Adventure racing is totally taking off in South East Asia.
In Thailand, adventure racing is by now a well-established sport. AMA are the main organisers, and they do a slick and professional job. Courses are fun, though not too crazy, with a good mix of running, biking, kayaking, and swimming. Some of the teams that enter give you a good race for your money. And AMA has serious sponsorship – some of the prizes that are on offer are phenomenal with even bikes and kayaks to be won.
AMA have 3 main adventure races throughout the year: River Kwai Trophy in March, Koh Samui Trophy in September and the Bangkok Challenge in October. They also sporadically do the odd adventure dash for individuals, such as the one coming up in April in Pattaya.
Some would contest that multi-sport races are being staged in the region as opposed to proper adventure racing. Teams are composed of two not four people. Courses are well marked as opposed to having people use a map and compass to find own way between checkpoints. However given the lack of proper maps there are around the region, it would be nearly impossible to make navigation compulsory. Teams coming to adventure racing are from the road running or triathlon set as opposed to the being the mountain climbing or multi-day adventure type. That means they mainly want the physical aspect of the sport as opposed to the multiple mental anguishes that true adventure racing can conjure up.
In Vietnam, Viet Adventure are the lads who do most of the organising. Their events are more fun ‘challenges’ as opposed to serious races with break-neck competition. Last weekend I was over at their hardest event, the Madagui adventure race. With a 3am start with a jungle run, it’s definitely the earliest adventure race start in the region. It also has the best mountain biking, with the hills of Cat Tien National Park providing plenty of ups and downs. However finding missing course tape is part of the adventure, a philosophy I’m not sure I buy too much into.
In Hong Kong, Action Asia seems to be the main organiser with a range of single sprint adventure runs. They also have a nice mix of other formats, such as mountain bike races, mountain runs, kayak and runs. They also host a range of ultra marathons outside of the country in places as far flung as Mongolia, Laos, Vietnam, and Nepal.
The other interesting adventure races I’ve heard of is the two day Sabah Adventure Challenge in Borneo, Malaysia. Looks like a serious race in incredible surroundings. The only ouch is the price – 1,500 USD, not including transport there.
Unfortunately Cambodia doesn’t have any adventure races scheduled. Its key events are the mountain bike races, organised by Flying Bikes, and the half marathon and bike events in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, organised by Village Focus. And with teams travelling to adventure race in Thailand and Vietnam, there is definitely potential there for some home grown events.
Want to hear more adventure racing tales? Check out my book, “Mud, Sweat and Tears” with stories from the World Adventure Racing Championships in Scotland.