The planning, preparation, and discussions are over. After months of speculation and anticipation, one of the biggest adventure races of all time has returned from a 17-year hiatus. Today marks the official return and first day of the 2019 Eco-Challenge, bringing a host of big name talent, top AR teams, and financial backers with it. But will this version of Eco stick around and have the same impact that it once did? We’ll start to learn more very soon.
The official dates for Eco-Challenge Fiji –– the location for both the 2002 race and its current incarnation –– are September 5-25, but the race itself won’t actually get underway for a few more days. At the moment, teams from across the globe are arriving at race headquarters, going through there mandatory gear and skills checks, and preparing for the start. Fans of the classic Eco-Challenge will find some familiar names amongst the competitors as well, as more than a few old-school adventure racers have come out of retirement to take part in the event.
Also returning to Eco-Challenge is Hollywood producer Mark Burnett. He was the creator of Eco back in the day, but was just an up-and-comer when it first launched back in 1995. Today, he’s the biggest name in reality television, with a production studio, media partners, and celebrity hosts along for the ride. Speaking of which, the host of Eco-Challenge is none other than Bear Grylls himself, who will no doubt play a prominent role when the race is televised on Amazon Prime Video sometime in 2021. That’s another significant upgrade over the previous version of Eco-Challenge. This time out there is no question about where it can be viewed and Burnett’s star-power no doubt created a bidding war over where the televised version would land.
While most everyone in the adventure racing community is rightfully excited to have Eco-Challenge back, there are still plenty of questions to be answered. For instance, will it still maintain the same format in terms of disciplines, stages, and overall competition, or will there be some new wrinkles thrown into the mix to change it up for a 21st century audience. Also, will the race maintain its legendary level of difficulty or has it softened around the edges? For those who don’t remember Eco back in its prime, it was the quintessential sufferfest before that word was even coined. Hopefully we’ll see that same challenge level out of the new version as well.
Right now, the Eco-Challenge website has some preliminary background info on the race, as well as Burnett, Grylls, and its media partners. I have to imagine the site will relaunch prior to the beginning of the race so that we can follow along as it unfolds. The AR landscape has changed significantly since the last Eco-Challenge, and realtime tracking, an up-to-date leaderboard, and other features are now a must-have. I’m sure Burnett has big things planned in that area, but we’ll just have to wait to see. I know that I, for one, am truly looking forward to seeing how things play out in the days ahead.
To my friends who are at the race, either as volunteers or competitors, good luck, have fun, and I can’t wait to hear your stories.
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