Think of an autumn break and you probably think: unspoilt scenery, miles of golden beaches, warm, temperate weather. The island of Jersey, 100 miles south of mainland Britain, has all this. But if your idea of holiday heaven is something a little less sedate, you could be one of 200 participants ‘enjoying’ that unspoilt scenery through the back-breaking bike climbs and rugged running of the Jersey Island Challenge.
Now in its third year, this team adventure race comprises a one-mile sea kayak, 40-mile cycle ride and eight-mile cross-country run, though those feeling less courageous can take the event’s half-length option without feeling short-changed of the fantastic views and varied landscapes on offer.
Both races start and finish in the bay of St Catherine’s on the island’s east coast. Against a backdrop of rocky coves and sweeping stony breakwater, entrants must climb aboard their inflatable kayaks (vessels and paddles provided) and brave the waves for a one-mile out-and-back paddle.
Once out of the water, it’s time to hop in the bike saddle, and the course now turns inland, charting a hilly yet picturesque route through the rolling countryside. For those brave enough to tackle the full distance, breathtaking coastal views await upon reaching the western aspect of the island, and a warm welcome at the Corbieres lighthouse provides a brief moment’s respite before the brutal climb back onto the cliff tops and the return to St Catherine’s.
The final leg - a gruelling cross-country run - takes runners through woods and parish lanes to the cliff paths of the north coast, looping back via Saie Harbour and Fliquet to the race finish. Half-distance entrants are spared the steepest climbs, but that’s unlikely to lessen their post-race feel-good glow.
The Jersey Island Challenge is a team event, but choose your companions wisely: it’s likely to test your friendship as much as your fitness. Competitors must start and finish as a pair, and though company can prove both useful (for drafting one another) and motivational (when morale begins to flag), working with a partner can prove just as much of a challenge as the testing course for those more accustomed to running alone.
95 teams took part last year and the field is expected to reach similar numbers this autumn. Accessible to both experienced adventure racers and family, club or corporate teams looking for something a bit different, the Jersey Challenge is a great way to test your physical and mental endurance, while enjoying the late summer warmth and peaceful rural locales for which the island is known.
Make no mistake, this event is hard, but well worth the effort.
How to enter
The Jersey Island Challenge is just one event featured in the RW Travel Collection 2007, run in association with 2:09 Events. Enter online now to secure your place this September or visit 2:09 Events for more information.