On Saturday 03 and Sunday 4 September 81 brave and determined multi-sport athletes from throughout the UK and further afield, competing as solos and pairs, took on The Heb - Race on the Edge, a new mountain bike, off road running and kayaking challenge on the Uist Island chain off the west coast of Scotland.
On this epic journey the athletes covered approximately 15,000km over two days of endurance racing (with each competitor averaging 125km on day one and 60km on day two) on Benbecula, the uninhabited tidal island of Vallay, North Uist and South Uist - beautiful desolate sandy beaches, magnificent mountains, hidden coves, and wild Hebridean landscapes.
This ultimately physical island challenge, designed to be accessible to anyone with a sense of adventure and a modicum of endurance, was deemed a huge success by both competitors, volunteers and event organisers alike; with a strong emphasis on the competitiveness, the test of physical fitness, stamina and mental toughness, together with an immense amount of camaraderie, enjoyment and fun.
While the weather in such a remote group of islands will always be changeable with rain and high winds playing a part, for the vast majority of The Heb the temperatures were relatively mild. The Sunday sun was blisteringly hot.
Sean McFarlane led the field for the majority of day one of The Heb. However on day two Craig Mattocks mounted a solid challenge turning a nine-minute overnight deficit into a 15-minute lead when he crossed the finish line in an overall time of 16 hours and 25 minutes. Amy Goodill from Glenrothes took the female solo crown with an overall time of 20 hours and 53 minutes.
Former double Duathlon World Champion, double Long Distance Duathlon World Champion and multiple Ironman and Ironman 70.3 winner, Catriona Morrison, teamed up with Caroline Wallace, a PE Teacher at Peebles High School, to take on The Heb. Together they were overall pairs winners in a combined time of 18 hours and 13 minutes.
Cat Morrison, MBE, said: “The Heb was a great challenge. Travelling the length and breadth of the Uists with the wind at your back and the sun in the sky; and then two seconds later biking or running into a headwind with horizontal rain lashing at your face; what an amazing incredible experience. Running along the beach on the tidal island of Vallay trying to make sure we made the cut off before the tide came in and the views that we got from the top of Beinn Mhor were particular favourite moments.”
Race Director, Paul McGreal from Durty Events, said: “We set out to achieve an accessible adventure, and to showcase what an incredible place the Hebrides are. I think it’s safe to say we did both. We were made to feel very welcome by islands residents and businesses – an essential part of the mix. The huge support we received from EventScotland and Calmac was much appreciated, and made staging the event possible.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said: “The Heb, which is supported through EventScotland’s National Funding Programme, perfectly demonstrates why Scotland is the perfect stage for events, taking place across one of our most scenic landscapes.
“This unique event attracted hardened athletes as well as amateur enthusiasts and I’m confident the positive feedback provided by all participants will allow The Heb to go from strength-to-strength in future years.”
Despite the exhaustion love was firmly in the air in the Outer Hebrides over The Heb weekend. Polly and Steve Lock, the British/New Zealand pairing raced The Heb as part of their honeymoon, having flown over from Australia to Polly’s native UK to get married the weekend before. They also managed to cross the finish line as first mixed pair. Another mixed pair, Vikki Morgan and Tom Jefferson, got engaged during the race with Tom proposing on the stunning white sands of a South Uist beach. Apparently the ring was carried in the ‘spare hats and gloves bag’ for the whole race.