you'll see George and Joan van Jaarsveld (orienteerers who always volunteer their assistance at AR sprints), the Mulders (Nicholas and Michele's folks), the Bothas (Eugene's folks) and associated friends, team members and AR Club members.

Michael Graz has recently taken over chairmanship of WPASS in CT. The club's member numbers and support has dwindled to a trickle so Michael created a poll to ask the members what they wanted from the club. You know what came back? Events. Considering that Ugene puts on around one event a month I'd hope that each person that responded has been entering these... (if not, requests for more events are null and void if you're not doing the existing events).

Events need an organiser, they need volunteers to help and they need participants. The fable of the Little Red Hen comes to mind. Everyone is keen to eat the bread but no-one wants to grow the wheat and bake the bread.

Again, this isn't only about events, it's about our adventure racing clubs. These clubs have been created by people around the country to provide a central community within various areas. Speaking for AR Club, there are a core of people who organise events (we have to organise a paddling event and 2 orienteering events each year for our Provincial associations), club evenings, club activities and such. The other Provinces are no different in that a few people handle club affairs. We're just lucky in Joburg in that the club has been going for the longest (about 5-years) and that we have greater member numbers because of our multisport affiliations and that over the years we've built a loyal base. Clubs are a wonderful infrastructure for knowledge, comaraderie and activity, but they do need to be supported.

So, the moral of this blog is the following:
  • Regular volunteers, you are treasured and appreciated. Thank you.
  • Event organisers, thank you too for presenting events for us to enter. We appreciate that you spend your weekends scouting for races instead of lying under a tree in a hammock with your feet up after a tough week at work.
  • Join your nearest adventure racing club, attend their club evenings, make friends within the clubs and offer to organise a social club trail run or mtb ride.
  • Volunteer to marshal at an event; it is a great way to meet other racers and it may give someone who always marshals an opportunity to actually take part.
  • Instead of requesting that more events be organised, why don't you take the initiative and organise something for everyone else?

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