With the popularity of television shows such as Expedition Impossible people have suddenly become aware of a past time generally known as Adventure Racing. Adventure racing, as its name would imply, involves any type of race to a finish point that has contestants pitted against both each other and the environment. Examples of adventure racing formats would be, mountain biking, canoe racing, cross country skiing and swimming or climbing up and down mountains. Often these elements are combined, triathlon style so as to make the endeavor more of an overall test of endurance and skill. A bike racer may not have the balance or courage required to repel off of a 1000 foot bridge into a gorge. He or she may not have the map reading ability so as to find their way through a jungle. In adventure racing, the terrain is a major obstacle.
Most adventure racing uses a team format and usually a member or two of a team is not really up to the task of the race. This makes for a balanced race where one never knows who will come out a winner.
The first labeled adventure race is said to have been the Karrimor International Mountain Marathon. The event which was actually a double marathon run over the trails of a well sized mountain took place in 1968.
In the 1980s races switched more to single contestants and were often billed as Ironman races. In these a competitor might run, ski, and paddle. Today the most popular format uses four man teams who might as easily attempt to paddle a raft down the amazon as mountain bike across Patagonia. Often these races are held in environments threatened by the encroachment of civilization so as to call attention to ecological concerns.