Q&A with Race director Mark harris
USARA: What are you looking forward to at this year’s Shenandoah Epic race?
Mark Harris: Showing off my backyard and the area that I love to the racers. The Shenandoah River and Massanutten mountain range are beautiful spots but with challenging terrain. It is just such a great spot to hold an adventure race. In addition to being able to share the area, putting together a race and finally seeing everyone at the start line with anticipation in their eyes brings a great feeling of accomplishment. We have such a wide spread of experienced racers to first timers, and knowing they are all going to get something out of a course and event that we designed is very satisfying.
USARA: How will this year’s race stack up as a USARA Regional Championship?
Mark Harris: I think we have the largest 24-hour race field out of any of the Regional Championship races this year with 300 participants making up 115 teams, so there will certainly be a competitive field of racers. We also have a great mix of first-time racers too, so there will be a good blend of excitement on all levels. The other Regional Championship races are all such high-quality events run by well-respected race directors, and I think the Epic will complement the entire series really well.
USARA: How many years have you been directing the Epic?
Mark Harris: This will be the 10th edition of the Shenandoah Epic. We used to put on a whole event weekend with other race distances, but in the past 2 years, I have found being able to focus on the one large 24-hour event makes it a more quality experience. The level of effort we put into the course from the accuracy of the checkpoint locations to the map quality--all the way down to the bibs and packet pickup experience--makes it an event that people keep wanting to come back to race again or try for the first time.
USARA: What is your approach to course design and how do you keep the race "fresh"?
Mark Harris: The Shenandoah Epic does use a lot of the same terrain and that can be challenging to make it feel like a new adventure for repeat participants. We make sure we mix up the order of disciplines, hit trails in different directions, and do sections earlier or later in the race to keep it fresh. Riding a trail at night in one direction can feel totally different from riding it in the other direction in daylight. One advantage of using the same canvas to host an event year over year is we can nail estimated times, have logistics dialed in, and ensure we have great safety protocols in place that can be used year over year.
USARA: What has tracking brought to the sport? How will fans be able to track this year's Epic?
Mark Harris: Our goal with tracking, not just for the Epic but for other adventure races and endurance sports, is to help raise awareness and provide a platform that is easier to tell the “story” of the event and take some of the mystery out of adventure racing. Making the race more accessible to families and friends to follow teams is key to helping grow the sport and increase awareness of what adventure racing is all about. This is on top of the safety and logistics benefits it brings to race directors. For the Epic this year we are incorporating some additional live media, commentary, and event information, all delivered through the tracking platform, making it the one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to follow the action. Live tracking will start at 09:00 EST on April 23, and everyone can follow along at https://live.enabledtracking.com/epic2022/.
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