Best 15 January Adventure Races to Sign Up For Right Now

Credit: Justin Setterfield / Getty Images

Kick off the new year with one of these unforgettable event from our 2015 Adventure Race Calendar.

Mudders and Obstacle Races

Winter Death Race
January 16, 2015, VT
"You may die." That’s the tagline for this masochistic 48+ hour event, held annually on a farm in Pittsfield, Vermont. That farm belongs to Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena, and he’ll decide along with his Death Race co-founders exactly what tough and strange obstacles you must complete. Expect to do anything from chopping wood for hours on end to mentally staving off hypothermia while standing in a freezing pond for just as long. The event’s taskmasters will try to make you quit — to “break you physically, mentally and emotionally.” Make it to the end, and you’ll be in rare company. This event has a 10-percent finisher rate.

Socal Beast Spartan Race
January 17, 2015, CA
The Spartan Beast is a 12-plus-mile race over, under, around and through a course filled with obstacles to climb and challenges to complete. Obstacles include rope walls, mud pits, crawling under barbed wire, leaping over fire and skirting large gaps on rope, via Tyrolean traverse. Challenges include sandbag carries, tractor pulls and balancing on stumps. Just outside of Los Angeles, beautiful Vail Lake offers a picturesque backdrop for competitors as they battle the mountainous terrain in either the Spartan Beast on Saturday, the Spartan Sprint on Sunday — or both, too complete two legs of the SoCal Spartan trifecta. 

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Trail Races and Ultras

The North Carolina Fat Ass 50K
January 15, 2015, NC
In the technical world of trail running, it's hard to complain about a relatively flat out-and-back course comprised of a wide, hard-packed dirt road. But just in case this 50K jaunt adjacent to North Carolina's Fort Bragg starts to feel overwhelming, "no whining" is a race rule. Participants also forgo medals, awards, and race t-shirts in exchange for the $0 entry fee. Rest assured, there are aid stations, albeit sparse and no-frills (water bottles or belts are required at the start). Expect to spend five to eight non-whiney hours running the 32 miles. 

Arrowhead Ultra 135
January 26, 2015, MN
Considered one of the toughest endurance challenges in the world, the Arrowhead Ultra follows the multi-purpose Arrowhead State Trail for 135 miles through northern Minnesota in January, when temperatures can dip to -60°F (the coldest in the lower 48). Participants pick their propulsion method — bike, ski, or run — and tow all their own food and equipment (sleeping bag, bivy sack, stove, cooking fuel). Only half the starters make it to the finish, with no one discipline fairing better than the others. But for speed, pick the mountain bike — a cyclist holds the course record of 14 hours and 20 minutes.

Swampstomper
January 18, 2015, TN
The SwampStomper gracefully wends through the dense hardwoods of Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, punctuated by about a half-dozen steep climbs and descents, and is an ideal blend of terrain for a first-time endurance race (choose 50K or 25K). Until it rains — then the course goes from manageable to slippery to muddy to a bonafide swamp. In fair weather, the winner will complete the 50K in just over four hours and the 25K in just under two. But weather in Memphis is variable in January; expect anything from sub-freezing to 50 degrees and sunny.

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Mountain Biking

Tour D’Afrique
January 9, 2015, Egypt
This trans-continental race begins in Cairo, Egypt and ends in Cape Town, South Africa. The four-month expedition covers almost 7,500 miles and leads riders through 10 countries in all. Participants will cycle along the Nile river past ancient temples, through the Sudanese desert, and up and down the biblical landscapes of Ethiopia's rugged Simian Mountains. After crossing the Equator in Kenya, riders will pass Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls, and the Kalahari and Namib deserts en route to the finish in Cape Town. In its thirteenth year, the race is "a test of mind, body, and bicycle."

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Cyclocross

The Kingsport Cyclocross Cup
January 3, 2015, TN
Part of USA Cycling's professional cyclocross calendar, the Kingsport Cyclocross cup is a challenging and competitive way to kick off the year. The course – located in East Tennessee on a small island – starts on pavement, continues on grass, and has a series of technical sections that include steep hills along the water. It includes a series of short ride/run-ups and follows an old road bed to the tip of the island where it returns along the river and crosses the only set of artificial barriers. Each lap is about 3.0 km in length and has 15 feet of elevation gain.

