Racers paddling in Bend, Oregon
Racers paddling in Bend, Oregon (Photo: D Boswell Photography)

These Multisport Races Are Way More Fun than Triathlons

Eight one-of-a-kind events for those who aren't into the standard swim, bike, run

Racers paddling in Bend, Oregon
Megan Michelson

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Let’s say you’ve done the typical triathlon—swim, bike, run—and now you’re looking for something different: a high-endurance race that crosses diverse terrain or a less rigorous event in which you can include family and friends of different skill levels. Or maybe you want to try a multisport event, but the thought of swimming in open water is more of a challenge than you’d like. Across the country, organizers have taken note, creating annual events that combine all of a locale’s adventure offerings into one race. We’ve rounded up some of our favorites (many of which don’t require donning a Speedo), and some are right around the corner this fall, so you can still sign up.

Cumberland, British Columbia


Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race

The Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race, which happens every September in the historic mining town of Cumberland, on Vancouver Island, combines endurance sports with navigation skills. Known for its world-class singletrack trails, the contest centers on mountain biking but also includes kayaking, hiking through the wilderness, and finding checkpoints using a map. Compete solo or join a team of two or four people, pick between a 30K sport course or a 50K enduro course, and be sure to spend the night at Mount Washington Alpine Resort (from $50)—its postrace party is a good time. Interested in fine-tuning your map and compass skills? The event’s organizers offer navigation clinics prior to race day.

Raton, New Mexico

(Tim Keller)

Master of the Mountains

In early September, racers at Master of the Mountains congregate at the starting line in northeastern New Mexico’s Sugarite Canyon State Park, a three-hour drive from Albuquerque. From there it’s a six-mile trail run around Little Horse Mesa, a three-mile paddle across Lake Maloya in kayaks, a 22-mile bike ride on dirt and pavement, and a final shooting course at Raton Trap Club. (Make sure you know how to use a shotgun first.) Do it on your own or as part of a two-to-four-person relay team.

Iowa and Colorado

(Craig Hoffman)

Running Rivers Flyathlon

A triathlon where the third leg involves craft beer? Sign us up! The Flyathlon, which takes place in August and September in various locations around these two states, includes trail running, fly-fishing, and, yep, beer drinking. You’ll run out to a creek (there are courses ranging from five to twelve miles); catch and release a brook, rainbow, brown, or cutthroat trout (take a picture of your catch atop your race bib—extra points for cutthroat trout); run back; and end the race with a catered meal and an IPA. Times matter, but this race is more fun than competitive. Money raised from these events benefits native trout and river- and trail-improvement projects, including a greenback trout restoration project at Colorado’s George Creek. 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

(Keegan Rice)

Rendezvous River Sports Karen Oatey Pole Pedal Paddle

Every April, Rendezvous River Sports Karen Oatey Pole Pedal Paddle is held in memory of the late skier, raising money for a scholarship fund for young athletes in her name. While the five-leg race is demanding—starting with a downhill ski or snowboard run on the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, followed by a series of running, cross-country skiing, biking, and boating legs—competitors have fun with it and often show up in costume. The event ends at Astoria Hot Springs, in Snake River Canyon, where an après party usually ensues. 

Bend, Oregon

(D Boswell Photography)

Selco Pole Pedal Paddle

Selco Pole Pedal Paddle, which takes place in May, has been a local tradition since 1976 and is a great way to experience all of Bend’s adventure activities in one fell swoop. The seven-leg relay kicks off on Mount Bachelor, with a 200-foot sprint uphill, followed by a downhill ski or snowboard on the slopes, and then an 8K nordic-ski race. Next up is a 22-mile scenic bike ride, a five-mile run, a 1.5-mile paddle, kayak, or canoe down the Deschutes River, and a half-mile sprint to the finish line downtown. Do it all yourself, or join a team to break up the legs. The event benefits the Mount Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, which supports junior athletics in the area.

Nashua, New Hampshire


Millyard Bike Paddle Run 

Picture a triathlon where the swimming portion is replaced by paddleboarding or kayaking: that’s the Millyard Bike Paddle Run, which happens in early June. Begin with a 14.5-mile, parade-like bike ride through downtown Nashua, then transition to a 2.5-mile canal paddle down the Nashua River, before finishing with a 5K trail run in Mine Falls Park along the New Hampshire Heritage Trail.

South Berwick, Maine

(The Gaff Photography)

Sea to Summit

Sea to Summit is stouter than your average triathlon, combining the standard format with the elements of an adventure race, so expect fewer amenities and less infrastructure (limited buoys, unmarked bike paths). Starting at the historic Hamilton House in South Berwick, you’ll swim 1.5 miles in a tidal river connected to the Atlantic, ride a bike over 92 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain from Maine into New Hampshire, then climb five miles to the top of 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the Northeast. You can participate solo or as a team, but both require some prerequisites—you’ll need to have completed a half Ironman in recent years under a designated time limit or a similar long-distance race. Only 100 people are allowed entry into this event, scheduled in July, so plan on signing up a year in advance or sitting on the wait list.

Whitefish, Montana

(Courtesy Visit Montana)

The Glacier Challenge

Another July race, the Glacier Challenge begins in Whitefish, a town in the Rocky Mountains of northwestern Montana. It includes six legs across 47 miles of varied landscape: an eight-mile run, a four-mile kayak or paddleboard, a 12-mile road bike, an eight-mile mountain bike, a 3.7-mile canoe, and an ending three-mile run. The event is family friendly and open to all levels, with a pick-and-choose setup: competitors can opt for a 5K or an 8K run, to do a triathlon, or to complete the circuit, with the option of doing it alone or with a team of up to seven. All proceeds go toward a program that helps local youth in crisis.