The rugged beauty of the Outer Hebrides will play host to some
of the world's best adventure racers next month when they come to
Scotland to take part in the One.Tel Hebridean Challenge from 6-10
Over just five days competing teams will travel the length of the
islands from Barra in the south to Lewis in the north covering some
150km of hill running, 230km on road bike, 100km on mountain bike,
130km by sea kayak and just over 2km of swimming en route.
The Hebridean Challenge is definitely not for the faint hearted
and following the success of last year's inaugural event it has
already established itself as one of the top races of its kind in
the country and has attracted more than 100 top athletes this year.
The popularity of the event is helped in no small part by the unique
and beautiful landscape of the islands and as race director Martin
Stone explains the involvement of the local community is also an
important factor in the event's success.
"There is something magical about the islands and from the moment
you arrive there, it's not quite a time warp, but you are taken
away from reality of your normal life in the town or mainland,"
"The competitors are taken to an environment that is very harsh
because you arrive in the Uists and (during the race) you actually
go to areas all over the islands which you night never otherwise
get the opportunity or motivation to visit if there was not a challenge.
"There have been events like this taking place across the world
for about 15 years and each has its own unique characteristics.
The thing that is unique abut this event is that it is a journey
that visits all the inhabited islands of the Outer Hebrides starting
as far south as Vatersay (attached to Barra) and finishing on Lewis
"The Hebridean Challenge is organised by an islands based community
trust and another thing about the event that is unique is that each
night the race visits a local community hall as it works its way
gradually northwards towards Lewis.
"The race is integrated locally with the community at each of these
halls as the people provide evening meals and accommodation for
"So you have got the excitement of people finishing each stage
at a hall and starting there again the next morning so it takes
the event into the community and is a lot more closely involved
than an event that finishes in the middle of nowhere.
"We hold our briefings in the hall and the results are done in
the hall so we have got this focus so these disparate communities,
which are quite small really, focus on the hall for that night,"
As well as the thrill of seeing some of the best adventure racers
take part in the challenge at several of the community halls en
route local youngsters will be able to get a taste for adventure
racing by taking part in special events.
They will be given the chance to bike along the final stages of
the route as the teams are coming in to finish and hopefully capture
some of the excitement and adrenalin that keeps the athletes going
in this toughest of races.
"These are unique things about the Hebridean Challenge but what
is also unique are the logistical problems of the route as the racers
are in places with no back up and are only allowed one back up vehicle
per team and they have to take it in turns to move the vehicle -
it is definitely one of the toughest adventure races in the UK,"
Although last year's inaugural event was delayed by several months
due to the foot and mouth outbreak the organisers still managed
to attract 12 teams to take part and this year the Hebridean Challenge
will have 22 teams, each with five members, competing.
Teams taking part in the challenge are given information on the
route just two days before the start of the event so lots of fast
thinking and brain power as well as sheer strength and willpower
are required as they make their way through isolated and difficult
All five competitors in each team have to take part in significant
sections of the challenge to qualify for prizes and it is also up
to them to transport their equipment and team members to the meeting
points of each stage of the race.
The winning team is expected to complete the course in around 55
hours over the five days of the event with each individual competitor
having done 20 hours of punishing exercise.
At the end of it all they will be rewarded with a presentation
and festivities in Stornoway but perhaps a nice hot bath and a long
deep sleep my prove a more attractive option!
The One.Tel Hebridean Challenge takes place from 6-10 May 2002
and more information is on the website www.hebrideanchallenge.com
here to find out about more extreme sports events being held in
Scotland this year