The largest winter adventure race in the United States will take place in Rockford this weekend.
The Michigan Adventure Race Winter Edition will incorporate both trail and off-trail running for a duration of 4-6 miles on Jan. 19.
Three hundred “crazies” will line up to traverse through the wilderness while tackling fun “Amazing Race”-style challenges along the way, such as mazes in the forest, launching projectiles at targets, easy bouldering or rock climbing, riddles and other mental challenges.
Mark VanTongeren, owner and race director, is passionate about the event he’s created.
“There is no other sport out there that offers such an even balance of mental and physical challenge, with the bonus of a team format and beautiful setting,” VanTongeren said. “We want to offer unique races that challenge people, strengthen friendships and motivate people to stay healthy.”
VanTongeren has overseen all 50 races since the organization began in 2011, and he has even participated in a few himself.
“Finding checkpoints in the woods with a map and compass is exhilarating and rewarding,” he said.
There is no age limit for racers, but 8 years and up is recommended. Racers are on teams of two or three people, and the race caters to every skill level.
”You don’t have to be a top athlete. Most of our racers are in moderate to strong shape,” he said.
With the objective of the race being just to hit as many checkpoints as you can in three hours, VanTongeren explained that some racers choose to walk the entire duration, while others will run it. Checkpoints can be reached in any order, and there is no finish line or timing, so your only competition is yourself.
“There’s no course to finish, so there’s no pressure or sense of failure,” he said.
The goal of the race and all Michigan Adventure races is to motivate people to keep their healthy lifestyle all year round, as well as make an impact by sponsoring different charities.
“We partner with a charity each race,” VanTongeren said. “For the Winter Edition, we will give a portion of the profits to Camp Roger’s scholarship fund for kids who can’t afford camp.”
Registration earns participants a tech shirt, entry into a raffle, place prizes and chili and fruit to be served for lunch after the race concludes.
“We have generous sponsors who provide great gear and gift cards to top finishing teams and in our raffle, which is pretty much the largest raffle of any race I’ve ever seen,” VanTongeren said. “We often give out prizes to over 100 racers.”
To join the race, visit miadventurerace.com and sign up with a teammate or two by noon on Jan. 17.
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek Photography. Courtesy Michigan Adventure Race