SCOTS CAN WIN GOLD SAYS ULTRA-RUNNING DOC

Endurance athlete Dr Andrew Murray yesterday completed an epic journey across East Africa in search of the secrets behind what he labels “the single greatest, most concentrated production line of world-class talent in sport”.

Andrew & the Ostrich

Andrew & the Ostrich


Dr Murray, along with former Royal Marine Commando Donnie Campbell, ran up and down the 5,895metre / 19,341feet Mount Kilimanjaro in a day, did the same with 4,985 metre Point Lenana, running over 50km at significant altitude every single day for 18 consecutive days and over 900km in total, traversing national parks, tropical rainforests as well as running and spending time with the athletes and coaches that make Kenya the pre-eminent force in middle and long-distance running globally.

Murray, a Sports Medicine doctor with the sportscotland institute of sport, also spent time with Olympic and World Champions such as John Ngugi, Yobes Ondieki, and Edna Kiplagat, as well as experts including Colm O’Connell, who has coached over 20 world champions.

Iten, Andrew & Donnie

Iten, Andrew & Donnie


Additionally, he observed the 2013 Kenyan World Championship trials, where Olympic and World champions like Ezekiel Kemboi and Linet Masai both finished sixth, behind emerging stars.

At the last Athletics World Championships, in Daegu 2011, Kenyan athletes won a remarkable 17 medals, with 11 of those going to athletes resident in Iten, a village of only 4,000 people.

Murray, 32, from Aberdeen, said:

“Running Mt Kilimanjaro and covering fairly chunky distances each day at considerable altitude is difficult, but applying knowledge from the Kenyan champions, and the experts at sportscotland made it a fair bit easier. Seeing buffalo at close quarters also makes you run faster.”

“Given Kenyan athletes are so dominant in middle and long-distance running, people assume there is a genetic link to success and that you have to be from Kenya or East Africa to be successful in these events.”

“Neither myself nor any experts I spoke to can find any truth in this. There is no secret. It’s about doing absolutely everything right, coupled with a determination to succeed.”

“Scottish athletes can win gold in Glasgow 2014 and Rio 2016 by making ‘being the best’ the clear focus of their ambitions, involving the right expertise, and learning lessons from these world-beaters. It was great to see the Scottish team enjoy our most successful British trials for 25 years.”

John Ngugi, a five-time World Champion, and Olympic Champion, who now coaches leading prospects, added:

“It is not easy to be the best. It is necessary to be disciplined, to eat well, and to train hard with no excuses. My moto is ‘train hard and fight easy’ – if you have trained hard the race will be easier. Scottish runners can win also, if they do these things.”

Edna Kiplagat, the current World Marathon champion, stated:

“Discipline, determination, and heart are key factors in achieving success. Eating well and being dedicated are also important.”

Colm O’Connell added:

“Most of the Kenyan champions come from poor, rural backgrounds, and there are many fine, dedicated athletes here, but the UK dominated middle-distance running for a while, with Coe, Ovett, Cram, and Scotland’s Tom McKean, while British Cycling have shown a talented group, all doing well.”

Andrew
 

LESSONS FROM THE BEST – KENYAN TRIALS AND JOHN NGUGI

A major focus of the expedition is to work out what makes the Kenyans the best in the world at long distance running.

As background at the last world championships one Kenyan village won more medals than the UK, France or Germany.

Running School in Kenya

Running School in Kenya


The Kenyan championship trials did not disappoint. Where else on Earth would you have reigning Olympic champions like Ezekiel Kemboi coming 6th in his national champs, and world champion Linet Masai suffering the same fate. The sheer volume of world class performers was the most staggering aspect.

We met a few runners of distinction there, and enjoyed running with a local club – the Rongai runners in Nairobi. ALL of their runners were faster than me, with their mentor John Ngugi who is a 5-time world champion, and Olympic champion telling us what makes humans his runners successful.

John Ngugi & Andrew Murray

John Ngugi & Andrew Murray

Hard work (Ngugi often hit 270km per week), self belief, and dedicating yourself to your goal were clear messages, along with the importance of peer support and role models.

The Rongai runners

The Rongai runners

It is difficult to express how valuable the nuggets of information we can take from these greats are, and it was a pleasure to deliver some trainers courtesy of Merrell UK to support the important work of the join Ngugi foundation.

The 50km a day ticks along in the background. Running with these guys makes it easier but I have yet to think a day was easy.

Andrew
 

ANGRY BUFFALO AND DRAMA WITH LIONS

Lake Bogotia

Lake Bogotia

Several tonnes of meat glared at Donnie and I and snorted. It lowered its head and horns menacingly.

