BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — For the first time, Northwest Arkansas is hosting a leg of the Adventure Race World Series April 3-8.
The teams represent 13 different countries, and there are even quite a few locals testing their strength, endurance and navigational skills during the five-day Adventure Race called Expedition Ozark.
Adventure racing is where teams of athletes will bike, run, paddle and repel through a series of checkpoints spanning across hundreds of miles with just a map and a compass to navigate.
The race Director, Danny Collins, is an NWA resident. He’s been adventure racing for 15 years, and he said it’s always been a dream to bring the sport to the area.
Collins designed the 400-mile course to run through parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas. He said teams will be competing to see who can hit the most amount of checkpoints the fastest.
The course is designed to only afford the winning team around four to five hours of sleep all week.
Expedition Ozark is one of four courses in the country this year.
“It’s made for this,” Collins said. “I’ve gotten the chance to race across the world in these types of races in other places, and here you can literally paddle, cave, bike, hike all in the same day, and almost anywhere in Northwest Arkansas.”
The course has been kept a secret from the athletes until they left the Graduate Hotel in Fayetteville around 5 a.m. Monday morning. Collins said some of the places they’ll be navigating through include the Buffalo River, Beaver Lake and The Back 40 Loop.
Team Denmark said adventure racing is their way to travel the world, and they’re excited to explore NWA, especially since it’s warmer and greener than Denmark this time of year.
“We’re looking forward to the whitewater rafting,” said Mikael Martinsen, a member of Team Denmark. “We don’t have whitewater in Denmark, so that’ll be fun. We bought a pack raft here.”
Team Natural State said they’ve spent their lives on the area’s rivers and trails, but said it’ll still be a challenge.
“There’s a distance aspect to this and then there’s also a mental aspect,” said Summer Reign, a member of Team Natural State. “Then it’s going to be three days in and we’re exhausted and we’re tired, getting through that and getting through the rest of the two days is going to be a huge personal challenge.”
You can cheer on the athletes yourself. Each night, a watch party will be at the HUB Bike Lounge in Bentonville at 6:30 p.m.
On Friday, you can celebrate the winning team as they come in at Lawrence Plaza. The time will depend on the athletes’ pace and Expedition Ozark will keep you updated here.
Then Saturday, there will be an award ceremony festival with live music also at Lawrence Plaza at 5 p.m.
All events are free.
The winning team will receive $20,000.
Each year Expedition Ozark organizers expect the race to grow, with the goal of eventually hosting a world championship and raising the number of teams from 35 to 100.