USA Cycling Cyclo-cross National Championships
January 7, 2015, TX
The National Championships' four days in Austin will offer cyclocross racers of all levels a chance to compete on the season's biggest stage. Unlike previous nationals course held to the north, the course at Zilker Park — also home to the Austin City Limits Music Festival —should trade freezing mud, snow, and ice for fast dirt and grass sections broken up by tight, technical turns. Early in the weekend, junior and masters age group racers get the chance to vie for their own national titles as well.

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Standup Paddleboard and Surfing

The Orange Bowl Paddle Championships
January 1, 2015, FL
An official World Paddle Association (WPA) event, the Orange Bowl Paddle Championship provides three courses (Elite, Recreational, and Sprint). The course winds its way through downtown Miami, Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, giving the event a unique urban feel. The Orange Bowl Paddle Championship is a charity-driven event with a focus on children and community. All funds raised by the event will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Miami to fund mentorship activities in the area.

HIHO Adventure Race - The Painkiller Cup
January 17, 2015, British Virgin Islands
The Painkiller Cup is a downwind SUP race in the brilliant surroundings of the British Virgin Islands. Rules change each year, but the 2014 edition of the Painkiller Cup was a team event with three members sharing any board 14' or under, and an escort boat. Racers switched every 30 minutes as they paddled 14 miles from Trellis Point on the fabled pirate hangout of Tortola to the Soggy Dollar Bar in White Bay of Jost Van Dyke. There is also a Mini-Painkiller Cup, a 3-mile solo race.

The Rum Run North Sound Challenge
January 24, 2015, Cayman Islands
Explicitly not for beginner paddlers, competitors in this SUP traverse a roughly 8-mile course, mostly downwind, across the Grand Cayman Island's Camana Bay. After launching from Rum Point, racers must be prepared to deal with various water conditions including waves, currents and the challenges posed by open ocean water.

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Skiing and Snowboarding

Berkshire East Rando Race
January 24, 2015, MA
Part of the esteemed Northeast Rando series, "the Beast" is held at the Berkshire East Ski Resort in Charlemont, MA. The course combines backcountry and frontcountry — the ascent is on a well-flagged skintrack through the woods on the undeveloped face of the mountain, and the descent happens on the resort side under the Quad. Competitors do three laps, including a bootpack section, for a total cumulative ascent of 4,442 feet of vertical. If that sounds vomit inducing, you may be a better candidate for the non-competitive division, which eliminates the steep bootpack and shortens the course. Like all resort-based races in the series, the Beast is free for season pass holders, and otherwise, the entree fee includes a lift ticket for after the race (or during if you have second thoughts). Split boarders and telemark skiers are also welcome.

Dynafit Heathen Challenge
January 17, CO
One of Colorado's lesser-known independent ski resorts, Sunlight is located just south of Glenwood Springs and home to the Heathen — one of the steepest ski runs in North America. Fortunately, the annual Heathen Challenge puts skimo racers in cooperation with the mountain's beastly 52-degree pitch by using it as a fast and furious descent. Even without climbing the Heathen, there's still plenty of challenge skinning up the backcountry along the east ridge for a total of 4,500 feet of elevation gain, or 2,500 feet for the Recreation category.

CROWBAR Backcountry Ski Race
January 31, 2015, UT
CROWBAR stands for Cache Regional Overland Winter Backcountry Race, and is open to alpine touring (AT), randonee, and telemark skiiers, as well as split boarders. While the race is held 100% in the backcountry (Sink Hollow Trailhead), organizers set a skintrack on the ascent, including passing lanes where appropriate. The descent is one heck of a good time, with mellow powder-laden lines at or below 30-degrees (for avalanche safety). Bring your friends and family, as a good portion of the course is visible from the Start/Finish. Plus Beaver Mountain Ski Area is just around the corner for some family fun on the slopes.

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Open Water Swimming

GMHBA Lorne Pier to Pub Swim
January 10, Australia
What began as an informal challenge 35 years ago in Lorne, Australia, has become the biggest open water swim in the world. Each year, 5,000 people swim the 1.2 kilometer course from Lorne's pier through Louttit Bay and finish by body-surfing the waves to shore. The event attracts both elite athletes and amateurs and is known for being competitive and fun. For non- swimmers there's also the Friday morning Lorne Mountain to Surf 8k fun run. It takes in the views of the Otways National Park and and ocean. After, stay and enjoy Australia's famous Surf Coast. Note that there are no race-day entries and the field fills up by early December.

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