We legged it. We had accidentally got between 3 buffaloes and the lake, these guys had been hidden in the undergrowth. No matter how many miles you had done these cantankerous and surprisingly swift animals are worth evading.

Central Kenya offers unparalleled opportunity to spend time running in the company of wildlife. Sometimes you just happen across a herd of zebras or impalas, whilst national reserves offer a scenic backdrop and a greater concentration of wildlife, for example in the interesting sounding Hell’s Gate National park.

I am not much up for being eaten so we won’t run in the National Parks where lions, leopards and other roamers are, but after a long morning run the likes of Nakuru National park is a magnificent place to watch game.

There can be few places worse to realise you have a completely flat tyre than whilst watching a pride of seven lions. Not a great feeling. Fortunately Joe who was driving manhandled the vehicle a km down the track while he changed the wheel as we checked for unwelcome visitors.

Donnie and I have ran 12 consecutive days at over 50 kilometres a day. This might sound straightforward enough given I ran longer each day running from Scotland to the Sahara but I can promise you that running up various mountains, the terrain and the altitude are exhausting so I appreciate every word of support.

Andrew
 

MOUNT KENYA IN A DAY

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya

Chogoria was an incredible place to visit – a real appreciation of what is possible with limited resources in a hospital and amazing hospitality.

But one of Kenya’s great endurance challenges awaited – running Mount Kenya in a day.

The mountain itself is vastly different to Mount Kilimanjaro, with multiple jagged peaks piercing the sky.

Together with Donnie and Basti, we set off from the lowest gate at Naro Moru. Cloud forest gave way to bamboo before the infamous vertical bog led us towards the massif.

To be honest I thought we would fly up it, having run Mount Kilimanjaro the week before but perhaps 350km run in the week had left the legs heavy as I stumbled up behind Donnie and Basti.

Having spent a time filming, we hit Point Lenana at 4,896 metres; amazed by the shards of rock below, and Batian above.

So the challenge is fully on track, it is both a pleasure and a huge challenge each day.

Andrew
 

GOING HOME

I am from Aberdeen, and Jennie and I now live in Edinburgh but Chogoria, Kenya will always be a home for me.

I lived there from the ages of 2 until 8 while my dad and mum worked at the local mission hospital, so having the chance to weave a visit into the itinerary was always going to be a highlight.

I had been back to work a 6 week stint as a doctor, so know how much the vital medical supplies gifted by people and companies back home are appreciated which was affirmed by the broad grins across the faces of the hospital staff that received them.

Chogoria sits in the foothills of Mount Kenya so running offers excellent views of tropical rain and cloud forest, bamboo, as well as tea and coffee plantations. I actually wished to run up Mount Kenya from Chogoria, but the road to the trailhead was impassable, so we’ll use the Naro Moro route instead.

Andrew
 

ANIMAL MAGIC

Andrew, Donnie & the Gazelles

Andrew, Donnie & the Gazelles

One of the best things about Mount Kilimanjaro, is that you can see it even having run 100km away from it.

East Africa is never boring with the hustle and bustle of downtown Arusha – mayhem – to the open wildlife filled plains.

It is a beautiful but unforgiving place. It seems even the sun and the vegetation attacks you.

Day 3 featured 50km Crossing the Tanzanian/Kenyan border, an heading towards Nairobi. All manner if brightly coloured birds were seen along with antelopes and zebras.

After a sweltering days running, we drove into a national park and spotted some lions and hippopotamus.

Donnie and I are both inevitably carrying a few niggles, but nothing too serious. The most obvious thing to report is that running at altitude is a fair bit more tiring than at sea level so 50km a day feels a bit harder than it should, particularly as there is not much flat ground.

I really appreciate all the kind messages and support.

Andrew
 

KILIMANJARO IN A DAY

Arrived in Africa.

Driving South to Arusha, Mount Kilimanjaro loomed into view. Proud and snow capped Mount Kilimanjaro is instantly recognisable dwarfing the 14,000 feet Mount Meru.

I will be on expedition with Donnie Campbell – a former marine commando and the current Scottish 100km champion. Basti Haag one of the worlds leading speed climbers and videographers will join us for speed ascents of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.

We acclimatised on Kilimanjaro for a few days before retreating back to the park gate at 1,610 metres. Kilimanjaro is the largest free standing mountain on earth so ascending this way gives you more ascent in metres than climbing Everest from base camp.

