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.

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. 

JUST PUT YOU MARATHON YOURSELF ON THE START LINE- THE LOCH RANNOCH

The finish line for a marathon is always one that requires considerable work to get there. I knew that reaching the finish at Loch Rannoch, having had the opportunity to run around the Loch in it’s full autumn glory would be extremely worthwhile, but I could not even think about the finish standing on the start line.

Loch Rannoch- thanks Jimbo Ramsay for the snap

My nose was sufficiently blocked that I simply could not breathe out of it. My pulse rate was a good 30 beats a minute faster than normal. Due to a minor packing issue I had not got any of my running kit with me, and had had to dive into the supermarket to pick up some food, and the other things I would need. I had slept very poorly due to an over-excited baby daughter and an early start.

The feeling of not wanting to put one foot in front of the other is familiar to me.  I often get it when it is raining outside, or I have not had a decent sleep. I usually combat it by putting some music on if these factors are at play, but in this case, chatting to a few friends that had done the course before and declared it a belter enthused me sufficiently to set off.

Scotland is a country like no other in terms of the way that light shifts depending on the season and time of day. The trees looked like a technicolour dreamcoat, partly draped in a variety of autumn shades.  Making a series of disgusting noises due to blocked sinuses, I set off up the road, leaving the eventual winner Lee to set the early pace. Running at a comfortable rate, and having no expectations allowed me to enjoy the colours, and the tremendous support of all the marshalls, and spectators.  I am pretty sure I snorted out a greater volume of bogeys than  volume of fluid I took in- drinking and eating pretty much needed me to stop.

The Loch Rannoch marathon has been absent from the calendar for 20 years. It is fantastic that it is back. Both this, and the Loch Katrine marathon offer fabulous courses, and excellent organisation. It is difficult not to enjoy a scenic run in such a setting.  The finish was a treat for me, the first that my daughter Nina had attended. As I rounded the final corner, there she was in her buggy, asleep on the job!  On a gently undulating course, I was pleased to finish in 2hrs 50, good enough for 2nd place overall although well behind Lee.   The added bonus was that in the absence of my usual trainers I had my shoes (Merrell All Out Terra Trail) for the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon in the car so wore them instead.  Perhaps more aggressive than my usual road shoes (All Out Rush) they were comfy and got the job done well.

Loch Rannoch finish with Nina

In terms of what is next, the big one is heading out to Mongolia in January. Ahead of this I will be doing a load of running and may pick up a race or two.

 

THE 2 HOUR MARATHON COMES TO EDINBURGH

There is a  fantastic event Sunday 23rd in Edinburgh giving you the chance to run fast, watch others running at World Record pace, and hear about how the 2 hour barrier for the marathon can be broken. Tickets can be bought here, http://www.edinburghemergencymedicine.com/summer-fair

Running School in Kenya

Running School in Kenya

I am looking forward to a run and supporting the event, raising cash for the excellent Medic 1.

Please share this and the info below as widely as possible, it will be a top event, supporting an excellent cause and the chance to win great prizes including pairs of Merrell shoes!

Breaking two hours for a marathon will be a moment of history, pushing beyond what most thought the human body was capable of. People remember where they were when Mt Everest was climbed, or when the mile was first run in under four minutes by Sir Roger Bannister.  It will be the same for the first sub-two-hour marathon. On Sunday, 23rd August, at the Meadows in Edinburgh, a terrific charity event will offer people the chance to run at two-hour marathon pace for a few hundred yards (or to watch others try) and to hear from the expert who has researched what it would take for an athlete to smash through the two-hour barrier. The two-hour marathon event is part of the Medic 1 Summer Fair, which will offer a range of fun filled activities and will help raise money to support the Medic 1 Trust – saving lives, and providing better emergency healthcare in South East Scotland.

Ed Caesar, author of Two Hours:The Quest To Run The Impossible Marathon said: “Two hours is running’s Everest- a feat once seen as impossible for the human body. Now we can glimpse that mountain top.  On the 23rd, I’ll talk about how this could be potentially achieved, and about my years of researching the world’s greatest runners. It’s also going to be great fun watching people try to run at two-hour marathon pace on the treadmills at Footworks.”

