Going for Distance

Adventure Ozark 8-Hour Adventure Race

outbackinozarks_logoHood to Coast burst onto the scene on August 7, 1982.  Known as the “Mother of All Relays,” it paved the way for several others.  The mystique and attraction to these types of events are the victories, mishaps, and unpredictability.  I guarantee any person that has been involved with an overnight relay has a story.  The vast majority of them are humorous in nature. 

As the popularity of relays grew, the expansion to other states followed.  It wouldn’t be long before someone in Arkansas decided it was time to showcase what “The Natural State” had to offer.  Todd and Kimberlee Guin wanted to afford others the relay experience.  Thus, Outback in the Ozarks was born.

I met Kimberlee at the Route 66 Marathon when she approached me with a flyer about the race.  Having recently finished Capital to Coast Relay in Texas, the idea was appealing to me.  I had to know more.

She outlined her ideas and plans to me.  I listened in astonishment.  Her idea was to direct a race that you would never forget.  Every Arkansan knows that a 200-mile relay in the Ozarks would not be flat.  Along with hills, stunning views, lakes, rivers, wildlife, etc. can be appreciated. 

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Can’t beat some of the views in “The Natural State.”  This is at Devil’s Den.
Can’t beat some of the views in “The Natural State.” This is at Devil’s Den.

By design the course will challenge you, but give you access to some of our Arkansas State Parks (i.e. Hobbs State Park-Conservation AreaWithrow Springs, Lake Fort Smith, Devil’s Den, and Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park).  Relays are unique, but this undeniably is an example others should follow.

Runner #7, this is part of your leg!  Enjoy the trail at Hobbs.
Runner #7, this is part of your leg! Enjoy the trail at Hobbs.

In my opinion one of the best things Todd and Kimberlee did was their orchestration of the major exchanges.  This is where the vans switch.  Utilizing the state parks was ingenious.  Most teams have 8-12 members in two vans.  Van #1 will run the first six legs and Van #2 the next six legs.  The pattern continues until all thirty-six legs are complete. 

Having the exchange in an open area benefits the teams.  Since our state parks have showers available, the teams can freshen up, use “real” bathrooms, and lounge around before or after the exchange.  No need to clutter around areas in the middle of nowhere, which is not uncommon for relays.  Bravo, race directors!     

Exchange 29: Pancakes anyone?
Exchange 29: Pancakes anyone?

On the eve of a relay, teams are making final preparations.  Last minute rushes to the store for more supplies are underway.  Decorations are being put on the vans.  The anxiety of the event swirls through everyone’s mind.  Injured or nearly injured runners are contemplating if they will run.  Batteries are being checked thrice. Without question, it’s not the same as a typical race.  One wouldn’t have to worry about a van running out of gas during a 10k or supporting an entire team of runners day and night.  Something that is comparable to typical half marathons and full marathons is the pre-race dinner.

This gathering is open to all participants the night before the race.  Teams have a chance to meet each other and to get any questions answered before the party starts the following day.  Use your time wisely. 

I applaud the race directors for going out of their way to make this the best experience for first-timers and seasoned relay runners.  They have put in countless hours of preparation.  The detail of the race guide confirms my belief that Todd and Kimberlee have the best interest of the runners in mind.  The crazy contests add another element of fun to the event.

The Community Bicyclist
There will be spectators everywhere, but don’t feed them.
There will be spectators everywhere, but don’t feed them.

Both groups will find this to be nothing like they’ve ever experienced.  I sure hope my schedule permits me to do this next year.  I am jealous!  I know what’s going through their minds.  “What have I gotten myself into?”  You’ve gotten yourself into a good time, that’s what!

When I’m not running, volunteering, or writing, you can usually find me lurking on Twitter, blogging at ICEdot Athletes, or on #Runchat.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks Nick for taking the time to write this. It was definitely an experience no one will EVER forget especially with the record-breaking snow showers. Our first Outbackers are the toughest people I know. And oh, the stories we will tell….

    1. This was the first race of this kind for me, but something I had always wanted to do. I gathered a team of 12 with only a couple of the 12 ever doing a race like this and several were new or newer runners. We were all excited and nervous due to the extreme elevation of the course…but we never dreamed we would deal with freezing temps, rain, snow, sleet and mud…Talk about last minute preparation. Scrambling for gloves, jackets, hats..any cold weather gear that we thought we had put up for the season. Not only worried about the elevation, we now had to deal with how to tackle this in these extreme conditions. I will have to say it was quite the challenge, but It was one of the best experiences we have ever had, and one we will talk about for many years to come. We knew that Todd and Kimberlee Guin had worked their tails off to make this dream happen for them and for all the runners involved. I want to thank them for all their hard work and for giving us the experience of a life time. Trust me, if you did not get to do this race this year I HIGHLEY recommend you do it next year, as I know you won’t regret it.
      Stacey Phillips, Captain – Team Honey Badgers

      1. This is the kind of report I expected to hear. These types of relays are experiences in themselves, but when the race directors put on a race that truly is for runners, you get an experience of a lifetime. I’m glad you had fun out there, Stacey! If you ever do another relay, it may be fun, too, but I’m sure it will fail in comparison to Outback in the Ozarks.

    2. Kim, you know I love writing about playing outside in Arkansas. This relay will be remembered for being epic because of the people, route, weather, and other shenanigans. I’ve heard you all put on a well organized event, which I knew before anyone told me. From the work you all put into it, how could it not be spectacular? The stage has been set for more craziness in the Ozarks. Teams are already preparing for it.

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