RUNNING LONDON TO PARIS. THE RYDER CUP RUN. DONE!

What a fantastic week!  Paul Dunstan and I took on a challenge to run over a marathon a day, and play a game of golf each day, while running London to Paris, arriving at Le National- the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.

We accumulated 333km, and approximately 380,000 steps each, ate about 35000 calories each, and even placed second in the British Speedgolf Open pairs competititon.

Our first day, we met the founder of Golf in Society, Anthony Blackburn. The inspirational stories he shared of the difference physical activity, in this case golf , is making to so many lives made myself and Paul even more determined to complete the Ryder Cup Run.  After some golf on the Driving Range, and the West Course at Wentworth (awesome!), we ran south from European Tour headquarters. As well as highlighting the work of Golf in Society (donations are extremely welcome here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/GolfAndMentalHealth ) we would also promote the value of exercise for health, and in particular the World Golf Foundation’s Golf and Health project which I’m helping with for my PhD www.golfandhealth.org

The first day I was a physical wreck, partly due to a lack of sleep the 2 previous nights, and perhaps also the after effects of viral meningitis I’d contracted 3 weeks prior. Running with Paul and his girlfriend Lenka, I just battled through.

Day two say the British Speedgolf Open.  Speedgolf is definitely a sport you should try if you like either running or golf. We love both, and particularly enjoyed Paul’s shot to the 18th belting the ball out of a puddle to 6 feet, and soaking himself at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having run to the ferry in sunshine, we got a bit of a soaking in France for the first day. However some wildgolf made up for it, and after a few days golf and running, we arrived in Paris, running past the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Palace of Versailles. Paul had battled with sore knees for the last three days but the sights and some fine French food took our mind of it.

Arriving at Le Golf National’s the bunting was out, and a game on the famous course  awaited.  It’s the venue for the next Ryder Cup in 2018, we arrived a year ahead of time!

I’d like to say a few thanks- big apologies to anyone I’ve missed out.

Golf In Society are pioneering dementia friendly golf, aimed at improving the lives of people living with dementia by introducing/ reacquainting them to golf. Their messages of support from the participants/ coaches kept us going https://golfinsociety.com/2015/11/10/uks-first-dementia-friendly-golf-club-launches-in-lincon/

To everyone for their support, kind messages and donations.

To Lenka and Joe for leading all the logistics, Dean for help driving, Yannick, Jimmy and Katinka for the welcome and support in France. Lenka also made a great website www.rydercuprun.com

To Merrell for providing us with all running kit. Top class as ever, the only blister I got was on my hand from playing golf.

To Wentworth, Le Golf National and the European Tour and its players, and Stance UK, and Freemans  for supporting the effort.

And to Paul who was consistently excellent company and is still a mile better than me at golf.

GETTING OVER VIRAL MENINGITIS, AND THE RYDER CUP RUN

This time last week, I was in hospital hooked up to a drip.  A lumbar puncture had shown there were either bacteria or viruses in the membranes that line my brain and spinal canal.  I had a high fever, a massive headache, and quite a stiff neck and back.  Fortunately I received outstanding care from the team in A+E, in medical receiving, and a clear diagnosis of Enterovirus Meningitis was made.

A week on, my headache is a little more than a tickle, and I feel profoundly tired, but am getting a tonne better each day.  I’m fully back to work, and have the energy to do normal stuff with my family and kids. However I will need to get better fast to take on the Ryder Cup Run, with over a marathon a day, and a lot of golf in less than 3 weeks.

My good friend Paul Dunstan and I will team up to run from Wentworth Club, England – the home of Ryder Cup Europe – to the host venue of The 2018 Ryder Cup- Le Golf National in France while taking on various golfing challenges each day, including the British Speedgolf Open, GolfSixes, and a final round of 18 holes at Le Golf National’s famous course upon reaching their final destination.

We’ll be doing this to raise money and awareness for “Golf In Society” https://golfinsociety.com/about/ , enabling people with dementia and other medical conditions to continue to play the game, and also to promote the value of exercise in the great outdoors.  Now I’m over the worst of the meningitis, I’ll lace up the Merrell’s and get out there and train.  Hopefully I can be fit in time.

I also wanted to say thanks a tonne for the wonderful messages of love and support for Jennie, Nina, baby Fran and I while I was in hospital.  Each one is hugely appreciated.

