One of the aspects of Doñana Challenge for those who most attract the attention of those who dare to dispute it is its route. A journey that has been changing throughout the previous nine editions, but which has always had a common denominator, the Doñana national park, with special sensitivity and respect for the environment on the part of the organization.
The change in the order of the segments, one of the hallmarks of the race
One of its main hallmarks has always been the change in the order of the segmentss, starting with cycling, continuing with swimming and ending with the race on foot along the beach. And that has never changed.
The current route is 100 kilometers by bicycle, swimming across the mouth of the Guadalquivir in a 1 km route and traveling 30 km on foot along the Malandar beach, 15 for going and 15 for returning. The mouth of the Guadalquivir presents a curious mixture of freshwater tides from the river itself and salty tides from the Atlantic Ocean, which make it very characteristic and spectacular for sports.
The first edition in 2019
But it was not always like this. In the first edition, held on Saturday, September 12, 2009, the total distance was 200 km (169 km by bicycle, 1 km by swimming and 30 km by foot) and with the focus also on defending the environment and in sustainable development.
The start was in Cádiz and the goal, as in the first editions, at Matalascañas beach, in the Huelva municipality of Almonte. The 30 km of the foot race was done in a straight line. It was the first time in history that a sports event crossed this protected space. This route was maintained in the following two editions.
The fourth edition, held in 2013, has already undergone changes in the distances to be covered. The cycling segment reduced the route to 90 km through different towns in the province of Cádiz, the crossing remained the same, but the 30 km race on foot was made with start and finish at Malandar beach.
That was the initial plan, but for reasons beyond the control of the organization, the day before the route was changed and the test became an aquathlon, eliminating the swimming segment and conducting the race segment on foot along the beach on the shore of Sanlúcar, on an eight kilometer circuit. The following year the modification in the route proposed by the organization for the previous edition could already be truly premiered, and it remained that way until the next edition.
In 2016, in the seventh edition of the Doñana Challenge, the last modification in the route of the test occurred today. The most significant change was the increase from 90 to 100 kilometers in the cycling segment, and the passage through the town of Trebujena, which thus joined Sanlúcar de Barrameda itself, El Puerto de Santa María, Jerez de la Frontera, Roya and Chipiona.
A sports event in Doñana
El Doñana Challenge It is one of the toughest endurance sports events to be held in Andalusia. In its tenth edition, to be held on September 21, it will once again run through one of the best preserved nature reserves in the world, the Doñana National Park. And one of the objectives of the organization of the Doñana Challenge is to support the protectionist policy of the environment.
Passing through the Doñana National Park corresponds to the third segment of this extreme triathlon, the running race. The triathletes, after cycling through part of the province of Cádiz and swimming across the Guadalquivir, arrive at Punta de Malandar, on the shore opposite Sanlúcar de Barrameda. In Malandar they wear running shoes and there they meet the real challenge of the test: to complete 30 km alone through the sand, the final sector of this unique test in the world for its appearance and the space where it takes place. This last sector on foot through the endless sand of the Doñana beach is what gives meaning to the test and one of its most attractive aspects.
To maintain and support the protectionist policy that is in charge of monitoring the preservation of Doñana, no motor vehicle from outside the park, or that is not previously authorized by it, will be able to set foot on this long and beautiful beach, which implies an important organizational effort to keep attention on athletes and volunteers. Before, during and after the passage of the triathletes, an entire operation will be launched so that this magical space swims, with special attention to cleaning.
El Challenge Doñana 2019 It is organized by the Andalusian Regional Ministry of Education and Sports, with the technical support of the Andalusian Triathlon Federation, and with the collaboration of the municipalities of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Trebujena, Jerez, El Puerto de Santa María, Rota and Chipiona (for which the test runs) and the Doñana Natural Space.