Catch up with ROOTS founder Mat

Patience - Logic - Strength

Where do you turn if your thirst for adventure is no longer quenched by a straight forward obstacle course race. What options do you have when you finish a race and feel like you still aren’t satisfied. One avenue you may want to explore is to test yourself in a adventure race that’s not only designed to test your body but also to test your mind.

Roots Adventure is one such company that has designed events to take you outside of your comfort zone while also helping to expand your knowledge. Ranging from 12 through to 24 hours these events will help teach you multiple of survival and navigational skills you’ll need
to ‘survive’ their adventures.

To learn more about what ROOTS has to offer we caught up with the founder Matthew Talbot to find out what it is he feels makes ROOTS unique and how it all began.

It all started a few years back after a busy few years of chucking my self-round a variety of OCRs all around the country. Like thousands of other mud loving crazies, I had run, jumped and crawled my way around most courses available at the time, constantly looking for longer, harder challenges to test myself against. Then on the suggestion of my good friend Ben Kirkup, I stepped it up a gear and started to add endurance events to my already busy calendar. These quickly got out of hand too, becoming longer, heavier and harder as I was still looking for that event that would put me on my arse and make me look up wide eyed and confused with exhaustion. I wasn’t satisfied by simply enduring hardship for a given amount of time. I had proven to myself I could stay awake for days on the move and chip away at any task put in front of me while keeping my sanity and finding something to smile about. What I was looking for was an event that forced me to stay in the moment and focus intensely on the task in hand, not an event where I could switch off and drift away to a happy place and simply put one foot in front of the other until I was given some bling and a pat on the back. I was tired of events where the goal posts were moved simply to prolong the event; I wanted something more emotionally engaging, something that would reconnect me with the genuine hardships encountered by all those historic adventures I learnt about as a kid. Head down covering ground and solving problems to stay alive and make it home safe. Well it simply wasn’t available here in the UK so I invited a few OCR friends to come and take part in a race with a difference on a cold January morning back in 2016.

The idea was to put on an event that wouldn’t just beat people up for hours, that’s too easy. We wanted to add purpose and meaning to the hardship so people left better prepared to deal with life and look to start setting their own goals and challenges. Our events are hard work but we never move the goal posts; if it takes us 18 hours to finish then it takes us 18 hours, no short cuts, no quitting, it takes as long as it takes. That’s why we provide accommodation with our events.

The format is to break down the event into chapters and have a teaching point for each chapter. This would allow racers (seeds) to get to grips with a survival based skill and then use that skill to solve a problem and complete a task against the clock. Let’s say the chapter was titled ‘Suspended’, we never like to give too much away, surprises are fun to deal with. The challenge would be to hoist a large weight off the ground suspending it in the air. Seeds will receive a short demonstration on how to tie the appropriate knots or how to use an axe to make pegs and pins. They will then be given a time to complete the task in and the countdown will begin. Tick tock; the team will have to work together to formulate and execute a successful plan to avoid the ridiculous forfeit we have devised to help them remember their mistakes. It sounds harsh but we do it with a smile on our face so it’s not all bad. We most definitely are not a shouty get up in your grill type of event, we focus on the building of abilities not the destruction of them.

Over the years I’ve managed to rope in many of my friends, all of whom are outdoor professionals, to help deliver ever more elaborate scenarios to test seeds with. Last year for the first time we managed to add an abseil in to the DAY event; giving people the opportunity to learn how to make their own harness before giving it the ultimate test, off the top of a cliff. This chapter was about nine hours in to the event, they’re fatigued, we had been running hills and ridge lines, getting wet raiding caves and tunnels and carrying heavy stuff for hours all against the clock. Now we were asking them to focus on a new skill that would untimely determine their ability to stay alive. Genuine lifesaving skills learnt and proven against the clock. That’s the event I was looking for. To be pressed mentally as well as physically and be forced to engage with my surrounds for my own preservation. Danger is a great mental marker and really helps you focus on remembering something. We could see the fear forcing seeds to practice their harness over and over again in the cave before we climbed to the top.

We like to lay heavy on the mental ability of all our seeds. After all, you carry all your most important items of equipment in your head. Doing press ups is all very well and good but without the skills you simply won’t survive in the wild. All ROOTS events are self-navigated so runners are constantly being asked to verify their location and bearing as well as answer questions on other runners and lessons they have already been demonstrated. It’s my personal experience that mental fortitude is the foundation for any personal best performance. It’s all too easy to find an excuse not to do something, only when we are mentally fixed on success will we achieve it. For that reason we pick on people mentally as well as physically. I don’t mean we call you names, shout at you or tell you, you smell bad, we are not like that. I mean we provide a situation where forgetfulness and carelessness will only make life harder for you. Don’t panic, navigations skills are always chapter one. Learning to read an OS map and use a compass is ROOTS events 101. It’s the foundation of learning to adventure safely.

Sooner or later civilisation as we know it will crack and it’s only a matter of time before we all go mad max. It’s our belief that there is a colossal amount of skills humans have spent thousands of years perfecting and passing down through the generations to survive in the wild. Skills that we have managed to discard in just a few decades. Spending time outside training instead of in the gym helps those forgotten skills come back to us. We want to help people set their own adventures and challenges safe in the knowledge that they have the necessary skills to cover ground, solve problems and make it home safe. I love a good OCR, it’s a great way to get active and meet people in similar situations as yourself who get out there with a get stuck in approach to all the muddy miles and arduous obstacles is great physical and mental training for the less exciting aspects of our lives. Whether our goal is to be faster or stronger or simply make it to the finish line, being outside and active is indisputably good for you. Well we believe that it’s even better for you to be alone and outdoors. Outside of the course tape without medics on stand by or aid stations to break up the miles. We believe that all humans have a primal instinct that lies dormant as we flounder in our own convenience. Lets leave the phones behind, head out in to the wild and get back to our ROOTS.

Patience – Logic – Strength