Highlander Adventure Got a Spartan Size Boost

Jurica Barac was working his dream job as a sports activities advertising supervisor for Crimson Bull after having been signed to the model as a BMX athlete.

Whereas working at Crimson Bull, Barac had corporations of his personal that he managed, and he was starting the method of pursuing his MBA. The end result of managing giant occasions every week, his research and life usually actually pushed him to burnout. How might doing what you liked and change into accustomed to make you feel so exhausted?

In 2017, a pal of Barac approached him with the concept of Highlander, and life hasn’t been the identical since. Highlander is billed because the world’s first and largest international long-distance hiking event sequence. Since its begin in Croatia, it’s grown to over 100 occasions all year long in 20-plus international locations. What makes the sequence nice is the simplicity. There is no such thing as a racing, simply you, the requirements and nature on excursions of 60 miles over 5 days or 30 miles over three days.

Barac spoke with Muscle and Health on the sequence origin and development since its inception. The CEO of Highlander additionally mentioned how the fantastic thing about the sequence is in its simplicity, the influence it has had on him and others, and simply how rapidly they proceed to broaden.


Highlander Begin

A pal of mine, who was doing occasions with me as a freelancer. He got here up with the concept for Highlander and I supported him from Day 1. We wished to prepare one thing that was straightforward and like an outdoor competition, however one thing the place you needed some endurance, like 100 kilometers or 60 miles in 5 days. He was main the mission at the moment with none advertising.

We began Highlander in Croatia in 2017. With none advertising, 70 folks confirmed as much as the occasion. We put a $250 registration charge up for a non-existing occasion. Out of these 70, 10-15 have been precise hikers. 5 days and 5 nights and it was raining. Individuals have been moist, indignant, hungry and it was tough. It was solely 60 miles on the time. About 30 p.c of the folks couldn’t proceed however the remainder completed, and so they have been completely happy, crying, and having beers on the end line. We beloved it and we mentioned we might do it the subsequent yr. That subsequent yr, 150 folks confirmed up.

Courtesy of Highlander

Rising Highlander

I left Crimson Bull in 2016 to develop my firm. From there, we wished to go greater, see how we might develop the routes, give the contributors some merchandise. What I beloved about Highlander was there was no TV broadcast, no sponsors, no highway closures, no VIP friends or none of that further stuff to fret about. And folks like it. They take pleasure in nature, the friendships they make. They carry their canines and children. As soon as I noticed the potential, I finished most of my tasks and went full Highlander. We began with the licensing, calling our associates in Europe to start licensing there. Everybody was proud of the idea, and we bought 4 markets for 2020. We have been very motivated as a result of we have been creating a worldwide model.

Highlander hiker standing on top of a mountain
Courtesy of Highlander

From Making an attempt To Triumph

Then COVID hit. With all the time and assets we invested, it appeared that all the things was going to fail. About 80 p.c of our enterprise was misplaced throughout COVID, and it was an enormous battle. On daily basis, somebody is asking you, telling you the deal is off and let’s wait till subsequent yr. What occurred is the mountains by no means closed and it was really useful to go exterior in nature. In some way, we managed to get 10 new markets that yr. Although everybody was in a troublesome state of affairs, we began getting very constructive suggestions from the organizers.

Later in that yr, my pal was in New York, consuming breakfast. He noticed a man with a kettlebell round his neck. He requested the man about it, and it was the owner of Spartan, Joe [De Sena]. He instructed my pal about Spartan and my pal instructed him about Highlander. After listening to it, Joe wished to satisfy us. We had a name, and he was tremendous completely happy about our idea, and it was an enormous milestone for us after they wished to put money into our firm. They wished to make Highlander a worldwide sequence.

At first of 2020, it appeared like we wouldn’t be round lengthy and in six months, our fortunes had turned. We stored doing what we have been and in 2021, we hit 10 extra markets — most of Europe, most of Center East after which we made plans for the US. Lastly, we launched the primary U.S. occasion in January of this yr in Huge Bear Lake, CA.

Participants stretching for a Highlander experience activity
Courtesy of Highlander Journey

Take Primitive Dwelling

We wished to make it actually primitive, so solely the core values. You’ve gotten hearth, water, air, and bonding. There aren’t any telephones, no fancy eating places, fits, or automobiles. Everybody appears to be like the identical and you’ve got the speak. If you’re round folks for that length, you’ll start to speak about life, and you’ve got a lot time that you just’ll begin to discuss all the things. There’s a brilliant sturdy connection between the folks and also you’ll see folks on the end line hugging one another and crying. We see that many individuals repeat the identical Highlander occasion.

This isn’t the case with Ironman since you don’t return to the identical race — you wish to end one other one. You’re there, centered on your self and also you don’t communicate to too many individuals. Right here, it’s the other. We wished to make it a bunch expertise. Individuals will take their canines. They’ll put a small bag on the canine that has his meals. That is how we wished to make it. It’s why we name it an journey and never an occasion. It’s all an journey.

Highlander adventure camping under the stars
Courtesy of Highlander

The Completely different Levels of The Highlander Expertise

We now have about 15 p.c of hikers who come and are 100% prepared as a result of they’re mountaineering each weekend. A majority of the group is the traditional one who works every single day and could be in nature as soon as each different weekend. These are the folks which are very curios and don’t know what to anticipate. We name it an journey as a result of there’s no GPS monitoring, it’s 100 kilometers and it’s not small. Individuals come prepared and the primary day could be very onerous. We all the time put the longest distance first and you’ll see the exhaustion on folks.

The second day, you’re waking up in nature and also you notice you’re beneath the celebs. There’s none of that feeling that it’s a must to do that or that and also you’re there on the mountain. You in all probability don’t have a sign in your telephone, and also you begin enjoyable. You even benefit from the ache in your muscular tissues, and also you’ll begin this regeneration course of. Individuals ask why we don’t do one-day adventures and it’s as a result of after the second or third day, the discharge of the stress and this regeneration course of begins. You’re type of reborn. After the third day, you aren’t pondering of the ache since you’re tremendous relaxed and also you notice how sturdy the influence of nature is on the physique. They sleep like a child, get up early and you are feeling the distinction in your physique and thoughts.

That is the key sauce of Highlander – you might be struggling however you get happier. It’s onerous to explain it. What was impactful for me is if you’re in your metropolis, you may need a plastic bottle and if you happen to throw it away, somebody goes to come back decide it up and there’s no guilt. If you’re within the mountain, you would possibly wish to toss stuff away, however you’ll really feel responsible as a result of there isn’t any one to choose that up. This sense about defending nature is so essential. These adventures additionally assist your confidence since you really feel you may tackle something after finishing one.

Highlander adventure hikers looking down a hiking trail down a mountain
Courtesy of Highlander

What’s Subsequent For Highlander?

If you get onto the mountain, you alter your body of reference. You notice you don’t want 10 pairs of footwear, three automobiles, or 10 hats. You simply want one good mattress and a heat bathe. You reset your thoughts and my aim in addition to the corporate’s aim is we undoubtedly wish to attain as many individuals as we will simply to offer them the Highlander expertise to try to encourage them to do one thing about their well being, defending nature and sharing constructive power. I’m positive within the subsequent few years, we’ll be on all continents, 35 to 40 international locations, over 100-plus occasions all year long as a result of it’s spreading so quick and we’re receiving such constructive suggestions from folks, media, and sponsors. It’s quite simple; lets encourage folks to return to nature, educate them the right way to behave in nature and do one thing about your psychological, bodily, and emotional well being. We wish to attain everybody with this Highlander momentum


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