Dr Andrew Murray, a Sport and Exercise doctor at Edinburgh University and Scottish International distance runner, said: “This will be an outstanding day.  I’ll look forward to trying to run at World Record marathon pace if only for a few minutes at most, and hearing from Ed. Both Ed and myself have spent time with top British athletes, but also in Kenya, which is home to the single most concentrated production line of world class talent on earth.  His insights into the culture, and how you can run faster yourself, will be fascinating.  And every penny raised will go towards helping support emergency medical care in Scotland. The team locally already do a tremendous job. If you have a cardiac arrest in Edinburgh, you are more likely to survive than if you had one practically anywhere else in the world”

St Patrick’s High School Pupils

St Patrick’s High School Pupils

Dr Dave Caesar, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh added “The Medic 1 Trust has been supporting the provision of specialist pre-hospital care to the people of South East Scotland since 1988, and funds equipment and training to the team based in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Emergency Department.  This summer fair will raise vital funds for this charity, and should be a great family afternoon out in the meadows, with lots of activities for all ages and abilities, cake stalls, ice cream, and a chance to hear from award-winning writer Ed Caesar about his book “Two Hours, The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon.  He will also be signing copies.  The event is kindly supported by Footworks Edinburgh, Penguin Random House UK, Di Rollo’s Ice Cream & Merrell UK.  It is also a way of promoting regular physical activity- we know regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, a message we strongly believe in as doctors and health professionals.” To buy tickets, please follow the link here . http://www.edinburghemergencymedicine.com/summer-fair Or you can purchase them on the day on the gate at the marquee or in the Footworks shop.

Merrell UK
ENDS

  1. There is more info about the vital work of Medic 1 at
  2. Www.edinburghemergencymedicine.com/medic1-about/<http://Www.edinburghemergencymedicine.com/medic1-about/>
  3. Further information about Two Hours:The Quest To Run The Impossible Marathon
  4. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Two-Hours-Quest-Impossible-Marathon/dp/0670921890

For further information

Ed Caesar ewcaesar@gmail.com

Andrew Murray docandrewmurray@googlemail.com

Dave Caesar Dave.Caesar@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk

RUNNING FASTER AND LONGER- SOME TIPS

I often get asked how to run faster, and how to maintain that pace. If there is one thing I have learned from running and sport in general, it is to involve the right people. So the short answer if I am looking to improve my speed and endurance is I will ask my coach, Donnie Campbell. As well as representing Scotland, and achieving many outstanding results himself, Donnie is a fully qualified coach working with athletes, from complete beginners to international class athletes.

Donnie kindly agreed to share his secrets, which I am sure will help you run faster, for longer

Enjoy!

At the end of the Namib Desert

How to Run Faster for Longer

Whether you are running a 10km, a 1/2 marathon, a marathon or an ultra marathon runners want to know how they can run faster for longer. There is no simple answer, there is not one miracle type of training, supplement or food. It comes down to hard work and doing a number of things well. I will briefly outline some training principles that if you apply to your own training then it will help you run faster for longer. As I said above to improve you will require to apply more than one of these.

  1. Learn to Run

Running is a skill! Everyone can kick a football but some people can kick a football better than others. Well, running is the same. Everyone can run but some people are more efficient at running than others. Working on your running biomechanics to make you a more efficient runner will help you run faster for longer. For some basic info on how to run more efficiently check out these videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVxY8Wh8I90 or https://www.youtube.com/watch?

v=zSIDRHUWlVo

(note you don’t need to be barefoot or in vibram fivefingers to run more efficiently)

  1. Build on Your Base Milage and Be Specific

The key to getting your legs used to running your desired distance is simply by putting in the miles.  Building the mileage up week by week. As a guide you should not increase your weekly / monthly mileage by more than 10% per week. Be sure to keep your runs specific to the event you’re taking part in. If it’s a flat run, train on the flat but if it’s a hilly run, train in the hills. Also try and avoid running on pavements as much as possible to reduce the risk of injuries.

Pavement damages joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The more you can run on grass, or dirt, the better off you are.

Avoiding tarmac!

  1. Speed Workout

Many people make the mistake of running too fast on their steady, long and recovery runs and then running too slow on their speed sessions because their legs are fatigued. Your steady and longer runs should be run at a pace where you can hold a conversation and where your heart is working at no more than average of 75% of your maxHeart Rate (HR). Depending on what your race is will depend on what speed session you will do but no matter what distance, your speed sessions are a vital ingredient for running faster for longer.

Hill Sprints / Short Intervals (100m, 400m, 800m,)

These will increase your VO2 max and running speed as well as build power in your legs. Sample hills sessions could look like; sprinting up a hill at 90-100% of max HR for 1-2 minutes followed by a recovery walk or jog back down the hill.

