Ian Adamson: Worlds Most Successful Adventure Racer Interview

When it comes to Adventure Racing, Ian Adamson has achieved phenomenal success, winning the World Championships no less than six times! He has achieved fifteen world championship podium finishes and fourteen international adventure race championship titles, including Eco-Challenge and Primal Quest.

Ian Adamson, the worlds most successful Adventure Racer
Ian Adamson: Adventure Racer and Kayaker

In 2004 Ian broke the Guinness world record for endurance kayaking. To achieve this he spent 24 hours kayaking along the Yukon River in Canada. He racked up an impressive 262 miles, smashing his previous world records of 217 miles and 203 miles from 1998 and 1997. That’s 400,000 paddle strokes! Endurance kayaking is not just a case of settling down to a steady pace along the course of the river. “You need to find the fastest current, which means your net speed is slower, but your distance covered is greater.” Ian wrote in an interesting article for Paddler Magazine. Using a GPS is essential for maximising the benefit of this strategy, however it does not help prevent you getting sore buttocks, which is a common ailment in endurance kayaking.

In the interview below Ian tells us about his achievements, his plans for the future and his route to becoming an endurance athlete, as well as providing some tips for anyone wanting compete at a higher level.

If you enjoy reading about adventure racers, our interviews with Ian’s AR team mate Mike Kloser, The North Face sponsored Endurance Runner Sam Thompson and World Champion Orienteer Graham Gristwood also make a good read!

Ian Adamson Interview

CheapTents.com: What inspired you to get into Adventure Racing?

Ian Adamson: My parents were my initial inspiration to start exploring, although I have always had an in built drive for adventure. One thing that drove my folks nuts was my habit of disappearing for most of a day from a very young age. When I was 8 I had an 8 ft plywood sailing dingy which I would take on long (6-8 hour) journey’s in Sydney harbor. We lived up one of the rivers and I would sail down into the harbor, dodging the ferry’s and container ships. By the time I was 14 I had a lazer (14 ft fiberglass sail boat) and was heading out into the ocean. This came to a head on day when I was run down by a large racing yacht.

At 17 I backpacked around Britain and Europe on a rail pass, and at 18 took a year off after high school and sailed a 36 ft wooden yacht 6,000 miles up and down the great barrier reef. I then walked most of the way across China and Tibet when I was 20 (1986), and them made my way through south Asia, north Africa and eventually to Britain.

Our family spent a lot of time backpacking and hiking, so map and
compass was familiar to me before I could read.

I’ve always raced anything and everything, including track and cross
country, swimming, Nordic skiing and road cycling from elementary
school, then kayaking, orienteering, triathlon and adventure racing
since 1984.

CheapTents.com: What has been your biggest sporting achievement?

Ian Adamson: Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the ESPN X-Games were super cool, although I’m most proud of my Guinness World Record in kayaking (262 miles in 24 hours.) The one I remember most was my 7th and final world championship win in Sweden in 2006. We had a close to perfect race in fantastic weather and on a brilliant course. It was good enough for me to retire and call it good.

CheapTents.com: What is you biggest weakness?

Ian Adamson: Ice cream, chocolate and red wine! If you mean athletically, I was probably worst on my feet, which is paradoxical since I was a handy middle distance runner at school and have decent PRs in 10K through 50 miles.

CheapTents.com: When did you feel like you ‘made it’ as an Adventure Racer?

Ian Adamson: After winning Eco-Challenge, X-Games, Raid Gauloises and Southern Traverse (which morphed into the Adventure Race World Championships.) This was 1998 and we were making good money with sponsorship from Salomon and prize money. “We” being Team Eco-Internet which Robert Nagle and I co-founded in 1995, and later Salomon and then Nike.

CheapTents.com: Do you feel like you’ve satisfied your goals?

Ian Adamson: Absolutely yes. I went way further and way longer than I would have thought possible. This is really due to my exceptional teammates and sponsors, too many to mention. OK, I do want to throw in John Howard, Keith & Andrea Murray, Steve Gurney, Danelle Ballangee, Mike Kloser, Michael Tobin and Monique Merrill as well as the cast of rotating teammates we were fortunate to bring on the team over the years.

CheapTents.com: What do you find most challenging about training?

Ian Adamson: These days making the time is the kicker since I have a more than full time job as Dir or Research and Education at Newton Running.

CheapTents.com: What has been your worst injury from outdoors sports and how did it happen?

Ian Adamson: Probably the brain damage from lack of sleep over the years. I’ve not had a significant traumatic injury, so acquired diseases (such as Leptospirosis from Borneo), and sleep damage are the big ones. I mostly don’t remember because sleep deprivation destroys your memory.

