RUN THE WORLD, SYDNEY, LEG 7

Run The World challenge - Sydney

Run The World challenge – Sydney

So to Sydney, for the final leg. I’d had what felt like a huge 5 hour sleep on the plane for Dubai, almost doubling my hours for the previous 4 nights. The longer flight had also given my legs a bit of time to recover and arriving at the airport I knew that I’d pretty much done it, save Car accident or Kangaroo attack!

My mate Adam Hall had sorted a route in from the airport, and then around the sights of Sydney, so all I basically needed to do was run. It was a bright blue day hitting about 26 Celsius, a pleasant day for running.

15km took us into the city, and although my feet stung with each step, I only had 35km to go. The sea sparkled, as we dived through the botanical gardens to see the iconic Sydney opera house for the first time, with the famous harbour bridge connecting the North and the South shores behind. I was totally caught up in Sydney, not even thinking about the discomfort of my feet, or amazing places I’d recently been to.

We explored both North and South of the city, in parks, coastlines, beach, and the city. We were joined by Graeme Parry and Steve Burnie, both friends that live in Sydney. We did a few interviews, and had a couple pit stops for water etc.

We were almost finished, with a kilometre to go I looked around to see South Sydney behind me as we neared the opera house and the finish. Also behind was Antarctica and its savage beauty and extreme sub zero temperatures. My mind raced through legs in South America, Atlanta USA; past big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London; the pyramids of Egypt at dawn and as I thought of the bright lights of Dubai, I smiled. There it was, the finish line, and the opera house. It’s an image had kept me going when I was tired, injured, and nervous. It’s sails glinted as we arrived.

So we’d done it. Too many people to mention had helped me run 7 ultra marathons, on the 7 continents, in 5 days 13 hours and 28 minutes. Apparently this is almost a day and a half faster than the existing record. The kindness and expertise of friends and family had dragged me to the finish line, exhausted, sleep deprived, and needing the beer and custard that greeted me at the line.

Run The World challenge - Finish

Run The World challenge – Finish

In retrospect, I’d underestimated how difficult it would be, thinking that running 2660 miles to the Sahara desert would have been much harder. It wasn’t! The sleep deprivation, and flights made this a huge mental challenge. I was spurred on by the over 1700 5×50.co.uk challengers, and the 450 tribesports guys walking, cycling or running with me this week.

I’d like to thank everyone for their messages of support that I received. I appreciated each and every one. I’d also like to thank my main partners UVU, 5×50, tribesports, the Balmoral, and footworks.

So more challenges await. I’ll be back at work on Monday, working for the Scottish Government to get people more physically active more often. This is THE fundamental health challenge of our age, and I’m delighted that such priority is being given to this issue by the ministers and the senior health guys.

Whilst I’ll take on other challenges soon, getting Scotland active is the big show in town. Getting Scots more active is a bit like RunTheWorld as it is a binary issue. Either we are going to do it or we are not. We do not, and should not lack ambition with this. Everyone can play a role in this, if you haven’t seen the video 23 1/2 hours, check it out, and share.

Before getting back to work there are a load of interviews, and more flights to get me home. It was 38 Celsius in Sydney today, and I had a surf and went for a walk as well as a beer watching the cricket. I could have got used to being in Australia.

Andrew

RUN THE WORLD, DUBAI, LEG 6

Run The World challenge - Dubai

Run The World challenge – Dubai

There is no off switch for RunTheWorld. Either the challenge is completed or it is not. There is no option but to get on with it.

With weary legs I hobbled off the plane, delighted by the 2 hours sleep I’d accrued. Familiar faces always raise the spirits and seeing my cousin Stephanie, and friends Paul and Wendolin all of whom live in Dubai put a spring in my step. It was only 50km after all, something I’d done many times before and there was a new city to explore.

And Dubai is a new city, sprung up from the desert, it is a seriously impressive skyline, and the quality of life enjoyed by residents is much discussed. The evening was a great time, temperature wise to run, with it being consistently around 26 Celsius as opposed to much higher day time temperatures.

