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!
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! 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.
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?
(note you don’t need to be barefoot or in vibram fivefingers to run more efficiently)
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.
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.
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.
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
In 2012, I fancied trying out the extremes of temperature. This included running in the chilly North Pole, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the searing heat of Outer Mongolia in their summer, as well as doing 7 ultra marathons on the 7 continents in under a week. I guess it was a form of extreme sightseeing. The year was pretty full on from a work point of view, never mind the bonus of travelling.
So for 2013, the plan was to spend a bit of time in the hills with Jennie doing our own thing, and sharing these sights with her. We’ve been in the hills of Skye, the Dolomites in Italy, as well as a whole range of other places in our trusty campervan.
I also wanted to spend a bit of time with my family, so an ideal solution was to head to Kenya, where I was brought up, learn a load from the best athletes on earth, as well as running up and down mt Kilimanjaro, mt Kenya, and running ultras each day we were out there. I also ran in the Scottish Championship race, managing to be first Scot home (although I hadn’t formally registered with Scottish Athletics so didn’t get the trophy.) Another part of the world I’ve always wanted to spend time is the Giant’s Causeway, so the chance to race and perform well out there was one I looked forward to.
Running that volume of ultras in the summer (18 in 18 days) killed any speed I had so it would have been pointless competing before now, but next week sees the IAAF/ IAU World Trophy 50km series come to Austria. I’ll hopefully be racing for UVU/ Merrell out there in what promises to be an epic.
Having said that my knee flared up running in the hills at the weekend, so I will have to treat it aggressively, and see if it responds. I’d planned to run Cairngorm and Ben MacDui , and felt ok until MacDui. At this point my knee hurt enough to make running painful so I just walked back. The weather had clagged in and i traversed around to get back quicker- but got myself a few hundred yards off course. I was pretty cold, and was pleased to see a couple climbers from England who not only pointed me in the right direction, but seeing i was shivering actually offered to walk me back to the furnicular for a ride down. I was offered a hot chocolate and a warm blanket by incredibly helpful staff at Cairngorm Mountain. I would have got myself down but the kindness, jacket and hot chocolate were most welcome. Even though I’ve spent time in some famously cold places, the wind and drenching rain in the hills can be as cold as anywhere, and has reminded me to make sure I pack extra clothes and food. Scotland has some of the most breathtaking and beautiful mountains (as well as some of the friendliest walkers) on earth, but it can get cold fairly quickly.
My right knee currently is twice the size of my left due to a pre-patellar bursitis, so hopefully this settles in time. If the knee doesn’t settle- i’ll go out to Austria but not race.
2014 is quite a hectic year work wise for me, with the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, along with my usual work. But to be honest I am not sure I would cope with not having a challenge or two on the horizon, so I will definitely go out and race in the 50km World Trophy Final (qualification permitting), I’ll be doing an exciting challenge with Donnie Campbell in Scotland, and have an exciting speedclimb in Asia up my sleeve.
So I’m looking forward to next week, and year. This year I’ve benefitted from so much support not only from principal sponsors UVU racing, Merrell, and the Balmoral, but from friends, family, and all those that have collected shoes for Running Across Borders, or money for APCA, and SAMH. Together we’ve managed to send more than 800 pairs of shoes, and vital medical supplies to many locations worldwide, and raised well over £100 000 for the Yamaa trust, APCA, and SAMH. It’s also great to have established links with excellent organisations like the John Ngugi Foundation.
For 2013, the over-riding goals are the same – to enjoy running, and see a bit of the world. But I also want to learn a bit from the best, what makes them so fast, what makes them so consistent, and why is David Rudisha always smiling. I am lucky in the work that I do with Scottish Institute for Sport, and UK Athletics to have some insight into this, but I really fancy heading back to East Africa, where I grew up, and learning from the Kenyans.
So a long jog in East Africa in the summer is the priority, and while I am there I will take in the main mountains, game parks, and things to see. More about this in the next blog. I would also like to take in some iconic sites like the Giant’s causeway, and the Dolomites and run there, and also test myself a wee bit in the UK and internationally – I have not trained specifically for a race in the UK before or a championship, and will give this a go.
Rough Schedule – TBC
March, 31st – Scottish Athletics 50km Champs Perth
May, 4th – Giants Causeway Race. Northern Ireland
June, 8th – Dirty 30, Lochalsh
June 26th – July 20, Run High Africa
July, 25th – Trans D’Havet Ultra, Dolomites, Italy
September, 21st – Sri Chimnoy 24-hour race
October, 28th to November, 3rd – Himalayan 100 miler and Everest Challenge Marathon
Dr Andrew Murray 32 – is a recent convert to running. But in the last 5 years he has won endurance races in some of the most spectacular and hostile locations imaginable including the Sahara desert, the Jungle, the arctic in Winter and in Outer Mongolia. In 2011 he completed a 2,659 mile run from far North Scotland to the Sahara desert.
2012 was another sucessful year for Andrew, with wins in the North Pole Marathon, Gobi Challenge, the Antarctic Ice Marathon and a further world record running 7 Ultra-marathons, on 7 continents in 5 days, 13hrs 28 mins.
Coverage of these challenges includes television features in over 70 countries and a 1hr BBC documentary.
