by Marcus Leach
Move over Tough Mudder (other endurance races available) there is a new adventure race in town that makes all others look like the proverbial stroll in the park. The Red Bull X-Alps is, in the sponsor's own words, only for 'the most impressive adventurers'.
Forget completing a man-made obstacle-laden course in the mud, this is about crossing one of nature's biggest obstacle courses; the Alps. That is the challenge facing the thirty-three successful adventurers who have been chosen to take part in the race, which will be held in July of this year.
“This is serious adventure,” says race mastermind Hannes Arch.
“Successful applicants had to be among the world's best paraglider pilots, and they also need a lot of backcountry experience and must have a feel for things like the weather, navigation, mountaineering and know how to make good and safe decisions at an extreme level of stress and fatigue.
"The race is not just a physical challenge, it's about the body and the mind. The athletes have to race at an extreme and intense level for 18 hours a day and sustain that for over ten days. It's physically and mentally exhausting. If you make a wrong decision you don't just fall back in the rankings, you can get into danger. This is serious adventure.”
This year's event will be the seventh edition of the epic race as athletes must journey non-stop for more than 1,000km across the Alps by foot or paraglider via set turn-points. The race requires a very high level of endurance – it's not uncommon for athletes to hike up to 100km in a day. The exact route, which promises to be even more demanding, including turn-point locations, will be announced in the spring of 2015. The rules will also see some updates, which will be communicated in the lead up to the race.
“What you can't get across is just how mind-blowingly epic this race is,” says 2013 Red Bull X-Alps athlete Stephan Haase.
From the start gun to the finish, there is no let up in the intensity of the battle. In the 2013 edition, fans were gripped by the epic nine-day duel for 2nd place between Frenchmen Clement Latour and Antoine Girard. They covered a total distance of 2,500km, did not sleep in the last 24 hours and arrived at the finish line within an hour of each other.
“It's this kind of drama that makes the Red Bull X-Alps so unique and such an awesome event to follow, whether on the ground or via live tracking,” says race director Christoph Weber.
The 2013 race was won by the Swiss athlete Christian Maurer in the time of 6 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes. It was his third successive win – and a new record. Will 2015 see a challenger to his reign and a new champion? Could it be the race when the legendary Romanian Toma Coconea – who's competed in every race – finally triumphs? Or will a new face emerge to take the race by storm. The field is wide open.