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

PRESS RELEASE- RUNNERS COMPLETE EPIC NAMIBIAN DESERT CROSSING

UK runners Dr Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell have successfully completed a  first – running across the Namib desert from Luderitz to Walvis Bay, Namibia.  The challenge was set three months ago by Scottish Expedition organiser David Scott, and supported by Lyprinol UK.  The record breaking run crossed the highest sand dunes in the world including the formidable ‘Devil’s Workshop’, in punishing conditions with the pair running over 50km every single day, completing 504.1km in total almost entirely on punishing heavy sand, and crossing the finish line on day 9 of the expedition, at 1430 on 10th February 2015. The pair are no strangers to racing in extreme conditions, with Murray having completed an epic 4295 km run from north Scotland to the Sahara desert, and won races at the North Pole, Antartica and Outer Mongolia amongst others, while Campbell, a former Royal Marine Commando completed a 184 mile run from Glasgow to Skye without sleeping.

Near the start at Luderitz

Speaking from Walvis Bay, Aberdonian Dr Murray 34, of Merrell UK said

“The Namib desert is, hands down both the most spectacular and gruelling place I’ve run in.  Every step through the sand was energy sapping, and my feet are destroyed with blisters.  We were in hefty trouble even after 2 days, but our support team and the incredible views got us to the finish. There were times every day I felt like stopping, but taking on many 300 metre dunes, passing shipwrecks miles inland, and seeing the suprising plethora of wildlife were particular highlights.  We don’t advise everyone to run through the Namib, but would like to promote the value of exercise. Even 30 minutes of walking 5 times a week helps you live on average 7 years longer.”

Edinburgh resident Donnie Campbell, 30, added

Running 500 odd km though the Namib desert was extremely tough and we could not have done it without the expertise of our expedition leaders David Scott, Bert Jukes and the support and superb local knowledge from the team in Namibia.  Their route selection was incredible considering no one has ever driven parts of the route never mind ran it, so this was a huge them effort to deliver Andrew and myself to Walvis Bay a bit battered, bruised and tired but still in one piece. We even ran through abandoned diamond mines, although my fiancee Rachael will be disappointed to learn I couldn’t find a big one ahead of our wedding next month!”

David Scott, from Glasgow added

“Three months ago I challenged Donnie and Andrew to deliver a World first – to run from Luderitz to Walvis Bay across the mighty Namib Desert, supported by a joint Scottish, South African and Namibian safety team.  As expedition organiser I was faced with huge logistical and safety concerns which we tackled as team and overcame to a successful and, more importantly safe conclusion.   The physical demands we placed on the guys were immense and throughout the challenge we were never certain we would emerge successful.  Apart from seeing the guys cross over the finish line my lasting memory will surely be having the privilege of tackling terrain through special concession areas which had never been driven (or run) over before.   We are indebted to Bert Jukes and Lyprinol for believing in this expedition, and supporting it from the outset.  I am also indebted to our excellent African partners Live the Journey
Near the Finish pictures
and the Topnaar tribe for allowing us to pass through their stunning desert.’

Following the run, the team are now engaged in some community work and the sharing of medical and athletic equipment, and education in the Kuiseb river region with Chief Kooitjie and the local Topnaar Tribe, the custodians of the Namib desert work supported by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Lyprinol, and Merrell UK.