SYMPATHEIA. Our project name acts as a reminder that we are an integral part of our ecosystem. A concept the Stoic philosophers used to demonstrate that we are all one. Mutually intertwined.
So it is time to wake up and start treating our planet accordingly—to never forget the interdependence of all living things. And events like Badlands in beautiful Andalucia provide an experience that brings these facts sharply into focus. An opportunity to push past our comfort zones and dive deep into nature, far from civilization. To expose ourselves to the elements with nights spent under clear skies filled with stars.
"To expose ourselves to the elements with nights
spent under clear skies filled with stars."
"To expose ourselves to the elements with nights spent under clear skies filled with stars."
The sand covered gullies - the eponymous Badlands - give the race its name. 725km with 85% off road, a temperature range between 0° and 40°C and +15.000m of elevation. All this and a crossing of the Tabernas—with less than 250mm of annual rainfall, one of the few official deserts in mainland Europe.
The course winds its way to the wild coast of Cabo de Gata - a Natural Park characterized by volcanic rock formations, fossil beaches, abandoned villages and a windswept, barren landscape - before arriving back in Granada and a final challenge: the Pico Veleta—a mountain pass that at 3.200m numbers amongst the longest, hardest and most challenging climbs in the world. So high, that even in summer, snowfields can be found on the south face of the Sierra Nevada, a stark contrast to the dry and arid lands the race route crosses.
Heaven and hell—it’s rare that pleasure, ecstasy and excitement are so closely intertwined with pain, discomfort and exhaustion. But even tortuous 10% climbs in searing heat provide instant gratification once you’ve made it to the top. The super diverse flora and fauna, spectacular sundowns and the obligatory freshly-brewed coffee as the sun once again rises, make every drop of sweat worthwhile.
Why should you sign up right now? Because we believe the increasing comfort offered by society’s ongoing technological progress is slowly suffocating us. Our central heating and air conditioning mean we are rarely discomforted or exposed to the elements. Bodies that were designed to walk and run, weaken as we avoid physical effort or exertion—a hunter-gatherer lifestyle subverted by the drive-through fast food outlet.
Encouragingly, we can observe a growing interest in ultra-endurance bikepacking and commercialized events such as tough mudders, obstacle races and the like. It’s a trend that might suggest a still-present desire in humans for physical challenge and the feeling of reward after pushing through discomfort.
Events such as Badlands give us the opportunity to struggle, to fight, to be exposed to the elements and to wake up our inner powers. We invented technological innovations to ease the challenges of survival but there’s a joy in returning voluntarily to this state of mind.
Be it after an ice bath, an intense sauna session or the first breath when free-diving, arriving at the top of a steep climb, riding through the night and then witnessing the sunrise from the saddle of your bike—these experiences can unleash our primal instincts and powers. It’s Mother Nature rewarding us with a juicy cocktail of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and a range of other neurotransmitters that make us feel alive and well.
For the most part, modern-day society means that suffering is optional. So we need events like #Badlands2020 to offer us a tool for re-assessing our reference points. The satisfaction of finding a source of water, some shade under the midday sun or a nice spot to set up camp— simple pleasures that generate high levels of happiness and a sense of wellbeing in a world where it’s never been more needed.
© Far Ride Magazine 2020