If you are reading this, and have got a few quid you can share, to support the run, and Golf in Society, we’d be incredibly grateful, the link is below- and feel free to share the great work they are doing

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/GolfAndMentalHealth

GENGHIS KHAN MARATHON 2017 DONE

Some like it hot, but they would have been disappointed by the mountains of Mongolia which hosted the Genghis Khan Marathon in temperatures of minus 32 Celsius.  The task was to navigate through a frozen river network, before enjoying traditional Mongolian and Scottish festivities.  Nowhere can beat Mongolia for the sense of space, and remoteness, almost immediately this grabs you as we drove out of the capital Ulan Bataar.

There were multiple purposes to my visit, first among them was to further experience the charm and culture of Mongolia, which I enjoy more every time I come.  The advantage of small race groups allow a genuine insight into daily life in temperatures that often dip below minus 40 in winter.

As the horn signified the start of the race, conditions were perfect. Minus 32, and very little wind was certainly a good deal more pleasant than a windy minus 40 might have.  I set off at around 3 hour pace, but quickly realised that underfoot conditions (either snowy on the trail, or very slippy on the ice river) meant I wouldn’t be under last year’s time of 3hrs 7 mins.

There were certainly more husky dogs and yaks than humans on the way round, and fortunately no sign of wolves.  The ice occasionally splintered a little beneath my feet, making me a little nervous until pop- though the ice my right foot went, plunging into the frozen river. Instinctively I pulled it straight out my heart racing.  Wet feet at minus 32 is no joke.  I waited to feel the wet and the cold, but it never came.  The gaiters on top of my Merrell All Out Terra Ice had stopped anything coming through.

Race Director, and Honorary Consul of Scotland to Mongolia Dave Scott (Sandbaggers UK), was there to greet competitors at the finish.  I finished ahead of Chris from England who had avoided wet feet.  A special mention should be given to Audrey McIntosh who finished the marathon having the week before ran in the extreme heat of the Namib desert.  Dave had some innovative recovery food lined up.  Haggis, as well as traditional Mongolian delicacies such as goat and potatoes could well be ideal for recovering for the rigors of a race. It is actually not bad from a technical perspective, with carbohydrates as well as protein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the north, we head back to Ulan Bataar- at least I don’t have to run back this year!

 

MINUS FORTY IN MONGOLIA MARK 2

Very few places excite taxi drivers, but Mongolia seems to do that to everybody.  Pavel was chock full of questions, of a place that at this time of year is one of extreme beauty, temperatures and terrain.This time last year, I was running from the reputed birthplace of Genghis Khan to the modern day capital of Ulan Bataar, thinking it was much easier to run in the extreme cold, than it was to drive.  Temperatures had dipped to minus 45, and the driver had the blowtorch out to unfreeze the radiator and the diesel tank.  Interesting.

In addition to the longer run, last year I took place in the inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon.  There is something very special about running on a frozen system in Outer Mongolia, with a yurt as the base camp, and the howls of huskies ringing in our ears. Eleven hardy competitors took to the start line, and only two got a touch of frostbite in temperatures of minus 35 (it was a beautiful clear day).  The question I get asked most is what I wear.  In short I use lots of thin layers, including two pairs of gloves, and a special ice shoe with studs in the bottom (Merrell All Out Terra Ice).

So this year, I am joining Sandbaggers at the World’s Coldest Burns Supper, followed by the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon mark 2.  We will have the opportunity to catch up with old friends, and to update on the various Yamaa trust projects that are ongoing.

It will not be boring, and it will not be warm.

BEST INVESTMENTS FOR PHYSICAL ACTIVITY- WHAT WORKS

What works in promoting physical activity?  I’ve been part of a group at the University of Edinburgh, and the International Society for Physical Activity and Health who have distilled this hugely important message down into an infographic.  Whether you are a member of the public, or press, please share widely!

7-best-investments-for-physical-activity
The key health challenge of encouraging people around the world to be more active could be addressed with a series of ideas outlined in a new report.

More space to exercise, less reliance on cars and better support from healthcare services are all highlighted in the plan, which was presented at a World Health Organisation event this weekend.

The study, by researchers at the University of Edinburgh and the International Society for Physical Activity for Health, identifies seven areas that require investment by governments and communities in order to improve levels of physical activity.

The findings could help policy makers meet WHO targets to reduce inactivity levels around the world by 10 per cent by 2025.

Greater availability of physical activity space is cited in the strategy as a key driver for global health improvement.

The plan, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also underlines the importance of adapting transport structures to support the WHO targets. It calls on local and national authorities to prioritise walking, cycling and public transport.

Researchers also claim that physical activity advice should be more freely available from national healthcare services.

The plan identifies areas of investment that could increase levels of physical activity when applied at local, national and international levels.

These include support for programmes that promote sport for all and encourage participation across age-groups and effective communication of key messages.

