Definitely not dead... at least not in ENDracing's neck of the woods!
I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about the art of race directing, probably because i've been spending so much time engaged in the activity. In fact, lots of the time i feel like i've bitten off more than i can chew this year with END-AR24 coming so closely on the heels of END-WET, and right as i'm supposed to be gearing up for my 'real' jobs teaching a technical math course and some science blocks at the University.
Lucky for me, my wife is a saint (and it also helps that she's racing).
But i digress - what i'm really struggling with (in a good way) is figuring out the balance of what makes a great race here in the upper midwest. This question was brought up again yesterday when i found in my inbox a plea of sorts for racers to sign up for a sprint race put on by the main adventure racing promoter in Minnesota, Wild AR. Apparently they've got a 3 hour sprint event coming up the week-end before END-AR 24 that, at least as of my last check, had fewer than 30 participants signed up - the number they've decided is needed to make it a go (considering what they call the 'financial realities').
I've got some ideas as to why this might be the case. One is that racing needs to be cheaper. It is already a daunting sport for many, particularly at the upper level (just having even '6 hours' in the title puts off a lot of newbies who would be more than capable of doing well, but need convincing that this is the case), that the minute newer or even experienced racers see the price tag, they often look no further. Sure, elsewhere in the country, even places as nearby as Winnipeg, there is a thriving AR community and people are willing to pay more. But in North Dakota? Minnesota? Maybe not. After all, there is little awareness of the sport out of the core group of people already hooked. It's hard to hook new people, particularly level headed folks of scandinavian descent, when the prices are high.
But as important as the cost, is what you get for it. If you do it right, in my opinion, you get an experience. Swag is nice, sure, and so are fancy maps and free food - but if the race isn't totally bad ass you won't get people coming back. People have to be challenged. Some of the new people have to bite off more than they can chew. Some will manage to get through it. Some won't. Not all will be back, but word will spread that the event is the real deal and this is what its all about.
So basically what i'm saying is this - I understand Wild AR's call for people to 'support local racing' and 'keep AR alive' in MN and the upper midwest. But in my mind it's not as simple as that - we want to be lobbying racers to keep the right kind or AR alive up here.
Real Challenge. Real Cheap. And that attracts Real Competition. That is AR ENDracing style. I wonder if maybe that is why we had 30 people signed up for END-AR less than 24 hours after we opened registration....