Sights such as the Dubai mall, and it’s fountains, the Burj and various other tall buildings ensued plenty to look at and a hard time for the Garmin working out how far we’d done. My ankles had started to swell a little due to being on my feet constantly whether running, in transit, or on flights so I’d kept the laces on my shoes pretty much undone.

Throughout the challenge I’d usually just run until I got tired then take a short break to reload on food, but energy levels were a bit low so we stopped briefly every hour and forced something down despite a bit of nausea.

And after 50 km the job was done, and a generous connection allowed a couple hours sleep at Stephanie and nicks. It’s a stunning city by day or by night and again highlighted the value of sharing the run with others, catching up with friends, and having the chance to laugh and joke rather than constantly thinking of how sore your feet were.

It felt like the battle was won. I was already a full day ahead of schedule, and only had Australia left to run. I fell asleep thinking of the incredible places I’d been in the last few days rather than worrying about the future for a change.

RUN THE WORLD, CAIRO, LEG 5

I grew up in Africa and love it’s big skies, variety and history. Kenya was an idyllic place to grow up, and although No TV or any of the other luxuries we are used to back home were available, the sunshine, the sounds and friends cured most things short of school. Kenya also has an exceptional history in long distance running, and I can recommend the book Running with the Kenyans to anyone.

But Egypt has serious history and it was there I landed at midnight, taking the usual while to acquire visas, and the like. My parents had offered to combine helping out with a holiday and the plan was to jog from the airport into Cairo and hit the pyramids for sunrise.

I was profoundly tired. The running I’m used to it but the lack of sleep was really getting to me, especially tasked with running through a busy polluted city in the dead of night over uneven pavements. So I spent a few hours racked with self doubt, just putting one foot in front of the other while being fed and watered at pit stops and passing mosques, traders and donkeys.

But the night is always darkest before the dawn, and with the first rays came the sight of the great Pyramids of Egypt. The pain and malaise eased as I skipped around amongst them, with no other tourists, and a smattering of camels and their owners.

So it was a grateful thanks to my folks at the airport, and almost a dread of Dubai. I’d already knocked out a couple ultras in the last 24 hours, and was to start again in 4.5 hours. The plan for the flight was to eat and sleep. It was brilliant prior to boarding to see so many kilometres being logged by the 5×50 challengers and the fundraising total for SAMH Rocketing.

RUN THE WORLD, LONDON, LEG 4

Back home to Europe. Arrived back and amazing to see my wife Jennie at the airport. Heathrow for me is usually at the start or end of a journey but this punctuated the middle, the 4th of a potential 7 ultras on 7 continents in 7 days.

Part of the logistical challenge is about allowing enough time on each of the continents to allow seeing the things I wanted to see. It’s not just the flights and the running that eat up the time. It’s a minimum of 2 hours check in time at each airport, time for transfers, eating and a bit of sleeping (although not much of this so far).

I knew that London required a quick turnaround even if flights were on time. They were not. We sat on the runway at Atlanta awaiting news on what was being labelled an indefinite delay. Furious online checking revealed the only other flight to London that night was full. It was so frustrating realising that the success of the run depending not on you, but on the aircraft engineers. We eventually got the green light 2 hours late and arrived in London.

I felt strong and knew if I could clear customs quickly I could run into central London, but if not, I would have to find a local and less interesting route. There were no delays and I hugged my wife Jennie as I saw her. She and friends Michael, Gordon and Hayder had sorted everything and we immediately took the road for London, being joined by brother in law Gavin.

London has it all in terms of sights, we took in the Thames path, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, finishing just in time for a couple of interviews and for another Heathrow express. An interminable delay going through security caused a panic and a sprint to latch the flight but leg 4 was done, over half way and still on track.

RUN THE WORLD, ATLANTA, LEG 3

Run The World - Atlanta

Run The World challenge – Atlanta

To be honest Atlanta wouldn’t have been my first choice to visit in North America but to make the rest of the trip line up, it was the best option flights wise.

With all the mayhem of the travel arrangements I couldn’t sleep that well on the flight from South America so felt shattered even at the start. But in fairness there is a fair bit to interest the visitor. There are sites on interest in relation to the 1996 Olympic games, and Martin Luther King. It’s also a very American city, everyone is ridiculously friendly, and the buildings tower over the surrounds.