Researchers assert that if the health of nations is to improve and levels of physical activity are to rise, then greater investment is needed in these areas.

Dr Andrew Murray from Edinburgh’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre said: “Physical inactivity may well be the fundamental public health challenge of our age. Despite compelling evidence on the health benefits of physical activity, the combination of increasing mechanisation, digitisation, and urbanisation continues to inexorably squeeze essential physical activity out of our daily lives.”

“Our study distils the key messages and expert advice into bite-size chunks that will help people and policy makers get more people more active, more often. This will contribute to increased longevity and better health that regular physical activity brings.”

The seven-point plan was presented at the sixth International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health in Bangkok. The event is co-hosted by the World Health Organization and the International Society for Physical Activity and Health.

Co-author of the study and President of the ISPAH, Prof Fiona Bull said: “The infographic published with the report presents an easy at-a-glance outline of the seven areas in which governments should be focussing their efforts and investment to increase physical activity. Too many national plans are sitting on shelves and are not being funded. It is time to take the global issue of physical inactivity much more seriously.”

The plan builds upon the ISPAH 2010 Toronto Charter for Physical Activity, which calls for all countries, regions and communities to strive for greater political and social commitment to support physical activity for all.

For further information, please contact:
Andrew Moffat, Press and PR Office, Tel +44 131 650 9836, Email andrew.moffat@ed.ac.uk

Fiona Bull, International Society for Physical Activity and Health, Email fiona.bull@uwa.edu.au

The full report can be found here: http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2016/11/01/bjsports-2016-096999.full

The original report this builds on (which is a must read) is here

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/46/10/709.full

 

GOLF AND HEALTH

A prevailing interest of mine has always been promoting exercise for health.  Partly in an effort to get better at conducting research, and partly out of curiosity I decided to do a PhD looking at golf and health.

The first part of this was to see what was out there- by doing a scoping review.  We found 5000 odd papers that were vaguely relevant and 301 that were very relevant. We have pulled this information together, and have been fortunate to secure publication in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the number 1 ranked sports science and sports medicine journal worldwide.

Links to our findings are shown in the infographic below, with the original publications here

The bottom line is that as with physical activitiy in general, the best evidence we have highlights golf is good for health, and can be played across the lifespan.  There are physical health, wellness, and likely longevity benefits.

The papers are part of the Golf and Health project with the World Golf Foundation.  We will publish results whether they are good, bad or indifferent.  So far over 100 press articles have featured the scoping review, while we are honoured to have player ambassadors that have won over 30 major titles, and 350 overall titles between them, including Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam, Padraig Harrington, Brooke Henderson, Zach Johnson, SO Yeon Ryu, Ryann O’Toole and Aaron Baddeley.

Infographic.  Golf and Health.

Infographic. Golf and Health.

This information, and much more is being curated into a website www.golfandhealth.org  – please do check it out.

I am learning about research every day.  The expertise from my supervisors Prof Nanette Mutrie, Liz Grant, Paul Kelly, and Roger Hawkes has been absolutely superb, while Aston Ward, Steve Mona, Steffan Griffen and our fantastic ambassadors are doing a terrific job of sharing findings widely- in fact so good that a UK parliament early day motion was passed, welcoming the research.St Andrews.  The home of golf.

NATIONAL ADVENTURE AWARD WIN!

I am totally honoured to have been nominated for, and subsequently won a National Adventure Award 2016.  The National Adventure Awards are a real highlight of the year, bringing together adventurers from the 4 corners of the British Isles to celebrate what everyone has got up to in the last year, and throw ideas around for the next year.

With the certificate

With the certificate

There were some wins for incredible efforts from Sarah Outen MBE circumnavigating the world, Jamie Ramsay who completed an epic run from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, and Ash Dykes who took on Madagascar and all it’s summits.  Closer to home, a team para-climbed the notorious Eiger, while a team also swam to the rocky outcrops of St Kilda.  In one word, amazing.

So in this context it was a huge honour to scoop the “charitable achievements” category.  I have always enjoyed adventure, and had the opportunity to support some fantastic causes including the Yamaa Trust, Scottish Association for Mental Health, African Palliative Care Association and Riding for the Diabled through various runs and climbs.

Thanks to DigitalPict and Rich Alexanader for the photos and video

Thanks to DigitalPict and Rich Alexanader for the photos and video

To be honest though, although I have done a fair bit of running over the years, the vast majority of the hard work in raising awareness and money for charities and social enterprises has been done by others.  Although I have loved contributing and actually get far more out of this than any charity does from me, the folks that should take the credit should definitely include all my family especially the Murrays, Reeves, Linds, Morrisons and Murdochs, and great friends too many to name, but to share a few Dave Scott, Donnie Campbell, Ross Lawrie, Arnaud Le Marie, Colin McPhail, Jenna Anians, Steve Reid John Graham and Shona Thomson.  Well over 2000 people have donated an incredibly generous total of over £160,000, so thanks a tonne to everyone for that, and for raising awareness, donating prizes, collecting medical equipment/ trainers, baking cakes, giving talks, sharing posts, taking photos, marshalling events, and generally being brilliant.