Mount Kilimanjaro is large enough to have five distinct zones – rainforest, cloud forest , moorland, desert and glacier. We started low in the forest early in the morning where the air is relatively thick and running easy enough. By the time we had entered the desert zone at 4,300 metres, we were all huffing and puffing and moving more slowly. Over 5,000 metres we caught up with a few climbers who had started at top camp who clearly thought we were madmen dressed in shorts while everyone else had numerous layers on.

The crater rim in Kilimanjaro is alluring – like a giant cake with icing dripping from it but reaching the summit is hard work. There is about 50% as much oxygen available to breathe as at sea level. Being from Scotland I usually like 50% off but 50% off oxygen is an exception making running very tricky.

We arrived at the top , 5,895 metres, 19,270 feet with a tangible sense of relief and blitzed down an alternative route to complete a traverse.

It was an astounding day – fine views shared with friends. We topped out after 7 hours and 16 minutes. The next day, I feel surprisingly ok except for some nasty blisters. We ran another 50 kilometers with each step at altitude a prisoner. So 2 ultramarathons done – 16 more to go. Tanzania is incredible and it was an eye opener seeing what some porters carry up the mountain.

The expedition promises astounding views, colours and the chance to learn. Running ultra marathons every day at altitude over various hills and terrains is clearly a challenge. A huge thanks to all for collecting shoes for Running Across Borders – the shoe-meter is over 500, amazing and for huge generosity for African Palliative Care Association (APCA), a charity I am passionate about, improving palliative care in East Africa.

Keep up to date via @docandrewmurray on twitter, DocAndrewMurray on Facebook or via my blog.

Donnie Campbell also shares his thoughts via @getactiverunnin on twitter

Thanks for all messages and support and to expedition sponsors, UVU racing and Merrell.
 
 

SCOTS DUO RUN UP MOUNT KILIMANJARO IN 7 HOURS

Endurance athletes Dr Andrew Murray, and Donnie Campbell yesterday ran up and down the 5,895 metres of Mount Kilimanjaro in a day. Remarkably this feat merely marked the start of a significant undertaking from the pair, who aim to run an ultra-marathon each day for the next 17 days, including runs up Mt Kenya, through tropical rainforests, and game reserves, whilst uncovering the secrets of the success of East African athletes and covering a distance of over 900 kilometres.

Andrew running to Kilimanjaro

Andrew running to Mount Kilimanjaro

Andrew Murray, a Sports Medicine Doctor with SportScotland Institute of Sport, and former Marine Commando Campbell, 28 from Glasgow took the Western Breach route, widely considered to be the steepest and most aggressive standard route on the mountain, taking 7 hours and 16 minutes to reach the summit having started at the park gate at 1610 metres with German speed climber and videographer, Basti Haag of UVU. They ascended then descended through 5 distinct zones – the rainforest, cloudforest, moorland, desert and glacial zones. From the summit they were afforded views across the Tanzanian plains, and much of the region before descending via the Mweka route.

Andrew & Donnie, running up Mount Kilimanjaro

Andrew & Donnie, running up Mount Kilimanjaro


Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free standing mountain in the world. Trekkers usually take 5 to 7 days to summit, with many suffering from high altitude sickness. Doctor Murray, originally from Aberdeen played down the achievement:

“What a phenomenal day, climbing through rainforest, montane scenery and finally glacier before topping out. It feels like my feet have been through a lawnmower, and we are pretty tired, but we took quite a scientific approach with advice from colleagues at SportScotland helping us get there. It’s on with the rest of the challenge, tomorrow we are off to Amboselli National Park.”

Donnie & Mount Kilimanjaro

Donnie & Mount Kilimanjaro

Doctor Murray’s objective is to discover the secrets to the prolific success of East African athletes – home to 90 of the best 100 marathon runners in the world – and to use that information to help inform the work that he and his colleagues at the sportscotland institute of sport are doing to support Scottish middle and long-distance runners ahead next summer’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Olympic games in Rio.

Andrew & Donnie - Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

Andrew & Donnie – Summit of Mount Kilimanjaro

He added:

“We’ll see some incredible things, but the chance to spend time in the company of world beating athletes and coaches will be a highlight. The area around Iten is the single greatest production line of world class sporting talent on earth. Is it the altitude, what they eat, genetics, role modelling, a lack of school buses, or other factors that make them so successful?”

Donnie Campbell, the current Scottish 100km champion said:

“The altitude was absolutely brutal, especially the last bit on the glacier. Andy and I run up hills in Scotland all the time but I am relieved we took a few days to acclimatise before the run – I felt like I was breathing through a straw up there. I am glad the monkeys did not steal any of the food we had stashed. I can’t say I am looking forward to tomorrow’s 50Kms, but at least the views are decent painkillers.”