Now in his latest and most ambitious challenge Andrew returns to East Africa, the land of his childhood, and home to 92 of the world’s top 100 marathon runners. Andrew will run over an ultra-marathon a day, and over 1000 kilometres in total at altitude, through iconic Game Reserves, through the Rift Valley, and will include runs up the mighty snow-capped Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro.
His 2013 schedule will also include ultra-marathons in his native Scotland, as well further afield, and the writing of his second book following the success of his first – “Running Beyond Limits: The Adventures of an Ultra Marathon Runner”
Andrew is also a Sports Medicine doctor, work has included with UK Athletics, the European Tour Golf, international football and rugby teams, the Scottish Government, and at the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. He is the Director of Marathon Medical Services. He will use his acclimatization period and contacts to explore what makes a faster marathon runner, how any runner can improve, and what we can learn from the Kenyans for his book, and for a film of his run in East Africa.
This African Odyssey is not only a story of extreme physical and mental endurance set against the backdrop of some of the most iconic and beautiful locations on the planet. It is also a unique look at the science behind running, at the limits of human performance but also at what the average runner can learn from the Kenyans, and other experts to make them enjoy their running, and get better results. Schedule: January, 2013
Scoping visit to Kenya. Whilst working with UK Athletics in Kenya, Andrew will speak with some of the best athletes and coaches, explore what makes Kenyan runners the fastest, and test himself at altitude, and in the extreme heat and humidity he can expect. February – June, 2013
Pushing the body to the limits of human endurance requires complete commitment, desire and an ability to learn. Andrew will speak to the top experts in nutrition, conditioning, and psychology to put himself in the best position to succeed, and to learn how other athletes and runners can obtain their best results. His training will peak out running 185 miles per week, and use Sport Scotland Institute for Sport facilities, as well as training in the mountains of Scotland.
Without acclimatization, failure is inevitable. For example Andrew will attempt to scale Kilimanjaro in a day, which would risk severe mountain sickness and death without this. Almost every successful distance runner including Mo Farah and Haile Gabreselaise has spent time at the High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, Kenya, which is where Andrew will train.
6-25th, The Challenge.
The challenge begins in the Kenyan Highlands. Andrew will climb the 5000metre Mt Kenya in a day, past farmlands and then up through the rainforest into the bamboo jungle. This takes him up into the cloud forest, before the mountain opens up into alpine scenery, with giant lobelias, before the jagged peaks and glaciers emerge. Andrew will climb over the Lewis glacier and onto Point Lenana where Kilimanjaro can be seen on a clear day.
From there he will head towards the Aberdares, spending a night potentially viewing the big 5 at the Arc, a world famous wildlife hotel, and then into the Great Rift Valley, the cradle of humanity and towards Lake Bogoria, home not only to spectacular geysers but to the greatest concentration of Flamingos acknowledged as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in Africa. Lake Baringo hosts numerous species of animals, birds, and is surrounded by dramatic escarpments. Next it’s through the Kerio reserve, home to many types of monkey, and into Iten- the undisputed capital of the distance running world, where many world and Olympic champions will be training.
Kakamega Forest reserve is a virgin tropical rainforest showcasing the variety of habitats East Africa has to offer, whilst Hell’s Gate National Park is an amazing and unique environment with a plethora of animals contained within the spectacular gorges and looming cliffs. A further highlight will be an ascent of Mt Longonot, the giant that dominates the surrounding landscape. Magma activity below the volcano, buffalo, leopard and zebra are features of the mountain.
The hustle and bustle of Nairobi, with the giant elephant tusk gates leads to Olorgesaile Prehistoric site, a World Heritage site in the cradle of civilization. From this point Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro draws us towards her. Forest gives way to breathtaking montane scenery, with Andrew having run from its base to the top in a day.
During the challenge Andrew will, at altitude, complete over 1000km, and climb over 120 000 feet, more than 4x the height of Mt Everest. He will burn 7000 calories a day – enough for a 700kg crocodile, and enough for 3 men – he will run on glaciers, through desert, over mountains, and through spectacular game reserves. Andrew
From February 2012 to February 2013 I worked full time pretty much for the Scottish Government as their Physical Activity Champion – I also did some work for London 2012 and others, but my focus was definitely Physical Activity. With Ministers, and our Chief medical Officer leading the charge, we got a lot done. Physical Activity for health is now a much higher priority in Scotland, at National, Local, and Community level.
The reasons for this are obvious – getting people more active saves lives, prevents disease, improves quality of life and saves the taxpayer about £800 million in Scotland. So it’s great to see this high up on the agenda, and great to pass on the role of Physical Activity Champion to Dr David White – no better man.
Here is a fun infographic that can be used freely: 30 Minutes of Exercise – The Key to a Happier Health
I’ll carry on looking to promote physical activity for health in any way I can, but this year my full time work is concluding SEM training, working in sport, with Scottish Rugby, Scottish Institute of Sport, The European Tour Golf, and UK Athletics.
The next 6 weeks will be concentrated on the 6 Nations campaign with Scottish Rugby, working with National Team Doctor, and British Lions doc James Robson. It will also involve work with Edinburgh Rugby, and it will be great to learn from the likes of James, and contribute to the mix.
The Scottish Institute of Sport is another place I’ll be lucky to work, with Dr Brian Walker, and Niall Elliot, working with the performance athletes in Scotland.
Additionally, I’m doing 9 tournaments for the European Tour and Challenge Tour Golf, which will come together to give me a great breadth of experience moving forward
It promises to be an intense, but fantastic year.