Some partners I work with have been hugely generous.  Many companies have put their hand in their pocket while others have gone beyond the call of duty.  Sandbaggers have ploughed huge resources not only into the expeditions, but also in setting up social enterprises, deaf schools, and supplying hospitals in remote parts of the world including Outer Mongolia, and Namibia.  The University of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow have collected vital medical supplies.  Merrell have sent over 100 of pairs of new trainers and athletic equipment in direct response to requests from East Africa to support local foundations.

So essentially it is a great honour to have been awarded a National Adventure Award, but it would only be fair to say that most of the credit is deserved by many other people. I hope we can continue learning from and supporting these projects together, and wish I had more time to do a little more.

The other nominees in this category have all achieved a tremendous amount, and are worth having a read about and supporting if you can

African Palliative Care Association UK

yamaa_trust_logo

samh_Logo_300

Karl Hinnett

–  Wooden Spoon– Arctic Rugby

–  The Archies Mountain Challenge

–  Airdrieonians Trust

–  SAMH

–  Stephen Hill

–  Jamie Ramsay

 

RUNNING 100KM AT MINUS 40 CELCIUS. JOB DONE

Having found the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon both arduous and spectacular, it was with some trepidation I looked at the map plotting the route that Genghis Khan took hundreds of years ago from the Tuul and Terelj gorges at the base of the Khenti mountains, the land of his birth to the modern day capital of Ulan Batar. Estimates of the distance varied wildly, from 100km, to 100 miles depending on the route taken, and the estimation of locals.

On the run in Mongolia-Credit John Graham

It is a route laced with history and scenic beauty, but perhaps one also that carries an element of jeopardy. To that end, Sandbaggers had provided a vehicle, and a highly experienced driver to set off from the rugged interior southwards, with the van fully stocked by my parents who had come to Mongolia not only to help, but to experience riding huskies, playing wild golf and this most beautiful of countries for themselves. It was bitterly cold driving across a frozen expanse to the start.  We were not on a road, but cutting tracks across the frozen landscape. Frozen really did mean frozen, with despite the engine having been on all night, everytime the vehicle stopped, the diesel and radiator froze, forcing our driver to defrost it with a blow torch.  I didn’t say anything when I saw this, but it would be fair to say that the prospect of an immobile vehicle, off the beaten track, in temperatures below minus 40 was not attractive.

An easier form of transport

Reaching the start felt like an achievement, when I set off following the historical route south, jumping out the vehicle exposing zero flesh to the elements, and just putting one foot in front of the other until the sun came up offering up improved temperatures in the minus 30’s.  It is amazing the difference that this can make, and I slowed to a more sensible rate at daylight having ran faster than I did in the marathon for the first hour simply to keep warm. 50 odd kilometres elapsed before we hit the junction for the road to Ulan Batar, a road sign that brought me more joy than any of the other road users. The fact that there was actual consistent traffic brought me some baffled looks, while I just concentrated on eating frequently, and warding off the early signs of frostnip I had in my right hand.  I had the Merrell All Out Terra Ice shoes, and decent clothing on which kept the rest of me toasty.  As a stiff headwind picked up, I was joined by a friend Ally, who knocked out a few miles with me and kept me sane until the high rise of Ulan Batar emerged.

Having jumped in the support vehicle to warm up and refuel a few times, I felt relatively OK at the finish.  By that I mean that I was not completely wrecked but still mentally and physically shattered as the signs for Genghis Khan International Airport emerged from the dark that had fallen. I had covered a distance of 104km in a none too speedy 11 hours, although to be honest I was extremely happy with that given the terrain and conditions.  It would have been a tonne slower without having my folks feeding and helping me.

This week’s adventures have been captured by Johnny Graham, and award winning adventure photographer from DigitalPict, and Rich Alexander, a TV presenter and producer who is making a film about the adventures.  Having seen some of the footage already, these guys are awesome and we are all looking forward to seeing the finished products.

