BLOG- RUNNING ACROSS THE NAMIB- PART 1 OF 2

3 months ago legendary Scottish Expedition organiser David Scott (of Sandbaggers) sent myself and Donnie Campbell 3 pictures and a short email. “Run Across the Namib desert- some parts have not even been explored properly, here are some photos, sore feet and adventure awaits”. The pictures showed variously the desert night sky, a sea of massive sand dunes, and a ship wreck marooned in the middle of the desert. Pictures trump 1000 words. It looked incredible. Sold.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck in the dunes

By far the hardest part of an adventure is the planning. Funding and support for the expedition was quickly secured from Scottish entrepreneur Bert Jukes of Lyprinol UK, a great believer in pushing boundaries and breaking new ground. Special permits were required to access the desert, and applications made to tribal chiefs to secure access to parts of the park rich in diamonds that have not been accessed.  Accurately planning a route would be impossible, but knowing roughly where we were going, and what to take would be key.  Dave and his Namibian partners took care of the majority of this, but each email looking at vehicles, equipment and logistics had my mind drifting to the dunes.

 

Flying into Luderitz is an amazing experience in itself. Sand stretches as far as the eye can see, dunes rearing up to 400 metres high bringing home the severity of the conditions we would face. Getting off the plane, it was roasting hot, and we talked nervously awaiting our bags.

blisters

Dave, had brought on board Live the Journey, a quality Southern African outfit that knew this area better than anyone else, having received expert assistance from members of the Topnaar tribe, and it was highly reassuring meeting the team in country.

Setting off directly towards the dunes got the butterflies going in the stomach.  Dave had warned us that the desert can kill you in a day if you let it, and the heat even at 0830 was oppressive. The first day took us 62km over unexplored diamond areas, swooping over ridges, and battering through sand under the watchful eye of the local wildlife including jackals and Gembok.  The following day was another long shift what felt like wading through heavy sand for another 60+km day, ending high in a dune system with a view of the sea and abandoned mining quarters.  The view was stunning, and I should have been elated, but I was not. My “tank” already felt more empty than it should have done, feeling more like having run 110km a day.  My hip flexor was tight, and my left big toe was already just one big blister.  Another 8 days like this seemed impossible.

 

But time brings perspective, and experience is a great teacher. I recalled being in hefty trouble during previous events, having Achilles tendons that looked like sticks of rhubarb 5 days into running from John O’Groats to the Sahara, and starting the “7 ultras of 7 continents in under a week” with heavy blisters having competed in the Antarctic Ice Marathon hours before.  All I could do was to do the right things consistently, and expect things to improve. If they didn’t, they didn’t.

Day 3 as Dave had promised was a straight path though some of the highest dunes in the world. Significant forward progress takes time, over the most aggressive of the dunes, the maximum we could crank out was 3km and hour, and the support trucks were frequently having to tow each other out.  But move forward we did, and the excitement of the sheer scale of the landscape dulled the pain temporarily as we camped for the first day in the Devil’s Workshop at the end of day 3

RUNNING THE 10 HIGHEST MOUNTAINS IN SCOTLAND – IN A DAY!

Donnie Campbell and myself are going to try to run the 10 highest mountains in Scotland in a day. We are doing this because we had a free Saturday and fancied a challenge, but also to raise some money and awareness for SAMH (each penny makes a huge difference) and for the Fit in 14 campaign which is well worth supporting.

Some information about the challenge is going out to a few papers and magazines – give me a shout on docandrewmurray@googlemail.com if I can help with further information and the below

Scottish International distance runners Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell are set to attempt a climb of the 10 highest mountains of Great Britain in a day. Taking on a challenge that may not have been completed before, on the 19th of July they will first run up and down Ben Lawers before driving to then take a route including 4 mountains through the Nevis range, followed by another drive to the Cairngorm mountains, where the final 5 mountains await. The challenge, billed “The Big 10” will be followed by a team from BBC Scotland’s “The Adventure Show”, and may well set a marker that will see others trying to go under the magical 24 hours, with faster folks going for any potential record.

Andrew & Donnie, running up Mount Kilimanjaro

Andrew & Donnie, running Mt Kilimanjaro 2013

Dr Murray, 33, races for Merrell UK, and is a GP based in Edinburgh, whose previous conquests include completing a remarkable 2,559 mile run from Scotland to the Sahara Desert, a 7 hour run up Mt Kilimanjaro and races won in some of the most spectacular and hostile locations on Earth. He is part of the sports medicine team at the sport scotland institute of sport.

He said:

There is nowhere I would rather be than in the mountains of Scotland on a summer’s day. This will be a tough but beautiful shift, but what we are hoping to do is raise awareness of the benefits of exercise, and being in the great outdoors. We know for example that even doing 30 minutes walking 5 days a week has been shown to make people happier on average, and live 7.2 years longer, so we’re urging people to build walking into their routine, and take advantage of schemes like Fit in 14. It’s inspiring what some people have achieved for example Paul Giblin running the entire length of the West Highland Way in 14 hours 20 minutes, but even a little exercise goes a long way towards happiness and health.

Training in Edinburgh

Training in Edinburgh

Campbell, 29 is a running coach, and a former Marine Commando based in Edinburgh who previously ran from Glasgow to his former home of Skye without stopping.
He added:

It will be a 4 am start, followed by a full day of up and down, up and down. It is a completely do-able challenge, and we hope people will give ‘The Big 10’ a shot after us. Some fresh air and a load of hills might give us sore legs the next day, but it’s much underestimated how good exercise is for mental health as well as physical health, which is why we’re encouraging everyone to get active in whichever way suits them ahead of the Commonwealth Games, and are looking to support the Scottish Association for Mental Health, whose Get Active campaign is doing loads to increase Scotland’s mental health through physical activity

The Route:

Mountain Height (metres)
Ben Lawers 1,214
Aonach Mohr 1,221
Aonach Beag 1,234
Carn Mhor Dearg 1,220
Ben Nevis 1,344
Cairngorm 1,244
Ben MacDui 1,309
Braeriach 1,296
Angels Peak 1,258
CairnToul 1,291

Andrew

Merrell UK