Approaching the cylinders of Evermore, where the Challenge race takes place
The Challenge is a 5-day annual modosophont biont adventure stage race conducted in the Evermore habitat complex. The first Challenge was held in 8502 a.t and since that time it has grown in popularity, often referred to as the Evermore national pastime. The 600 km race involves 5,000 4-member teams competing in 100 separate races. The contestant teams are randomly paired against 49 others and then sent to one of the 100 randomly selected Mckendree cylinder sized wilderness parks that make up nearly half of the complex. Park environments range from tropical forest to arctic tundra. Each is a microcosm of the environments and wildlife found on one of the eight represented gaian worlds. The goal of the contest is simple: Be the first of the 50 teams to arrive at the finish. The winners gain not only a significant level of celebrity but also substantial fiscal rewards. Veteran teams are often satisfied to be among the top 5 finishers. First timers are usually trying to simply finish the entire course and it is not unusual for many of the 5000 teams to drop out or be disqualified before the end. To the competitors the race is a test of mind and body. Many say that in an era of intellectual gods, pure mental development and hazard free worlds primitive physical events such as the Challenge are vital to their becoming well-rounded beings.
Contestants come from all walks of life and are ranked on a scale of 0 to 5. A contestant must place in the top three positions in at least five races at their current level to qualify for a move up in ranking. All Challenge participants are ranked at the 5th level.
Despite the events popularity, it is also enormously dangerous with more than a few contestants seriously injured or even killed every year. In the past teams have been disqualified when members were eaten by the local wildlife, used illegal tech to treat infections, injuries or disease or even simply left a food wrapper behind.
Although controversial at first, non-nearbaseline / superior competitors began entering almost immediately. The first such contestant was a provolved Panthera tigris tigris who found emself trying to race in an arctic environment. Eir struggles dispatched any arguments from the other contestants and since that time only the modosophont biont regulation still stands.
In addition to the main contest is the "Contest of Champions". During this particular event the 100 race winners of the year prior compete for the title of Race Champions. These events are always held in the most hazardous reserves (Hazard Rating 4 minimum). Adding to the difficulty, and unlike the regular race, the teams are required to choose their equipment before the location is announced. The Contest of Champions is always a crowd pleaser and gets far greater coverage than any of the other individual races.
Spectators are able to get involved in a number of ways. The first is through the immense amount of broadcast coverage, both locally and across the Known Net. In addition to simply watching fans also have the opportunity to participate in the gambling pools that have developed around the sport over the years. Bets may be placed on any number of categories. Example categories include cylinder winners, race champions, first to die, first to be eaten, first to drop out and many others. Not every category has an entry every year. For example there are years where nobody dies and even serious encounters with wildlife are generally rare. Although the odds are high the winnings from these pools can be quite substantial.
The Challenge is such a part of Evermore culture that even children learn the basic skills involved as part of their upbringing. It is not unusual for many to have entered low-level events prior to reaching adulthood. Lower level races ranging across the various skill categories are conducted throughout the year although never at the scale of the Challenge itself. These amateur events occur both in Evermore and in other systems. These smaller races do attract some of the higher end racers who use them to stay sharp for the main race. When they do compete standard practice is that these pros are guest stars and are prohibited from being declared race winners. The amateur contestants have also been known to gather some media attention allowing the diehard fans to watch the rise of potential future champions.
While virch races have been developed and do see some use, these are usually for skill development and are seen as inferior to the real thing for testing mind and body together.
The standard race rules are as follows:
1) The Challenge is a ground race, flight is prohibited.
2) Failure to maintain a full 4-member team means disqualification.
3) Interfering with the other teams means disqualification.
4) No littering. Teams may leave no trace of their passing beyond tracks.
5) All clothing must be made of natural fibers or materials.
6) Each team will be issued a map of the course and a signal beacon. The beacon is for serious emergencies and using it means being dropped from the race.
7) In addition to their clothing each team may bring a total of up to 100 kg of primtech equipment and / or supplies of their choice. This category is strictly controlled. The general rule is that if it requires more than muscle power to use or is alive and / or autonomous it is prohibited.
8) Augments are strictly controlled and may need to be removed or fully deactivated during the course of the event. Failure to comply means team disqualification. Illegal augments include nano-immune systems, DNI or any other form of outside communication.
Due to the time constraints of the race, additional equipment may be provided by the race authorities in order for teams to complete certain legs. Examples of this are kayaks or canoes, muscle powered bicycles and dog sleds. This additional equipment is collected after the leg in question is completed. It is not unusual for even this benefit to be revoked from the Contest of Champions portion of the race, forcing the teams to craft their own transportation across difficult terrain. Generally this is only done in environments where raw materials are available and the delay will not readily affect the race completion.