Tempo / Fartlek Sessions

These are again best run over similar terrain to what you will be racing on. For this you’ll be looking run close to your race pace for a 10k but run for 45mins to an hour, helping push your lactate threshold. Tempo running is part of the staple training plan of many elite Kenyan distance runners.

  1. Core, Strength & Conditioning

It important to incorporate this into your training to reduce the risk of injury and also to help maintain your running form when you are fatigued therefore maintaining efficiency so finding yourself running faster for longer. I recommend active yoga, pilates sessions for core, also don’t forget back is included in core. Body and free weight exercises are good for developing legs and upper body strength and muscular endurance.

  1. Nutrition

You can’t out train a bad diet. This expression is particularly relevant in a society where a growing number of people think an hour or so of running should be rewarded with a takeaway!. Learning from the Elite Kenyan runners, you should be looking to fuel your training and body. Kenyan runners base their diets on complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables, fresh fruit, lean protein and natural fats. As guide to filling up your trolley at the supermarket is to think about what would typically grow in your garden and also sticking to the fresh food aisles and cooking your meals from scratch and avoiding ready meals and processed food. If you are all ready doing all of this in your training then you just have to improve on each principal and work harder if you want to be able to run Faster for Longer

About Donnie Campbell

Donnie Campbell, is one of Scotland’s top running coaches and is the founder and owner of Get Active Running (www.getactiverunning.ccom). He has worked with numerous athletes varying from complete beginners to national and international level athletes who have all seen improvement in performance under his coaching. Donnie knows what it takes to be successful as he has turned from a 17 stone jogger to one of Britain’s top ultra runners representing Scotland and  wining races all over the world. Get Active Running offers a range of services from one to one coaching, online coaching and training camps, for more info check out his website www.getactiverunning.com

Andrew & Donnie, running up Mount Kilimanjaro

Running Mt Kilmanjaro

HOME NATIONS 100KM CHAMPIONSHIPS 2015

Only 90km to go!

There are many reasons we run. It might be to keep fit, it might be to get the happy hormones going, and in addition I often use running to go somewhere new and for the buzz of competition.

The Anglo-Celtic Plate/ Home Nations 100km Championships 2015 was the chance to pull on a Scotland vest, work as part of a team, and test yourself against the clock, and the other Home Nations athletes. In 2014, the race had taken part in Kent, England where Scotland came 2nd in the team competition, and I ran 7-22, for 2nd in the Scottish Champs and 5th in the UK individually. Last year I felt as if I still had a quicker time in me, having had a hamstring issue, and it being a hot day.

But 2015 has been good to me, with Jennie and I having been joined by baby Nina, an expedition to Namibia, illness, and a hectic work schedule meaning – in short that I was absolutely miles short of the training I needed to do to be truly competitive this year.

This being the case, and having not raced in 2015 I had no idea how quickly to set off, in the picturesque village of Redwick, Wales. I set off with the group on 7 hour pace, some of the guys that I had run with last year, but with my lack of training and windy conditions after 12 km I backed right off, recognising this would be a 1 way ticket to destruction. So I ran the 100km pretty much solo, being wonderfully supported at each aid station by Scottish Athletics Val MacAuley, Craig Stewart, Lorna McMillan, and Noanie Heffron.

Ross Houston

 

Heading towards the finish, I knew that Scotland team mate Ross Houston had won the event in 6-43, the fastest time in the world this year- truly remarkable given he ran solo and with the windy conditions. Despite being almost an hour behind Ross, I was pleased to get the job done in 7-41, enough for 2nd in the Scottish Championships (having overtaken Grant Jeans at around halfway), and 6th in the Home Nations Champs.  Although my time was down on last year, due to various factors it was the absolute best I could do on the day, feeling I was having to dig deeper than a JCB for the last 20-30km. Grant MacDonald, a good friend who remarkably had fully recovered from a brain haemorrhage last year (not at the race) took 3rd in the Scottish Champs, and brought us home for 2nd in the team competition. England brought 5 very strong athletes, and there was no catching them.

The even better news for Scotland was in the ladies competition where Rosie Bell (2nd Overall in less than 9 hours), Charlotte Black, and Keziah Higgins clinched the title.

Triumphant Scotland Women's Team

A huge thanks first of all to Jennie and Nina for allowing me to do some training, despite the fact I am at work and abroad quite a bit. I’m looking forward to taking my girls on holiday next week. Also to my coach Donnie Campbell, Scottish Athletics endurance manager Adrian Stott for their sage advice and motivation, and to our fantastic support crew led by Val in Wales. A massive thanks also to Merrell UK, and my other sponsors for their unwavering support, and excellent equipment.

