Action Challenge is a company that organises a number of challenge events all over the world. Amongst other challenges, you can join them to climb Kilimanjaro, cycle from London to Paris or various walking challenges across the UK and overseas.
I have recently completed the Isle of Wight Challenge, organised by Action Challenge, together with a couple of friends. Although all of us had an amazing experience, and I can only recommend taking on a challenge like this, we have had mixed experiences with Action Challenge. This review is solely based on my personal experience with the Isle of Wight Challenge and things might be different at other events with Action Challenge.
We signed up shortly after attending an information evening in London months before the event. The Action Challenge team on the night was friendly, gave a good presentation and answered all the questions you could possibly have about their events. Further, there was a raffle for free entry to an event of your choice (which I won, yay!).
I can’t comment on their customer service before the race as I didn’t have to contact them. Leading up to the challenge we received email reminders and useful information. Unfortunately, the information wasn’t quite consistent throughout the different sources. For example, the kilometers after which the first big rest stop would be differed between the emails, the website and the map that we were given on the day. Not hugely, so not a big problem, but before a challenge it would be nicer to be able to rely on the information.
The week before the event we were sent our e-ticket, which had to be printed out, although it only contained the participants name and bib number, no bar code or the like. We arrived at the event site the night before and registration was straight forward and staff were very friendly and helpful. The campsite was within a couple of meters of the start, so very convenient location, although people in the late start groups would definitely have been woken up by the early starters. In the evening there was a briefing for the race, which has not been mentioned in any of the information we received before the event, so we kind of just stumbled into it. We were glad we hadn’t ordered dinner, as the caterer was very late due to problems with the ferries that day.
In the morning of the race, the atmosphere was pleasantly relaxed and the Action Challenge team was pretty laid back about start times etc., so we were able to start 20 minutes before our designated start time, which was very nice. Everybody was scanned in to the start area before the warm up programme, but the timing system did not start your individual time as you crossed the start line. The whole group has the same start time. Our actual start time was 9:01:45 (planned was 9:00) and unfortunately I couldn’t find out whether the late start had been taken into account in the official times as my questions have been deleted, rather than answered, from the Isle of Wight Challenge Facebook page.
The sign posting throughout the challenge has been excellent. During the night it was very useful that the signs had reflective stripes and there were glow sticks along the path, especially helpful in the forest sections and where the path went through fields. The snack selection at the first small stop at around 17km was excellent. There weren’t enough toilets though and a lot of people lost time in the queues.
The lunch station at around 34km was either bring your own lunch or buy a voucher in advance. Again we were glad we had opted for our own food, as there seemed to be a hold up for the food and people had to wait. Also, the selection of food was considerably smaller than in the photos shown at the information evening in London.
At 56km, food was included for everybody. There were only two options, rice and chilli or baked potatoes, and the portions sizes were pretty stingy. I would have expected an all you can eat buffet kind of arrangement, as was shown during the information event in London.
At 77km, the last big stop with warm food, the only warm options were bacon, sausages or plain burgers without lettuce or cheese. Now, I love bacon but after walking for 17h, I craved something that’s easy to digest. Again, the snack options at this rest stop were fantastic, there was a heater and a massage place, making for a welcome and comfortable rest stop.
Just before the finish there was a ferry crossing. I understand that this is unavoidable, but maybe it would be a good idea to scan people in and out so that the time doesn’t keep running whilst waiting for the ferry. Walking across the finish line was an amazing feeling and the staff was very welcoming and friendly. In fact, all the staff along the way, at all the rest stops and the marshalls en route were lovely, supportive and helpful. There were no showers or changing rooms/areas in the finish area (apart from maybe a really quite skanky public toilet).
A couple of days after the event we received the official times, but it didn’t include any of the split times. This also meant that participants who didn’t finish did not get any times up to the point they did walk/run. The times were only listed by bib number and didn’t show a ranking. I asked repeatedly on Facebook whether full statistics would be made available and whether the late start had been taken into account, but my posts were deleted rather than answered. My girlfriend uploaded a searchable results list with rankings etc. to Google Drive and posted the link to the Isle of Wight Challenge Facebook page, but that was also deleted. My girlfriend actually rang them up and first talked to the social media guy, who wasn’t particularly helpful and said the posts had been deleted because they run charity events and don’t want negative comments. Thing is: they weren’t negative comments, they were just questions. She was then put through to one of their project managers, who was friendly and helpful and promised to look into both the social media strategy and the timings.
Overall, we had an amazing experience and we are definitely hooked for more events of this kind. Support on the day was excellent and very friendly. When our friend had to drop out due to really bad blisters she was picked up by one of the staff and dropped of at the nearest shuttle bus stop within 30 minutes. However, we think that there is room for improvement in the running of this particular event. The Action Challenge events might be more suited for people only in it for the challenge, i.e. finishing is everything. If you’re looking for a more race like event, with full statistics and exact timings available, other organisers might be a better option for you.
Another point worth mentioning is that Action Challenge asks participants to raise money for a charity of their choice when signing up for their events. This is great and very important for a lot of charities, but be aware that the charities have to pay a share of the money you raise back to the company. There are other event organisers out there who ask participants for the full sign up fee upfront and then all the money you raise goes straight to the charity.