I was fortunate enough to be joined by Frank Akers, who ran with me every step of the 31.2 miles (50km). He’s a top man and explained all the local history, the sights, and kept me in better humour than is customary during ultra marathons!

The Olympics have left a considerable legacy, and the major sports stadiums of the baseball, American football, and basketball teams are seriously impressive. As are Piedmont park, and all number of huge buildings.

Atlanta is also the home of Coca-Cola and CNN, and the busiest airport in the world. Street names include sunset drive and Martin Luther King Avenue. My brother Iain now lives in the states and took the opportunity to feed me and abuse me in equal measure.

I was unsurprised also to see McDonalds everywhere, including at the airport, which is (and I say this before arriving at Heathrow) one of the least efficient airports I’ve ever been to. Both immigration and check in moved at glacial speed. Interestingly the air hostess on my flight in claimed the breakfast to be the finest I will ever taste. For those that dine exclusively on cardboard and brussels sprouts this may be true.

So Atlanta is actually a nice place, and it was great to run with frank and see my brother. Still on track but horribly fatigued so could do with a decent sleep on the flight to London.

RUN THE WORLD, SANTIAGO, LEG 2

Run The World Challenge - Santiago

Run The World Challenge – Santiago

I love South America, it’s a diverse, exciting, and entertaining continent. I boasts Iguasu – the world’s largest waterfalls, the mighty Andes mountains and vibrant cities including Rio and Buenos Aires.

But Patagonia and Chile are probably my favourite. Chile looks like myself, long and skinny. Ranging from the Atacama desert in the North to Patagonia itself in the South. Patagonia is a land of mountains, charming towns and trees blown sideways after years of buffeting from the wind.

I hoped ideally to run Patagonia, but with the flight from Antarctica arriving 3 hours prior to my flight to Santiago, the choice was made, I’d run Santiago instead. The change in flight would also mean an opportunity to get RunTheWorld done even quicker than anticipated, with the pay off being less recovery time between runs. Potentially 3 of the ultras may be within 36 hours which is tight at best.

Santiago enjoys the fantastic backdrop of the high Andes, with peaks over 6,000 metres visible from down town. The views from the airport are mind blowing, with flights diving in through the hills.

I ran the 50kms largely rurally, through lemon groves, vineyards, around some local hills and so on. Santiago itself was covered in smog, so going rurally was miles better and enjoyable. Perhaps the principle difficulty was the temperature of plus 30 Celsius, and combined with a lack of sleep this was difficult. It was 45 degrees warmer than Antarctica and I felt it. Fellow Scot, and ice marathoner Steve Burnie joined me for 20kms, before I went completely mad in the airport buffet.

Next stop North America.

RUN THE WORLD, ANTARCTICA, LEG 1

Dr. Andrew Murray running in the Antarctic, Union Glacier.  Nov. 2012.

Dr. Andrew Murray running in the Antarctic, Union Glacier. Nov. 2012.

RunTheWorld, Antarctica, start time: Friday, 23 November 2012, 14:06 GMT.

7 ultra marathons on 7 continents in 7 days was always going to be a tough ask logistically and athletically.

Actually getting to Antarctica is an absolute highlight of my life. Incredible both in terms of its beauty but also the hostility of the environment. The camp itself is wonderfully comfortable in relative terms although the tennis still pretty chilly at night.

I’d loved running in the Ice Marathon just over 24 hours before but much time spent running hard in massive conditions flat out is taxing physically and mentally. Being stiff and slightly fatigued at the start of 7 ultras on 7 continents in a week would not be ideal but it was my choice.

Run The World, Antarctica, leg 1

Run The World, Antarctica, leg 1

I’d timed the run to allow me 7 hours to run the 50km. I actually ran 5 hrs 22 mins 56 secs for 32 miles or a little over 51km. Clearly this isn’t going to break any personal bests but it was both a pleasure and an ordeal in conditions that were similar conditions wise to runs at the North Pole and far North Canada, with a bit of a wind and snowy underfoot conditions.

Directly from finishing, I jumped pretty much straight onto the ice jet bound for Punta Arenas, South America. I’ll collect all my bags and run in Santiago after a connecting flight early on the 24th.

