Imagine that you’ve been traveling with the same small group of people for three weeks. You go to sleep and eat mostly at the same time and travel at the same pace. The success of the group has been more important than the success of any individual. While the experience of teamwork has been amazing, Outward Bound courses offer one final chance for the individual to prove to themselves how much they’ve grown, apart from the crew. This is where the Personal Challenge Event comes in.
The Personal Challenge Event, or PCE, has long been a part of our courses. It may take the form of a run, paddle, swim or multi-element challenge. PCEs are tailored to each course area and course type to offer an appropriate challenge. They often take place on the second-to-last or last day of a course, which gives students an opportunity to see how much physical and emotional strength they’ve gained, and be able to take that momentum forward in the transition back home.
As the name indicates, it’s a personal event, and students are encouraged to set individual goals. It’s not so much about competition, as a welcome change from the group nature of the rest of a course. Though it may look like a race to outsiders, the PCE isn’t timed and has no winners. Often students come away amazed at how quickly they can move unencumbered by packs, food, gear and a large group. While some students may arrive as athletes or runners, others have never moved such a distance under their own power. At many points during an expedition, students realize that there is more in them than they know, and the PCE is one more example of that.
Some students arrive at Outward Bound believing they can’t be athletes, having been told that they don’t have the right gear or right bodies, aren’t big enough or small enough or fast enough. Traveling under human power across the landscape teaches us how capable we are. While we may not all go home and join sports teams, we know that regular exercise is an important part of physical and mental health. Knowing that running, swimming, paddling and hiking are all things you can do expands your options for personal well-being for the rest of your life.
While most aspects of an Outward Bound course can’t be recreated at home by yourself (somehow Solo is not the same—it’s just you sitting on your bed), the PCE holds promise for all of us who have been Outward Bound or are waiting to be Outward Bound.
During the pandemic, personal events are now the only kind of event, and screens hold the key to social interaction more than ever before, tying us to our couches, kitchen tables and desks for long hours. What do you need to complete your own PCE at home? The challenge is yours to select: difficult enough to feel truly rewarding, yet not impossibly daunting. The PCE is different from regular, daily exercise. It’s something more, out of the ordinary, leading to an extraordinary sense of accomplishment. If your days start to blend together, or your regular exercise routine is feeling worn out, or if you haven’t been able to make getting outside part of your pandemic routine yet, it’s time to set some goals and make a Personal Challenge Event!
About the Author
Renee Igo was an Outward Bound student at age 15, and has been instructing wilderness expeditions for the Voyageur Outward Bound School for the past eight years. When not instructing, she holds a variety of other teaching positions and raises sheep in Maine.
OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE