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It Takes a Certain Kind

For adventure racers themselves, much of the allure comes from feeling they are pushing themselves to the limit, maintaining control over their minds and bodies under extraordinary conditions. "When you're racing and you have to make a snap decision, you get this feeling that you are actively saving your own life," says Karinch. "That's very gratifying and it takes the race beyond the physical aspect."

Nelly Fusil, co-founder of the Raid-Gauloises race (the original adventure race, spanning 13 days), says that no matter how fit someone is, her head must be equally well trained. "The race is one of physical and mental endurance," she says. "Without the mental, your body won't follow."

Karinch says the mental fortitude that adventure racers develop can spill over into everyday life. "It teaches you that even when you're ready to give up on something, you can call on that mental discipline to get you through," she says.

Even exercisers with more modest goals can see a tiny bit of themselves in these superathletes. Whether your goal is scaling Mount Everest or adding another mile to your daily jog, you can't do it without perseverance. "It's about pushing yourself to finish something," says Karinch. "Everyone can relate to that."

As for Karen Lundgren, she sees no end in sight for her racing career. She's injury-free, and both her employer and her family support her racing 100%. Boredom is enemy number one in her life, and racing is the antidote. "When I race, I feel like a kid again," she says. "And when you come out of the jungle or the desert after a 10-day race, man, that shower feels good!"

Elizabeth Krieger is an associate editor for WebMD.

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