CheapTents.com: What will be your most challenging event for next year?

Ian Adamson: I was asked to run Badwater so I’m going from office chair potato to running fried potato in six months. So far so good, I’m up to 45 miles on my long run since new years.

CheapTents.com: Where would you like to be in 5 years time?

Ian Adamson: Doing pretty much what I’m doing now. Working at Newton Running and directing/producing events. I’m currently in Haikou, Hainan working as the swim course director for Ironman China.

CheapTents.com: What are your main ambitions?

Ian Adamson: Pay off my house and spend more time with my partner Leah doing fun and pampered adventures. We aim to sail somewhere tropical each year, or cycle overseas (she has family in Spain and mine is in Australia.)

CheapTents.com: For other budding outdoor sports enthusiasts, what tips can you provide to help other compete at a higher level?

Ian Adamson:

  1. Have fun with whatever you do.
  2. Work on your weaknesses and maintain your strengths.
  3. Stay hydrated.
  4. Eat healthily (complete protein, complex carbs, fresh fruits and
    vegetables) immediately after exercise.
  5. Nap if possible after eating after exercise – this helps repair and
    tissue building immensely.
  6. Don’t overtrain, but definitely don’t undertrain.

CheapTents.com: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?

Ian Adamson: I love topographical maps, especially marine charts. The aesthetic and function of a good map is hard to beat, and you can plan, dream and then execute with map in hand.

CheapTents.com: Any people or sponsors that you’d like thank?

Ian Adamson: Rail Riders Adventure Clothing was one of our first sponsors back in 1995, and John d’Arbeloff (owner) is still a friend and sponsor. He is providing my apparel for Badwater. Another long time and current sponsor is Princeton Tec, who were one of the first headlamp manufacturers and continue to push the edge of what is possible in lighting technology. I’ve used and still use their lights for everything from scuba diving to high mountain climbing. I’ve made some great friends over the years, including Kim and Coup at GoLite, and Murphy Reinshcriber who was my first sports agent and opened the door for me in event production. Robert Nagle of course, who is an exceptional teammate, leader and friend.

CheapTents.com: Anything else you would like to say?

Ian Adamson: Love what you do and do what you love. Pretty much anything is possible if you have a goal and a modicum of determination. I’ve had a full career as an athlete, a career as a bio-mechanical engineer, event producer, writer and now my new one at Newton Running.


Thanks for answering our questions Ian! A most enjoyable read.

As well as being an awesome adventure racer, Ian Adamson is a motivational speaker and also organises the 24 hour triathlon event.

Rail Raiders have produced this fun video highlighting Ian’s achievements. It shows him participating in range of adventure sports as well as playing the flute!

Ian Adamson International Adventure Racing Successes

  • Eco-Challenge – 1st 2001, 2000 and 1996, 2nd 2002 and 1997, 3rd 1995
  • Primal Quest – 1st 2006, 2004, 2003, 3rd 2002
  • AR World Championships – 1st 2006, 2004, 2nd 2005, 3rd 2001
  • Southern Traverse – 1st 1996, 2nd 2005 and 1998, 3rd 2000
  • Raid the North Extreme – 1st 2004, 2001 and 1999
  • Raid World Championships – 1st 2004 and 1998, 2nd 2005
  • Raid World Cup – 1st USA 2003, 2nd USA 2005, 2004 and 2000
  • Extreme Adv. Hidalgo – 1st 2002
  • Balance Bar – 1st OR 2003, 2nd CO 2003
  • Hi Tec – 1st NY 1999, 3rd LA 2001
  • ESPN X-Games – 1st 1997, 2nd 1996, 3rd 1995
  • Adventure Xtreme, CO – 1st 2003, 2nd 2001, 3rd 2002


The Eco-Challenge was an endurance adventure race competed by teams of four. It was an annual event held in the USA from 1995 until 2002. The race included mountaineering, trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, camelback riding, whitewater canoeing, sea kayaking and scuba diving.

Primal Quest

Primal Quest takes place in the Badlands of South Dakota, USA. It is team based adventure racing expedition. The four person teams must run, ride and kayak a 600 mile course through remote wilderness.

ESPN X-Games

The ESPN X-Games (Extreme Games) event take place in the USA every year and includes extreme sports such Skateboarding, BMX, Moto-X as well as Street and Rally Car Racing. The Winter X-Games includes skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding.

Badwater Ultramarathon

The world’s toughest foot race!

The Badwater Ultramarathon is the most demanding and extreme running race on the planet. Taking place every July, in temperatures up to 55°C, adventure runners compete in a 135 mile non-stop run, from Death Valley to Mount Witney, California.


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