We have also been raising some cash and awareness for the Scottish Association for Mental Health and for Riding for the Disabled. People have been hugely generous in donating already, for anyone that would be kind enough to spare some pennies the link is below

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/donate/makeDonationForFundraiserDisplay.action?fundraiserActivityId=628029

As always these adventures are only successful with the help of many. In particular thanks to my family in Mongolia, and back home (our 1 year old Nina did not fancy the trip!), Sandbaggers for their utterly first class organisation, Merrell for providing the best kit and their support, Arnaud Le Marie for his excellent work on the website, my coach Donnie Campbell, and the many other people that make these things possible, and most of the time enjoyable.

Trying out husky riding the day before

THE GENGHIS KHAN ICE MARATHON- PUT IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST

Put it on your bucket list, but pack your gloves and balaclava. I have just completed the inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon in Outer Mongolia, which is just an incredible event. Standing on the start line it was -34 celcius.  This was better than expected, with temperatures of -47 celcius recorded the week before the event which took place on the Tuul/ Terelj frozen river systems in a country with the lowest density of human habitation on earth, in an area where wolves are more prevalent than people.

At the finish

Mongolia in winter is a place of dreams as well as nightmares. Perhaps it is unsurprising that few have attempted any serious endurance challenges there in winter, given the consequences of anything going wrong out there.  But fortunately a real expert in adventure, and Mongolia in particular was behind it. Dave Scott from Sandbaggers had brought together a hardy group of athletes, many from the UK but others from further afield. Dave has led expeditions to Outer Mongolia over 20 times, and had hired staff, vehicles, and even huskies to ensure the event whilst intimidating was as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Virtually no frostbite!

We huddled on the start line listening to the howl of huskies, before everyone set off at a rapid pace simply to keep warm. I set off with Doug Wilson, who I had met at the Antarctic Ice Marathon in 2012. Since then Doug has had major brain surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma and also developed meningitis, but post recovery has won races like the Volcano Marathon a couple months ago. I pulled clear and headed up the ice river, highly impressed with my footwear the Merrell All Out Terra Ice Waterproof which gripped the sheet ice surface with their tungsten tipped spikes slowing me far less than many of the other competitors.

All Out Terra Ice

With 20 odd km gone I had a 14 minute lead, and reassured by this enjoyed looking around at the mountains, and scenery that dwarfed the vehicles and competitors. With a full complement of fingers, and only the smallest amount of cold damage to my nose I crossed the line 1st in 3 hrs, 7 minutes, with Doug second in 3-42, and Lucja Leonard taking the women’s title in 4 hrs 19. The course was exceptional, but with difficult visibility due to goggles steaming up, and the extreme cold there were a couple wrong turns taken by a couple of competitors, leading to a Search and Rescue which efficiently found the remaining competitor, which would not be part of my usual recovery strategy but highlighted what a slick operation Dave leads. By way of celebration, I planned to spend the next day riding the huskies, followed by a 100 odd kilometre run in the hoofprints of Genghis Khan back to the modern day Mongolian capital of Ulan Batar.  Obviously that distance in the terrain and weather expected may take a while. 

THE COLD COURSE. GOLF AT MINUS 40 IN MONGOLIA

 

Golf_finalGreenGolf has been played for centuries, and is played by 55 million people, in 206 countries worldwide.  A little known fact is that a study from Sweden showed that the average golfer lives 5 years longer than those that don’t play, regardless of age, gender, and earnings.

But while conditions in Scotland were tough for professionals at the Old Course in St Andrew’s leading to the British Open finishing a day late, they were positively clement compared to what awaited us in Mongolia. The Genghis Khan Country Club is elaborately named, and hosts one of 4 golf courses in Mongolia. However it was not golf as we know it, with temperatures dipping to -40, where celcius and farenheight meet and the greens were completely frozen just as we hoped.

Driving Range and clubhouseAfter a few rapid practice swings, with the Terelj Gorge and the Khenti mountains as a backdrop we set off  to play. Standard equipment would not work in these conditions, so we were grateful to Titleist for the bright yellow golf balls, and winter beanies, and to Footjoy for their winter gloves.  These have now been tested in the coldest conditions and helped us enormously.  Nevertheless preferred lies were in operation as the balls frequently lodged in the snow, and the ball travelled a shorter distance possibly due to the extreme sub-zero temperatures.  A new form of golf has emerged called speedgolf- a combination of golf and playing as quickly as possible, which is pretty much what we did to counter the conditions.

Paul_TitleistPaul Dunstan, an associate championship director with the European Tour golf played the best round of the day, including chipping in off a TV camera, taking the crown from David Scott who had come out on top at Wild Golf Namibia, where golf was played in temperatures of +40 degrees, in the world’s largest bunker, the Namib desert. Future events are tentatively planned for the Himalaya, and the Salt flats of Bolivia.