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The Hebridean Challenge is one of the toughest adventure races in the world but the gruelling physical challenge is not the only attraction of this unique event. Lorraine Wakefield speaks to race director Martin Stone about the challenges ahead.

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 May.

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," said Martin.

"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 in Stornoway.

"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 the teams.

"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," he said.

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," Martin added.

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 terrain.

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

18/4/2002

Click here to find out about more extreme sports events being held in Scotland this year

 

 


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Jon Bardgett on Uig Sands during the 2001 race



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S Whipp & R Lang arrive at Miabhaig by sea kayak during the 2001 race



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Gary Baum during the 2001 race at the bridge on Uig Sands



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J Whittaker & G Thompsett - transition on West Lewis during the 2001 race



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Lone cyclist crossing Uig Sands in the 2001 race


 

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