The current dearth of cattle drives and Cannonball Run films has profoundly reduced the list of activities in which men travel great distances while risking mortality. Fortunately, in the last dozen or so years adventure racing has partially filled that void. April is the zenith of the adventure-racing season. The 15th annual Marathon des Sables, a six-stage, seven-day, 140-mile footrace across the dunes of Morocco, began on Sunday. The second Elf Authentic, a 497-mile trek in Brazil that features seven-person teams and combines orienteering, sailing, mountain biking, horseback riding, sea kayaking, swimming and climbing, will start on Friday and continue for approximately 11 days. The 10th Raid Gauloises, a forerunner of the Elf that involves a similar format, commences on April 29 in Tibet. Here are three Web sites for those who want to participate vicariously.
Now that Quokka Sports has acquired MountainZone.com, it seems poised to become the premier adventure-racing site. To get to the information for the Marathon des Sables, go to quokka.com and click on the "Marathon des Sables" link. Last week appetites were whetted by a second-by-second countdown, a Dunesday Clock if you will, to the start of the Marathon of the Sands. Each day quokka.com is posting results, photos and a diary of this grueling race in which runners must tote their supplies (with the exception of water and the laptop computers used by competitors also covering the race; the liquid and laptops are carried by race officials). A history of this caravan of blisters and a photo gallery acquaint first-time visitors with the desert odyssey that Quokka justifiably calls "anything but a day at the beach."
ARZone strives to be the most thorough of the adventure-racing sites. By dispatching correspondent-racers to Africa, Asia and South America, it will provide daily updates and journals from all three of this month's races—as long, that is, as those intrepid field reporters hold out. If monitoring gives you the urge to enter a future trek, an "Events" link lets you forage for other races, listing them by length, location and month. The "Gear" link addresses equipment and logistics concerns of prospective adventure racers.
Of the three sites, this is certainly the most ethereal, with its home-page photo of the Himalayas breaking through a thick cloud bank, and perhaps the best. It will provide the only live reports, video coverage and audio interviews from the two-week race. All 69 teams, gathered from 14 countries, are profiled. Two of the cooler links include "Around the Campfire"—which serves as a chat room of sorts—and "The Legend," which furnishes video highlights of past races. (You'll need to install a Shockwave plug-in for viewing, and the narration is en fran�ais.) These are some of the best French films we've seen since Brigitte Bardot vanished from the cinema scene.