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August 2002

In 1992, Mark Burnett created the Eco-Challenge. He based his idea on the multi-sport endurance races that had been popular in New Zealand since the early 80's and had also started to emerge in Europe. He lengthened the race, removed assistance crews and added a strong environmental message, reflected in the race rules and associated local service projects. 

Eco-Challenge has since become the world's premier Expedition Race and now attracts the attention of the world's media and best endurance athletes. Screened globally since 1996, the Eco-Challenge has annually reached an estimated 144 million homes on five continents in 145 countries, including 72.7 million U.S. homes. Eco-Challenge airs in the U.S. exclusively on USA Networks, the number one basic cable network of the decade.

With the surge in popularity of Expedition Racing around the world, in 2000, Eco-Challenge launched a world qualifier series to help further organize the sport. The goal: to create a global qualifier series for the Eco-Challenge World Championships, thus ensuring that the best teams in the world continue to be represented at the premier event by winning the qualifying events in their respective countries.

For the first qualifier event, Eco-Challenge partnered with TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Providers for Survivors), a national non-profit organization made up of, and providing services to, all those who have lost a loved one while serving in the Armed Forces, to create an Armed Forcers Qualifier in Alaska. 

In a sensational show of force, elite U.S. military personnel battled under the Midnight Sun for top honors. National pride - and fierce esprit de corps. Twenty four mixed gender teams of four, representing the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, battled hostile terrain, intense physical and psychological demands, and fatigue over a 200+ mile course.

In August of 2002, in the remote heart of Alaska, competitors will once again begin a 4-6 day round-the-clock adventure race: Alaska-style "hell biking" across treacherous terrain; attempting the summit of a ragged 7,000 foot peak; crossing dangerous ice fields and glacial moraines; rafting and canoeing inland rivers so cold their waters can kill within minutes; bushwhacking across unmarked territory; and trekking across desolate tundra populated by grizzly bears, wolves and, worst of all, the infamous Alaska State "Bird" - the mosquito.

The winning team of the Alaska qualifier will go on to represent the United States Armed Forces against the best endurance athletes in the world in the Eco-Challenge 2002 World Championships.


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