Photos Courtesy of Highland Parks & Recreation / City of Highland
Another weekend, another 5K, 10K, bike ride, hike, half-triathlon, marathon, etc. At least this is the mindset I had before watching the Eco-Challenge expedition race in the 1990s. I was completely mesmerized by this race that had teams competing 24 hours a day over a rugged 300-mile course in events that included anything from horseback riding and mountain biking to scuba diving and kayaking. I was particularly intrigued by how strenuous completing such a task would be. In 2000, I heard the word Goomna, which is a Nepalese word that means to wander, roam, or explore. It was this intoxicating combination that inspired me to begin the Goomna Adventure Race in 2001.
Due to limited resources and the lack of knowledge in conducting a multi-disciplined race, the tradition began with seven co-ed teams of three people that were pretty much begged to try this new race. Since then, the Goomna has grown into a bit of a cult following in the area because it gives seasoned athletes a break from traditional races. Course obstacles include biking, running/trekking, canoeing and orienteering, along with a few surprises each year.
With a tagline of “go find your own race,” the purpose is to make teams work together to plot a course from one checkpoint to the next using the aforementioned disciplines along the 45- to 55-mile course. Teams reach checkpoints by using compass bearings to plot on a topographic map with a compass and/or are given certain checkpoints before the race. Because the community of Highland, Ill., is in a rural agricultural setting, the terrain is not always the most exciting. However, this does not prevent a challenging venue from being put together.
The course changes every year and unique nuances are implemented to keep people thinking and to challenge teams with certain degrees of risk. From walking through 900
feet of storm sewer and traversing across water on cables to carrying a teammate fireman-style through obstacles and having to remember the first 15 presidents’ names, the Goomna usually exceeds participants’ expectations. Teams return year after year for the opportunity to test their mental and physical limits as a team and as individuals.
One of the biggest benefits of the Goomna is that it allows the parks and recreation department the opportunity to showcase Highland’s small community of 10,000 people which is approximately 30 miles from downtown St. Louis, Mo. With checkpoints at parks and various area businesses and teams staying overnight in hotels, eating at local restaurants, and making purchases from retail stores, the Goomna reaches beyond parks and recreation and showcases all that the community has to offer.