Paddle Boarding, Island Hopping and Other Multisport Races for Trail Runners

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Trail racing doesn’t have to mean running a set distance on dirt and then stopping. From trail triathlons to events that incorporate paddling, island linkups and even rifle shooting, here are five off-road races that can add a bit of spice to your racing routine.

1. XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon Series

In 1996, road triathletes and mountain bikers held a competition, in the form of a trail triathlon in Hawaii, to see which athletes were fitter. While neither group conclusively won, a new sport was born.

With more than 70 off-road triathlons scheduled for 2016 in the U.S. alone, XTERRA likely has a race near you. Distances vary, but typically consist of a 750- to 1500-meter swim, a 10- to 30-kilometer mountain-bike ride and a 5- to 10-kilometer trail run.

One of the more popular races in the series, the XTERRA East Championship, is held in early June in Richmond, Virginia, every year. Placing well can earn you a coveted spot in the World Championships in Kapalua, Hawaii.

2. Pole Pedal Paddle

May 21, 2016 / Bend, Oregon

Chaos at the start. Photo by DBoswell Photography

With six legs of racing, PPP demands a broad skill set. Race by yourself or on a team through a downhill ski/snowboard run, an 8K nordic ski, a 22-mile road bike, a 5-mile singletrack run, a 1.5-mile canoe/kayak/stand-up paddleboard and a half-mile sprint to the finish. All proceeds from the race go to the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit that supports junior athletes’ academics and athletics.

While you’re in Bend, you may as well enjoy the area’s world-class trails. Bend was named one of Trail Runner’s Top Trail Towns in 2013 and is home to a number of trail-running elites, including 2014 Western States winner Stephanie Howe and 2014 100K World Championships winner Max King.

3. Burton Triathlon and Relay

June 18, 2016 / Burton Historical Park, Nakusp, British Columbia

All smiles during the run section. Courtesy of Burton Triathlon and Relay

Race individually or as part of a team through the pristine surroundings of Arrow Lake in this paddle/mountain bike/trail run triathlon. With two distances to choose from (short course: 1K paddle, 7K mountain bike, 2.5K trail run; long course: 1K paddle, 20K mountain bike, 5K trail run) and the option to do a relay, there is something for everyone.

Stay at the Burton Historic campground, which offers 50 percent off to race participants, and take advantage of the abundant fishing, hiking, boating and bird-watching opportunities in the area.

4. ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Championship

September 5, 2016 / Sandhamn, Sweden

Competitors run across one of the 26 islands involved in the race. Photo by Nadja Odenhage

Like many iconic endurance races, ÖTILLÖ came about because of a bar bet. In 2002, Anders Malm, the owner of a hotel in the town of Utö, and his staff wanted to see who could be the first to Sandhamn, 75 kilometers and numerous islands away. Two teams set out that year; the slower one was required to pay for what the faster team ordered at the three restaurants along the way.

ÖTILLÖ, Swedish for “island to island,” has since attracted athletes from all over the globe. Participants must race in teams of two, the partners never more than 10 meters apart. They swim a total of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and run 65 kilometers (38.5 miles) of trails, crossing 26 islands. That’s 52 land-water transitions; to maximize efficiency, competitors run in wetsuits, cut above the knee for better range of motion, and swim in running shoes.

5. Master of the Mountains Adventure Race/Relay

September 9-10, 2016 / Raton, New Mexico

Racers on the 6-mile trail run. Photo by Tim Keller

With a slogan of “Think your mom is tough on you? Meet our M.O.M.,” this race signals from the get-go that it’s no easy feat.

Runners test their skills with a 6-mile run on Sugarite Canyon State Park singletrack, a 3-mile paddle on Lake Maloya, a 20-mile bike on roads and dirt and a shooting competition at the Whittington Center shooting area. Participants can race as individuals or as two-, three- or four-person relay teams; the fastest of each category is crowned the Master of the Mountains.

For visiting geology buffs, Raton is a famous viewing site for the K-T boundary, a band of rock that indicates the transition between two geological periods, marked by the mass extinction of dinosaurs and other forms of life.

For multi-sport races that feature a trail-running component, please check out our race calendar.

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