I am not sure where I will race next, but it will not be for at least 5 weeks. I feel like the tin man this morning.  Challenge wise, we have also found an absolutely outrageous possibility for early 2016, where access by vehicles is very difficult, but local packs of huskies are able to provide a support infrastructure.  More to follow.

Andrew

Merrell UK

BLOG- SHARED LESSONS WITH THE TOPNAAR TRIBE

A huge part of travel and adventure for me is about learning.  Trips to Kenya have helped me understand more about what leads to elite performance in running, whilst Mongolia brought it home to me that happiness is more important than having things.

Utusib clinic

Namibia has a few of the same challenges as parts of Scotland (including a remote and rural locations), and is doing a great job of increasing life expectancy at more than half a year, every year at the moment.  We all also wanted to know more about the oldest desert in the world, and it’s stories and traditions.

We also had the chance to share some vital medical diagnostic equipment donated by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, shoes and athletic equipment donated by Merrell UK, and cycling enthusiasts, and other gifts from Bert Jukes and his team.  Chief Kooitjee of the Topnaar tribe, his top team and the local medical team, as well as the Mayor of Walvis Bay and the divisional Health Minister shared pearls of wisdom, as well the challenges they face with us.  This is the start of a relationship, that with the support of many in Namibia and back home can achieve lasting change.

Royal College Physicians and Surgeons Medical Supplies

Both the athletic  equipment, and medical equipment was extremely well received.  In fact we were honoured to receive the first Topnaar Tribal Appreciation Award given to those outside Namibia- a huge honour.  We had some great discussions about the value of sport and physical activity both in the community and nationally, and thoughts on how this can be achieved.  The numerous pairs of trainers, and huge amount of clothing from Merrell and others will help support the Topnaar schools and athletics groups, whilst they had a highly impressive cycle team that will benefit from donations received.

football shirts and Merrell shoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We really enjoyed hearing about training and education opportunities for the local health care workers, and discussions are ongoing as to how this can be further assisted.  The clinics we saw had fantastic staff, that the donations from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and many other groups and individuals drew praise from, while the Health Minister present also expressed her delight at the help received, and opportunities for the future.

For us, to have the chance to eat, sing, and dance, as well as learn and share with new friends from Namibia was a highlight of the trip- and we are so grateful for the generosity of others in helping us with this

Children and Topnaar bike team

BLOG- RUNNING ACROSS THE NAMIB- PART 2 OF 2

Genuine challenges are always a roller coaster of emotion.  Both Donnie and I reflected upon what it would take to get us to the finish.  The first 3 days had proved we could have absolutely every confidence in our support crew.  Their route finding had been superb and we had been kept well stocked up on food, sun cream and anything else 2 men traversing the Namib desert could ever want.  We probably needed to conserve a bit more energy, by covering good distance, but running slower, and we needed not to think too far ahead.  Breaking the challenge down 10km by 10km, and day by day would keep anxiety about the scale of the challenge down.

chameleon

In good spirits we set off again through the dunes on day 4, trying to avoid having to go over every dune by hitting the cols, and using the sand valleys between the dunes where possible.  This made progress a lot easier.  Having run in deserts including the Sahara and the Gobi, I must admit I had not expected the Namib to be so hard.  It is partly the size of the dunes, but also the fact that everything in the Namib desert is sand, and heavy sand to run through.  Running races like the Gobi Challenge, the Sahara Race, and Marathon des Sables usually at least half of the course is a more runnable hard sand, or rocky terrain but this just wasn’t. But after a few days our bodies were settling into it, and we knew that the second half of the challenge would feature some beach that although sandy is a good deal easier than dunes.  I felt after day 4 we had at least a 50/50 chance of getting it done>

 

A suprising feature of the Namib is the plethora of wildlife.  This is due to it being coastal, and although it on average receives the least rain of any desert, a fog in the morning from the sea sometimes rolls over bringing moisture.  The next 3 days allowed us opportunities to run past seal colonies (we even went for a swim with the seals), as well as spotting chameleons, giant spiders, antelopes and the tracks of hyena’s and sidewinder snakes on incursions inland. There was also the bizarre sights of various shipwrecks, some well inland, for example the well preserved carcass of the Edward Bohlen, a 1907 ship marooned in the desert showing that the desert is alive and moving week by week and year by year.

