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Mark Twain Forest Adventure Race raises funds

Your success will depend on the commitment and follow thru to every possible detail by your committee and volunteers.

By Terry Whaley, Ozark Greenways

Map of Missouri

If you're looking for an event that will draw attention to your trail efforts, challenge your special event staff, and with good planning make you a few dollars consider hosting a local adventure race. Adventures races or eco challenges are fast becoming the next great sport activity for the weekend warriors and the seasoned athletic alike. Both of these are user groups on your trails, so why not program a special race that will really get their juices flowing.

photo: Runners starting on the multi-use Adventure Race sponsored by Ozark Greenways
Runners starting on the multi-use Adventure Race sponsored by Ozark Greenways

Unlike duathlons and triathlons, adventure racing is more open for interpretation as to the activity and distances. Adventure racing combines a variety of traditional outdoor sport activities into one grand event that can truly level the playing field between the athletically gifted and the rest of us.

For the fourth consecutive year Ozark Greenways, Inc. in Springfield, Missouri has held the Mark Twain Forest Adventure Race. Designed as a fundraiser and to attract attention to Ozark Greenways efforts to build trails, and develop urban greenways the event has become and annual activity for many of its original participants and volunteers.

The event requires that a coed team be prepared to spend 8-12 hours in a variety of challenging activities. Our favorites are running, canoeing, mountain/trail biking and orienteering. Several other small "mystery events" are often added to the program just to keep racers on their toes. Mystery events have included, obstacle course activities, trivia questions about the resources they're using, archery, and even a mini jigsaw puzzle one year.

The most anticipated mystery is always the order of activities, distances and route. This information is not reveled until team check in on race day. The first year's race attracted 54 teams, three times what the planning committee expected for a first time event. We have found that for safety and logistics of the venue 85-90 teams is a good number, and we have no problem filling up. Cost for team participation in 2003 was $320. For this each participant receive a post-race meal, use of a canoe, an event t-shirt, and a finisher prize. Each participant must provide his or her own bike and all personal gear required to participate in the race.

To coordinate such an event is no small task. On race day some 40 volunteers pulled double duty over a fifteen-hour period. Paramedics were logistically placed to cover a 39-mile racecourse and twenty minutes away was a medical helicopter placed on alert with two predetermined landing sites on the course. Also necessary were cooks, food, and drink for the post race meal for 400 plus participants, and volunteers, showers, awards, photographers, 180 canoes, mobile water tanks, PA system, two-way radios with volunteer operators, and parking for volunteers, spectators, and ninety teams with bikes and related race gear.

The race committee consisted of six volunteers meeting weekly from January to the end of June. Long range planning time has been reduced thru four years of experience with the same individuals remaining involved. Your success will depend on the commitment and follow thru to every possible detail by your committee and volunteers. One year in advance is not too far out to start planning. Your venue, necessary permits, insurance, sponsors, and establishing the race route, are a few of the first things to take care of. Also needed are post-race management activities, including follow up surveys with volunteers, participants, and sponsors to evaluate the potential for future events.

Ozark Greenways is a nonprofit citizens group promoting, funding and working to develop trails in Springfield, Missouri. Visit them at www.ozarkgreenways.org.

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