At its core, the Shenandoah Adventure Weekend held each April at the Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville is a chance for participants to compete annually in the world of adventure racing. But as Margo Harris, Director of Marketing and Communications for Adventure Enablers, said on Tuesday, the yearly event sets out to achieve much more than that for the Warren County area.
It’s about showing off everything the local community has to offer, she said, from the scenic waterways, rolling hills and mountains to local businesses that help make it all happen.
“You just sort of realize all the natural resources you have around you and you realize all the nice businesses that we can work together and make this all happen,” said Harris, who, along with her husband Mark, owns Adventure Enablers (formerly Rev3 Adventure) and lives in Front Royal. “We start at Downriver Canoe Company but sometimes, like this year, we have so many participants that we need to borrow boats from Front Royal Canoe, and Downriver and Front Royal Canoe work together to make that all happen for us. We get prizes donated from local communities. … I think that’s a nice thing for the community to get people to stay in town and shop and eat and know about local businesses and help each other out.
“But it’s also just highlighting what we have here. The park is amazing. The trails are amazing. The river’s amazing. We just have a lot going on here and to see people use it and showing them how they can access it is, I think, invaluable.”
The ninth iteration of the Shenandoah Adventure Weekend, scheduled for April 13, will be a slimmed-down version of the event. Harris said due to changes in their professional lives, she and her husband opted this year to remove the Epic (a 24-hour, 100-mile event) and Tenderfoot (a beginner-level event catered primarily to children) adventure races from the schedule while focusing all of their attention on the Strong and AquaBlaze races.
The Shenandoah Strong is an eight-hour race that begins with a 12-mile paddle of the Shenandoah River starting at Compton Rapids and includes 10-15 miles of trekking and 15-20 miles of mountain biking through the Shenandoah River State Park. The race, which requires competitors to locate checkpoints scattered throughout the park, features options for solo, two-person and three- or four-person teams, as well as a Tenderfoot category for teams with at least one member between the ages of 9 and 16 that will operate as a “race within a race,” Harris said.
The Shenandoah AquaBlaze is a similar but shorter adventure race that also includes about 12 miles of paddling and 13 miles of running or trekking through the state park for soloists or two-person teams.
Harris said the Shenandoah Adventure Weekend typically draws most of its participants from outside the local area. And while many competitors have prior adventure race experience, Harris said the event is beginner-friendly, too, and only requires that competitors know how to ride a bike (if they’re doing the Strong race) and possess basic map-reading skills.
“The cool thing about this event or any adventure race, really, is you chart your own course,” she said. “We basically give you a map and tell you, you need to find these certain checkpoints. There’s different rules: you have to find them in a special order or you have to find all of these but you don’t have to find these, some are worth more points than others. Basically you decide what you can do, what you plan on doing and then play it by ear. If you’re feeling great then go for more than what you could. You have so many options in it.
“It takes a lot of different skills, so if you’re not so great at mountain biking but you’re a great navigator or you really love to paddle, then there’s your strength and you’re gonna be doing that soon. No one is excellent at all the skills, so it’s really good to bring your teamwork in, and people push each other and everybody is able to shine because everybody has different strengths.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 224 people registered for both the Strong and AquaBlaze races, and Harris said the target for this year’s event is 250 total participants. The late registration period for both races is open until midnight on April 9.
“Yes, you can step right in and one of the great things is it’s just a great community, everybody’s happy it’s spring, everybody’s ready to get out there, everybody’s willing to help each other,” Harris said. “It’s a really fun community. The adventure race community is small, we’re growing it, but everybody just wants more people out there, outside having a good time.”
For those who don’t wish to compete but want to be involved in the Shenandoah Adventure Weekend, Harris said they’re looking for volunteers to help hand out medals and supervise race checkpoints.
If You Go
To register to compete in the Shenandoah Strong or Shenandoah AquaBlaze adventure races or for more information, including mandatory gear needed by all participants, visit adventureenablers.com.