The Heb - Time to get Durty
Since its launch (or relaunch, some would say) in 2016, The Heb has been building a steady and loyal following. What's not to like about a challenging-but-manageable two day stage race in one of the wildest parts of the British Isles? There's enough uncertainty - weather, navigation - to make mental preparation a must. There's enough distance - 120km-ish on day one, 70km-ish on day two - to make physical preparation a must (there's also the small matter of preparing for the possibility of a headwind for the entire 27km of the South Uist machair). But the onus of the race, and the recipe for success is choice - you pick how far you run, what checkpoints you visit, what you skip - and that brings completion back into the realms of the mere mortal. Okay, a mere mortal who's put some work in, but a mortal all the same.
And there's no doubt that the scenery out here, while still wild and and untamed, is beautiful. There's the white sand beaches, including the bay crossing to Vallay and the west coast of South Uist to ride along, the rocky bays near Lochmaddy to kayak, and the heathery summits of Eaval and Beinn Mhor to explore. The place is an adventurers playground, and by foot, bike and boat is a pretty good way to explore it while you're here.
And since you're here, at least in your mind right at this moment, there's the hospitality. From race organisers Durty Events welcome at Mallaig, to the Calmac ferry out, to the Shellbay and Kilbride campsites that host the start and end of the race, to Lionaclete School who cater for the racers, to the Polochar Inn who host the end of race ceilidh (not to mention the Wild Island Gin Company and the Colonsay Brewery that sponsor it), you'll be looked after well.
This year's race-journey starts on Friday, with all the participants and crew making their way to Mallaig for the evening ferry, and hoping for a gentle crossing. From Lochboisdale, they'll be whisked by bus to Benbecula and overnight there. Day One is an anticlockwise loop of Benbecula and North Uist, with running stages on Eaval and on Vallay - once they've ridden across the bay to get there, anyone arriving too early gets wet feet - and a kayak section at Lochmaddy. Once they've made their way back to the campsite it's eat and rest up for tomorrow, and the trek south, first via the summits of Hecla and Beinn Mhor, then down the machair tracks and beach to Kilbride for a final kayak and hill run before finishing on the beach. Then, all that remains is to get their dancing clogs on and enjoy the ceilidh!
Live tracking of the race will be online at http://durtytracking.com/h/h_map.php?event=82. We'll be posting a full race report after the weekend - the Hebrides is still remote enough that both WiFi and mobile signal are classed as somewhat mythical entities - and this year's race is also being filmed for BBC Scotland's 'The Adventure Show' for broadcast later in the year.
So, the only question is, why aren't you here?
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I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: The Outer Hebrides is a magical place. It's remote, wild, sparsely