Success_diagram

With covering these distances there were issues.  Donnie and I both ate a fair bit of the sand blowing in our face, Donnie had sand in his eyes, and my back totally seized up one day leading to an uncomfortable time at the end of day 5 unable to move for half an hour.  But we were getting there, and thanks to the expert route finding of our Namibia hosts we thought we could emerge from the desert a day early, on day 9 rather than 10, allowing an extra day for community work.

 

So with the hammer down we progressed over salt flats, dunes, and the coast on day 8.  As we were within 100km of Walvis bay, flamingos greeted us regularly, and on another occasion we were hemmed in by 300kg of Oryx, a huge antelope with massive straight horns that have been known to kill lions. That evening was one for celebration.

Dune Running

We had only 55km to do on the last day, over manageable terrain, which we knew would be a formality. So relaxed were we that we staged an impromptu game of golf over the sand dunes before setting off.  With sand valleys of 300 metres, good scoring proved difficult, but it was a grand warm up for tanking the last leg into civilisation.  Apart from our tight knit group, we had seen no humans at all during our time in the desert, so seeing Chief Kooitjee and members of the local Topnaar tribe welcoming us to Walvis bay was special.  Any finish line is great, but one with a pint of beer and the promise of a shower is even better.  It was a great moment that we shared, expeditions like this are just not possible without expert help, and having Jurgens, Hein, Len, Paul, Wossy, Percy and Luciano, as well as Dave, and our fantastic documentary team Brian and Gayle of LittleBigShot productions, and Jonny Graham of DigitalPict the expeditions professional photographer.  Donnie deserved more beer than me.  He had put up with my whining about my back and various ailments and stayed strong throughout.  When he was asked by a newspaper if he had thought of giving up he simply said “I was in the marines. So no”.

At the end of the Namib Desert

The 2 days after allowed opportunities to share experiences and assist locally with community work. More about that in the next blog, but we did also raise a glass to Bert Jukes, who both through himself and Lyprinol UK had unswervingly supported the expedition, and to Merrell UK, who as ever had supplied top quality kit not only to myself but to support local athletic projects.

ANDES TO AMAZON ATTEMPT GOES WRONG!

Mt Cotopaxi

What Mt Cotopaxi did not look like.

Despite giving it my all, I was a million miles from completing Andes to Amazon today. Andes to Amazon was possible, but it required everything to go right, and that is what I enjoy about the endurance challenges I have taken on – the excitement of not knowing whether you will get the job done, or whether the result is being taught a lesson.

The plan was to climb 5,987 metre Mt Cotopaxi and then run to the Amazon basin. I did neither properly. Due to restricted holidays I had not allowed any contingency days for the climb, and looking at the mountain from 3,800 metres it was clear the shift on the hill would be tricky. Dark cloud domed Mt Cotopaxi, whilst wind clouds flew past above the volcano. Given the crevasses and route finding difficulties we had hired a local guide. At 5,650 metres with zero visibility and massive winds in places he advised us that getting to the summit safely was not possible, and we turned back.

I had begun not to feel well on Cotopaxi, but thought it may be the altitude. However at 4,500 metres on the way down I started to get stomach cramps, and the urge to find some toilet roll. Running 50 km at altitude, running off into the bushes every couple of kilometres was something I was dealing with, but I just could not keep any food or fluid down and became dehydrated and had the head spins. Although the volcano and most of the very high altitude was behind me I was in no fit state to run another 100 odd kilometres.

I always learn more from when things do not go right then when they do. This is the first major challenge that has totally got the better of me, and the key lessons are:

1) Build in some weather contingency in the big hills, and if time does not permit this take on a different challenge

2) Although I was being deliberately vigilant in avoiding dodgy food, I clearly was not thorough enough

So Ecuador is an incredible country and Andes to Amazon is I think possible. Their pharmacists are very helpful as I have found out tonight. A lot of my friends have been incredibly helpful in setting the expedition up, with Donnie joining me on the mountain, and acquiring the Imodium. Arnaud Le Maire as ever does a fantastic job sorting my website, while Ross Lawrie helped sort updates where internet was non-existent. A huge thanks also to Merrell UK for proving top quality kit and for their support.

I will leave Ecuador frustrated but wiser. Although I had run days on Scotland 2 Sahara with a stomach bug, running 50km is very different to 100 miles at altitude with a stomach bug. Although I feel terrible and ill tonight, hopefully tomorrow is a new day.

Andrew