2021's Mallorca Odyssey.

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While Covid has taken over our lives, one must not forget that millions of people are still continuing to suffer from other illnesses and medical conditions, in particular cancer, which the medical community around the world is continuing to find cures for while tackling the pandemic. One way of easing the pressure on the health services and one's own personal situation is being proactive with regard to cancer.

On April 9, Sean Judkins, whose wife Anita was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago but is now clear, will be holding his second multi-sports event to raise funds and awareness for Cancer Support Mallorca, who played a crucial role in helping Anita and the family deal with and overcome cancer.

Sean originally hails from New Zealand, where his uncle, Robin, founded the Coast to Coast race across New Zealand some 40 years ago. This is now an iconic multi-sport event - bike, kayak and run over 243 kilometres. Last year, in between lockdowns and restrictions, he organised a “fun” charity event, based on the same model, in aid of Cancer Support Mallorca.

This year, the second event is all ready to go, but he has changed the format.

Sean, who has been on the island now for 15 years and is a teacher at Agora School, is well known in the island’s rugby circles. He was instrumental in developing the rugby fever in Mallorca but decided to take a departure from rugby a few years ago, the first time since he was four years old, and has since been exploring new challenges. His favourite has become running in the Tramuntana Mountains, and this is key to this year’s charity challenge.

“I’m up and running again with my new event, the Tramuntathlon. This year’s Mallorca Odyssey is a non-competitive adventure, all designed to raise money for Cancer Support Mallorca through participation, donations and sponsorship. We topped 11,000€ last year, so the bar has been set high for this event. This year, it’s a one-day event over five stages - running, cycling and kayaking, using the Tramuntana as the backdrop.

“This time it is more about getting other people involved and making the event bigger. Just like last year, it’s not a race, it’s about taking part and raising awareness and funds.

“I’ve kept the number of participants to 50. Any more than that and I have to start asking permissions to close roads, etc. We’re not at that stage yet, although looking ahead to the future, I want to make it a more corporate event in which local and international companies can take part and enter teams as part of employee team-building exercises. But for the time being, I want to keep it tight, mean and lean.”

The idea for the charity event was sparked by his wife, Anita. The motivation came when Anita was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Fortunately, it was detected early. Thanks to the medical expertise and fantastic attention on the island, she was able to successfully “battle the demon”.

The help and support she and the whole family received from Cancer Support Mallorca was nothing short of extraordinary, Sean says.

As part of her recovery, Anita formed the “Walk the GR221” group from Andratx to Pollensa, something she and a group of friends - plus Sean - have since completed four times. This year, the main sponsor is Anita’s company dysl3xia.com, which provides diagnosis and support strategies to individuals with dyslexia and/or literacy difficulties in Majorca.

“This year’s event is open to individuals or relay teams, and the athletes will start in the kayak with a circumnavigation of Sa Dragonera, followed by a further four stages (two of cycling and two of running). The Tramunathlon will end 155km later in Es Capdellà, with finishers being able to quench their thirst at Sa Vinya Bar and Restaurant while waiting for their fellow Tramuntathloneers to join them for the after-party.

“Competitors will need to be self-sufficient throughout the event. This means organising their own navigation, transport, food and equipment needs – no hand-holding in this adventure. Everyone will be given a GPS system so they can track themselves or their teammates in real time and don’t get lost.

“Along with the last stage (5th, Puigpunyent to Es Capdella), there is a Kids Run, the final 3.5km of the run, from the Galatzo car park to Es Capdella. This is designed to get kids involved and active.

“Alongside the challenge of completing a gruelling course, another important goal of the event is to raise money for Cancer Support Mallorca and increase awareness of the importance of regular check-ups. There will be a team of people from Cancer Support Mallorca at the finish bothering everyone about the need to be proactive with regard to cancer - both men and women.

“Regular and early checks for breast and prostate cancer are vital, and that is one of the messages we want to get across. One thing which is important to stress to people is that cancer takes no prisoners.

“Yes, if you are a smoker, for example, you have a greater chance of getting lung cancer. But on the flip side, cancer doesn’t really care about people’s lifestyles, it can strike anyone. So there’s no need to be worried about having a check and there is certainly no need to feel guilty or blame yourself should you be diagnosed with cancer. The easier it can be detected, the quicker it can be dealt with, and I can’t stress how fortunate we are in Mallorca to have the likes of Cancer Support Mallorca to help patients and their families,” Sean said.

Sean and the family only intended to spend two years in Mallorca.

“I had been on the mainland many years ago. I studied Spanish at Salamanca University while playing professional rugby for the university backed team. I graduated and returned to New Zealand, where I met my wife and started the family. But we decided to come to Mallorca so that the kids could see there was more to the world than New Zealand. However, as we neared our end date, as it were, the earthquake hit Christchurch and we lost our house. So months of insurance paperwork, etc. followed while we remained in Mallorca and gradually the island became home, the kids started school and we decided to stay. Now the kids are, I guess, European, one is at Bath University, and I haven’t been back since Christmas 2018. Well, the pandemic entry restrictions have made it virtually impossible. But we’ve all fallen in love with Mallorca and the island’s great outdoors. Since giving up rugby, my body couldn't really take the weekly beatings on the pitch any more - I was still aching on Wednesdays - I decided to take up other sports, in particular mountain running.

“And that is one of the reasons this year’s event is focused on running the Tramuntana. It’s such a glorious place to be active. There really is nothing better than getting up into the mountains, and this came home even more once we were allowed out after lockdown. Running or hiking up in the hills with the mask off was a blessing. It still is, and I hope that all those who take part appreciate Mallorca’s mountain range just as much as I and the family do.

“We are so lucky to live in Mallorca. You can spend pretty much all of the year outdoors and that, as we’ve all learned as a result of this pandemic I think, is so important for our well-being and our mental health. Yeah, it might get a bit chilly, but with the right clothing, there are few excuses to lead an active lifestyle.

“So, I hope that on April 9 we have a full field of athletes who want to have some serious fun, challenge themselves and help an extremely excellent and worthy cause.”

For more information, visit https://sites.google.com/view/tramuntathlon/english/information