Human Powered Movement dares you to tackle creative new adventures
Looking for something different than the usual events on the race calendar? Adam Bratton’s Human Powered Movement has a challenge or event that will inspire you to push your limits. Perhaps it’s the Rocky River Shiver—a raw, hellacious 43-mile mountain bike beatdown with homebrewed beer, unapologetic hecklers, and a 50-percent fail rate. Or maybe it’s Psychoactive—a last-runner-standing trail race. Human Powered Movement makes racing fun again.
Like many things, this story starts with COVID. After a few months of lockdown, Bratton needed to get out of the house, so he decided to bike every single street of his hometown of Huntersville, N.C. He posted his progress on social media, and to his surprise, it inspired a lot of other folks to run or bike all of their hometown streets.
“I quickly realized that I could have a positive impact on people’s health by encouraging more activity in their lives.”
Human Powered Movement was born in 2020; Bratton launched it with a challenge to complete an off-road Ironman triathlon over the course of 10 days. Since then, Bratton and Human Powered Movement have created unique, raw, authentic challenges and events. Some are in-person contests, while others are virtual challenges. All Human Powered Movement events and challenges benefit local nonprofits and give back to communities.
Recent Human Powered Movement challenges include Move Your Age (run, hike, paddle, or bike a distance equal to your age), A Mile an Hour (run a mile every hour for 6, 12, or 24 hours), and Find Your Summit (hike, bike, run, or climb total elevation equal to Everest, Mount Whitney, or Mount Mitchell).
Bratton certainly has the chops to tackle wild new adventures. He has run a half-marathon in every state, paddled the entire Wateree River, biked the entire Natchez Trace Parkway, and biked across Cuba. He also managed events at the U.S. Whitewater Center for eight years, so he has managed and participated in thousands of events. Bratton also hosts the Be the Impact podcast, which highlights outdoor adventure and sustainable business leaders across the Southeast and beyond.
In between epic adventures in the Arctic and Appalachia, Bratton shared some of the behind-the-scenes insights and inspiration of Human Powered Movement.
What makes Human Powered Movement’s challenges and events different?
When creating events for Human Powered Movement, I didn’t want to just replicate a traditional event. I wanted to bring together the physical and mental aspects and make the experience as authentic and meaningful as possible. This might mean that the Human Powered Movement’s events aren’t for the masses—there are thousands of fundraising 5ks out there, which is great—but it does mean that the events we produce are immensely impactful for those that participate.
For example, our Rocky River Shiver mountain bike event takes place on extremely technical singletrack in the middle of the summer. All finishers, regardless of place, receive a cash payout. This is where the mental game comes in: do I go out for another lap even though I am beat down, tired and ready for a beer? It’s both interesting and powerful to see how people respond. Our last-runner-standing Psychoactive course literally runs through wildflower and hemp fields at an active locally owned family farm. It’s not your standard race.
Human Powered Movement seems to be intentional about bringing a deep environmental conscience into adventure.
For sure. We have events like Plastic-Free February that are exclusively focused on awareness. Our South Fork Sampler Multisport event raised $2,500 for the Catawba Riverkeeper. It all comes down being more intentional with our daily habits—because it all adds up. Climate change didn’t happen overnight, and the solution won’t come overnight either. Fast Fashion—buying new clothes each new season and then dumping the “old” clothes into the landfill—is a killer, which is why we pay a few more dollars per shirt for 100-percent recycled shirts from Recover. We try to source all of our merch as locally and sustainably as possible. It may not be the cheapest, easier, or most convenient way to approach things, but it’s the right way to do it. We love to run, bike, paddle, and play in our natural environment. We need to make sure we are being intentional how we interact with that environment and what we are doing to maintain it.
Do you complete all the challenges yourself?
I’ve joyfully and personally completed every single challenge that Human Powered Movement has put out there. They are great ways to break up the typical routine and test yourself in new ways. It also doesn’t hurt that each of the events are free to participate, and we give out a ton of raffle prizes, swag, and merch to people just for getting active. Virtual challenges enable us to connect with people wherever they are and reduce the barriers to entry. We are based in the Charlotte, N.C., area, but Human Powered Movement challenges are universal and accessible to anyone, anywhere. Over a quarter of our participants are from across the country, and another five percent are international.
What has been your most memorable moment out in the woods or on an adventure?
Bikepacking 800 miles across Cuba in 2016. This was a trajectory changing experience for me both physically and mentally. There were some amazingly high times and equally demoralizing down times on that trip, but I learned lifelong lessons of how to find comfort in the uncomfortable in both the mental and physical state. This has propelled me to seek out other multi-day ventures like biking the Blue Ridge Parkway and bikepacking the Huracan 300 route.
The thirst for these experiences is never-ending. I’ve done the standard stuff for so long that I am now driven by new experiences that don’t have the set framework of a typical start line, follow the arrows until you hit the finish line, and get your race medal and banana. I’m adventure curious.
Photo Cover: Adam Bratton started the unique challenges of human powered movement in 2020. Photos courtesy of HPM