Keep up to date via @docandrewmurray on twitter, DocAndrewMurray on Facebook or via my blog.

Donnie Campbell also shares his thoughts via @getactiverunnin on twitter

Thanks for all messages and support and to expedition sponsors, UVU racing and Merrell.
 
 

ACCLIMATISATION

So we have arrived in Africa.

For me, the flights are always the most nerve wracking parts of the trip – will vital bags be lost, etc. – so the touchdown in Nairobi was a relief.

Nairobi is a blizzard of colour and noise. It’s an absolute mayhem but the trip south to Arusha yielded views across the savannah and to Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. Proud and snow capped, Mount Kilimanjaro is instantly recognisable and we will hike up it to acclimatise first before the start of the run.

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro


I will be on expedition with Donnie Campbell – a former marine commando and the current Scottish 100-km champion. Basti Haag, one of the worlds leading speed climbers will join us at least for the mountains and will do some running also.

So the updates will be more frequent once we are down from Mount Kilimanjaro.

The expedition promises astounding views, colours and the chance to learn. Running ultra marathons every day at altitude over various hills and terrains is clearly a challenge. But if something sounds like a good idea it is worth a shot.

Keep up to date via @docandrewmurray on twitter, DocAndrewMurray on Facebook or via my blog.

Donnie Campbell also shares his thoughts via @getactiverunnin on twitter

Thanks for all messages and support and to expedition sponsors, UVU racing and Merrell.
 
 

SCOTS PAIR SET FOR EPIC AFRICAN JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

Dr Andrew Murray & Donnie Campbell

Dr Andrew Murray & Donnie Campbell

Endurance athlete Dr Andrew Murray, who works for the sportscotland institute of sport, is set to embark on a spectacular challenge across East Africa with former Marine Commando Donnie Campbell.

Beginning on 1st July, the pair will run more than an ultra-marathon (50km) every day in an epic 18-day run across East Africa, that will include running up and down Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, through wildlife-filled game reserves, tropical rainforests, and running with world-record holders and world champions.

Doctor Murray’s objective is to discover the secrets to the prolific success of East African athletes – home to the best endurance athletes in the world – and to use that information to help inform the work that he and his colleagues at the sportscotland institute of sport are doing to support Scottish middle and long-distance runners ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow this August and next summer’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The entire expedition will take place at significant altitude, constantly remaining above the height of Ben Nevis.

Remarkably, at the 2011 Athletics World Championships, Kenya won 17 medals, with no fewer than 10 of them going to former St Patrick’s high school pupils in the tiny village of Iten.

St Patrick’s High School Pupils

St Patrick’s High School Pupils

It is a statistic that borders on the absurd: 10 medallists from one school succeeding at one world championships. It remains the single greatest, most concentrated, production line of talent in world sport.

Dr Andrew Murray at SportScotland Institue of Sport

Dr Andrew Murray at SportScotland Institue of Sport

Andrew Murray, who works as a Sports and Exercise Medicine doctor with the sportscotland institute of sport, said:

“There is no better way to find out what makes these athletes so fast, than to spend time in their company and take on some of the biggest challenges East Africa has to offer. We will run through places of phenomenal difficulty and beauty. These will include running the mighty Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, jogging through iconic national parks, past spectacular geysers, and through the cradle of civilisation.”

He added:

“It’s all about learning from Africa. 66 of the best 100 marathon runners in the world are from Kenya – is this due to the training regime, genetic factors, the food that is eaten, the altitude, or other factors? We aim to find out what lessons we can learn from the Kenyans’ incredible success and then apply those to help Scottish high performance athletes ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where Kenyans will dominate endurance events as usual.”

Donnie Campbell said:

“The consistent high altitude is likely to be brutal, quite apart from the mountains and the 350 or so kilometres per week. We think we can give something back as well. Many people in Africa die in terrible pain, so we are looking to improve access to vital painkillers in Africa by raising money and awareness for the African Palliative Care Association.

“Although East Africa has some of the finest athletes on earth, good quality footwear is at a premium out there, so we will try and collect 500 pairs of trainers to take out there. We are working with Running Across Borders to do this. Please contribute if you can by donating your old but useable trainers to Footworks, 14 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh.”

The challenge can be followed via docandrewmurray.com / @docandrewmurray and atgetactiverunning.com

Donations are gratefully received at JustGiving.com/RunningHighAfrica whilst shoes can be handed in or sent to Footworks:

FootWorks
14-17 Bruntsfield Place,
Edinburgh
EH10 4HN