7 Ways Adventure Racing Models God’s Design for Relationships

Being out-of-town a good bit this week, I asked Edy Sutherland to guest post on her experiences with Adventure Racing. You’ll love her insight!

… I think I know why adventure racing is gaining such popularity. I love the adventure aspect of the races but even more than that, I love what these races teach me about relationships. And as a follower of Christ I emphasize how adventure racing is an experiential way to CAPTURE the essence of our covenant relationship with God.

I recently joined an adventure racing team in Arizona. We rallied through at least 12 designated course challenges over a 5 km distance. Born out of the original co-ed multi-sport endurance events, these urban races build a multitude of artificial obstacles to test resilience, strength, endurance, and superhero abilities. Obstacles may look like towers of rope, mountains of tires, barbed wire covered mud pits, or rows of fire.

Team adventure racing offers great proving grounds for fulfilling relationships. The opportunity to be tested physically, emotionally, intellectually, and often spiritually within the context of a team personifies what we might expect to experience with those closest to us in everyday life.


We don’t navigate this life alone; or at least, we aren’t supposed to. The intense nature of important relationships like those found in marriage, family, work groups, or even ministry necessitates a solid grasp of the finer points of a team dynamic. God desires to restore all of creation to intimacy with Him. When we build loving, interdependent, and committed relationships we also personify His end goal (John 15:12).

Here are 7 ways the intense nature of adventure racing forces a team to CAPTURE God’s expression of covenant relationship with Him[1].


The climate of interdependent relationship forms the rich medium for faith in God to blossom. The subtle or not so subtle nuances of a person’s temperament (the good, the bad, and the ugly), forces me and you to recognize our need for God’s perspective. As we seek Him, God meets all of our needs according to His grace apportioned to us (Matthew 6:33). From a posture of contentment we offer mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience in service to His people (Colossians 3:12, Galatians 5:22-23). Satan’s chief end goal is to interrupt this climate. He wants a battle to ensue between flesh and blood and make “self-interest” the chief end goal (Ephesians 6:12).


Adventurous wilderness journeys full of harsh realities are designed to take us beyond “self.” Love coming from the denial of “self” must become the chief end all: it is patient and kind; not jealous, proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way; it’s not irritable; it keeps no record of being wronged. Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when the truth wins out (1 Corinthians 13:4-6 NLT).


To do a series of tasks courageously with loyalty to the mission paves the pathway in to the presence of God. We live by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). As a team, God’s holiness trumps taking shortcuts, giving up when under stress, or succumbing to the tribulations of trials (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 1:10).


Spiritual transformation occurs individually when through completing of a series of small tasks an awareness of the sovereign importance each task had to the overall mission becomes clear (Psalm 103:all).


Unity calls each of us to serve without pride, self-interest, or self-sufficiency. Each team member learns to give and receive for the good of the mission (John 17:23).


Respect cements a team together. Comprised of people with diverse physical abilities and talents, God arranges the group just as He wanted them to carry out His good purposes (Romans 12:all, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, vs. 18 emphasized).


Extraordinary disciples are ordinary people called in to extreme relationship – be sure to read all of the great examples of how the disciples lived in relationship with Jesus in Ashley Denton’s book Christian Outdoor Leadership, chapter 8 titled “Relationships”. It’s within the context of small group community Jesus demonstrates several important principles of relationship [2]:

  • We learn by observing another modeling God’s truth in their everyday life
  • We grow by applying Jesus’ grace and truth in to our immediate need,
  • We gain ownership of truth best within the context of interactive dialog and not lecture
  • We discover learning is always a matter of the heart
  • We agree Jesus is always the answer to matters of the heart. Jesus, the Word made flesh is the way, the truth, and the life (John 1:14, John 14:6).

Whenever the team fails to achieve peace in any one of these areas, its likely chaos and dissent will follow. Instead, as you take part or lead a team on an outdoor wilderness adventure be sure to check regularly with the team to assure you capture the essence of God’s intent for relationship.

CARPE DIEM (Seize the Day!)

  • Individual application: On your next solo or small group trip outdoors set a challenging goal for your adventure to simulate some of the elements of adventure racing.
  • Group application:  Take some time to think of how you might incorporate some of the benefits of adventure racing into an experiential learning exercise with the next group you lead into the wilderness.
  • Check out the related posts below and please leave a comment as well!

[1] Ashley Denton. Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice. CHAPTER 8: Relationships.
[2] Edy Sutherland, Set Your Piggies Free: Dirty Feet.  (accessed May 24, 2012).

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3 thoughts on “7 Ways Adventure Racing Models God’s Design for Relationships

  1. Love this post, but especially the application points at the end!  It’s easy to make some good points, but now always easy to help others apply those.  I’ve done a few Muddy Buddy’s, where you and a partner flip flop between trail running and mountain biking, and tackle obstacles along the way.  It’s an interesting concept to pull your own weight in the context and framework of the team.  You depend on each other to complete the tasks before them individually, but finish the event together as a team as you conquer the final obstacle of crawling through a huge mud pit.  

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