Run The World Challenge - At the start

Run The World Challenge – At the start

Tired, but relieved that the Antarctic leg and Ice Marathon went so well, thanks a million to race organiser Richard Donovan and the rest of the guys.

LESSONS FROM WEAKNESS – Why I run

Andrew Murray, running from Scotland to Sahara

Andrew Murray, running from Scotland to Sahara

Desire is frequently stronger than fear. For me, the desire for a challenge and to test myself tend to exceed a fear of failure. Love is definitely stronger than fear. Many life and death stories bear this out.

Setting a challenge that is sufficiently difficult and committing to it 100% is a sure way to learn more about your failings and yourself. I’ve been taught not to be proud and to accept help. Others seeing you visibly struggling know who you really are, rather than a controlled persona. If people accept you when you fail, when you are weak, then there is reassurance in that.

If experience is the best teacher, then we learn most when we are vulnerable and exposed. The light always looks more attractive from the shadows. I like most am reluctant to discuss my weaknesses and vulnerabilities but have gleaned much from times like these. Whether or not I’ve eventually achieved what I set out to do, the darker times reveal the most.

I learnt a bit of French, and read a few books when running from John O’Groats to the Sahara and learnt how to look at myself more honestly in the mirror, to embrace the lessons that difficulties bring. How can we be most resilient when this is needed? I enjoyed the good days but the bad ones were lessons. They helped me be more sympathetic when other people are struggling, and gave me perspective – my problems were only really sore legs when it came down to it.

I can’t guarantee success with RunTheWorld. We’re aiming to give prominence to the message of Physical Activity for Health, and raise some money for SAMH. I’ll aim to complete 7 Ultras on 7 continents in 7 days, after the Ice Marathon in Antarctica. There is a decent chance of achieving these things but there is close to 100% chance of me wanting to give up at times. I guess this is standard when normal people try and do things that are relatively hard.

Following any challenge, perspective becomes skewed – and the rose – tinted spectacles go on. We usually remember the good times. I guess the memories of good times and the prospect of more to come is why I run but difficult experiences can bring their own gifts. There is comfort in knowing what you are not, and how you can learn.

Thanks for your support,

Andrew

 

7 ULTRAS ON 7 CONTINENTS IN 7 DAYS – Join the fun!

The road to success

The road to success.

One of the things that will keep me going when I’m tired, jet lagged or cold is knowing that this challenge is much more than a bloke with a big nose running in different parts of the world.

The more important bit is to get AT LEAST 5,000 people to take part in RunTheWorld – walking, cycling or running at least 5 km per day for a week with the fantastic 5×50.co.uk (with brilliant prizes to be had) or challenge yourself to a whole year with 30 minutes of physical activity every day for a year.

But this is a team effort! Please spread the word, sign-up yourself, and help a friend or a relative by getting them active. Please also watch this video about the best thing you can do for your health.

I’ll compete in the Ice Marathon in Antarctica and then try to run at least 50 km on each of the world’s 7 continents on consecutive days. Having been to The North Pole Marathon this year – I can’t wait to test myself in the freezer again prior to RunTheWorld – a novel way of getting home.

The contrasts of the cold of Antarctica, the heat of the desert, and the buzz of big cities will add to the excitement, but knowing 5000+ people are taking part with me will make all the difference. I’ll travel economy, Carbon offset and it’ll be a significant logistical and athletic challenge. Antarctic weather is ropey so it might start a few days late due to frequent flight delays.

  • 21st November – Compete in Ice Marathon
  • 23rd November – Antarctic leg
  • 24th November – Patagonia leg (South America)
  • 25th November – Atlanta leg (North America)
  • 26th November – London leg (Europe)
  • 27th November – Pyramids / Cairo leg (Africa)
  • 28th November – Desert / Dubai leg (Asia)
  • 29th November – Sydney leg, Australia

Thanks for coming on board. Your sign-ups, and messages of support are much appreciated.

Follow the challenge on RunTheWorld.
Or via Twitter: @docandrewmurray, Facebook: DocAndrewMurray or
Tribesports: Andrew M.