Monday, 19 July 2010

The AR calendar

This posting is in response to a number of questions people have asked me about my thoughts on the fullness of the AR calendar.

Over the past decade AR has gone through various waves. These waves have really been shaped by the number of sprint and short events on the calendar. When sprints started there were a few a year that were very well attended. Then things got crazy with an abundance of sprints. Numbers at longer races plummeted and numbers at each sprint event dropped as they were spread between many events.

Overall, when the number of events increases, numbers drop overall - and they stay down for a few years. Like donor fatigue, there's participation fatigue.

Adventure racing was in a slump for some time. People would try to present longer events and they'd get too few entries to actually host the events, so they'd be cancelled.

Last year - speaking here of Gauteng - Cyanosis/Uge Events cancelled all of their events due to other committments; Heidi and Stephan began presenting the Kinetic Urban/Adventure events. Numbers increased steadily. At the moment, participation is very positive in Gauteng, with many newcomers at each event.

June/July has been very, very busy for events - and this is actually to the detriment of each event and the sport as a whole. Yes, less is more; and more is too much.

People attend events like Kinetic Adventure sprints and the inaugural Full Moon, they see lots of people participating and they think, "This is so much fun; we'll also present an event/series". My response: "Please don't - well, not a series anyway". The problem is the piggy-backing on the current high tide, which has a detrimental effect on everyone. There are just too many events, especially when you add mtb, trail running and such to the AR events. Yes, overload.

Two weeks after Full Moon there was Ystervark and a week later, Diamond Dash. Racers are VERY unlikely to do all three; they'll do one or maybe two. Time and money are limiting factors, big time. Each event's participation numbers is compromised by the other. And, some people who had 'bad' races at these, now will not be taking part in Swazi in August.

The other thing is that sprint and short course (6-8hr) events compromise longer, overnight events. They're accessible, cheaper, closer and easier. Most participants will enter these easier and shorter races, thinking to 'build-up'; and if they don't have a great race there they don't progress. Also, history has shown that a minority of sprint and short course participants advance to longer distance events; to real adventure racing.

Man, 10 years ago - when no-one knew what adventure racing was - we had more people taking part in 250km and 500km events than we do now!

So, I'm not crazy about the flood of events on the calendar. It spreads participation numbers too thinly and, despite good intentions, it compromises longer distance events, which are true adventure racing (sprints are not adventure racing; they're fun). But, neither I nor any of the organisers will tell people not to put on events; they'll do it regardless because they have the point of view of encouraging participation by providing a step-up to longer races etc. But, it just doesn't work like this. And so, although participation is rocking now, the slump will follow. Again.


Tommy Booth said...

Another explanation to the many ar events in June and July is that these organizers realized that there are a lot of teams looking for good preparation/test events for swazi. Which is exactly what full moon, ystervark and too a lesser extent, diamond dash 2 has done. Every minute that newly formed teams get to spend together in a race is valuable training for the big SX. I say: 'Well spotted!' to these event organizers for seeing this need in the AR economy.

adventurelisa said...

Agreed. These races have been awesome prep. I did two of the three and thoroughly enjoyed each one.