A RACE WIN- COASTAL TRAIL SERIES NORTHUMBERLAND ULTRA

The decision on whether to race or not when carrying injuries is always a tough one. For me it usually comes down to factors that include

1)    Is the race somewhere beautiful. That I want to run

2)    Is the race important

3)    Am I going to make the injury worse by running and

4)    How sore will it be

Approaching the finish

Approaching the finish at Banburgh Castle

Endurance Life put on an excellent series of races, deliberately stationed in areas of natural beauty. Living in Edinburgh, I do like a good castle, and the Northumberland coastal trail has castles in spades.  I have not spent much time exploring this coast before, and on foot, during a race seemed an ideal way to do so.  The knocks I was carrying were more annoyances rather than significant injuries. I’d been elbowed in the ribs and had my foot stood on playing football in midweek (that is what I get for having a clumsy touch!).  The ribs grumbled taking a deep breath and when running quickly, whilst my foot has some interesting looking bruises.

These annoyances were blown out of the water by the prospect of a decent outing on a baby blue weather day. The van was fully frosted over, and the stars out by the time I got to sleep. Having come directly from working at the Edinburgh vs Ospreys rugby game I wasn’t sure I’d packed a pair of trainers- leaving office shoes or rugby boots as alternatives. I’d ran a few hills before in a pair of office shoes and did not fancy a repeat.

Fortunately when I woke out the Merrell’s were there, and I jumped on the bus to the start line. The route itself was a linear and varied one. The birds sang and my mood splendid at the start. After only a couple miles my race was nearly over. Having already been outwitted by one gate, I tried to jump one, and succeeded only in giving myself a fence in the baby making department.

With one thing and another- running quickly was catching my ribs a bit I ran a pretty conservative race. The course was a superb mixture of coastal trail, sandy beach, dunes, along with some mud (where would we be without mud in March) and road.  It was great to see great fields for not only the ultra, but also for the marathon, half marathon and 10km- many people I spoke to said it was their first.  I was a little caught up in the scenery, getting a little lost a couple times although this was entirely my own fault- the routes were well marked.  I ran steadily, taking a gel every 30 minutes, and aiming for make sure I finished in 4 hrs 40 minutes as my good friends Mike and Jess McKenzie were getting married nearby- this would give me the time to scrub up.

Banburgh Castle imposes itself for many miles. Spectators can see the finishers approaching many miles off, and the encouragement was welcome. I finished in 4 hours 32 minutes, finishing first in the Ultra and well in time for the wedding.

Sun and a medal- I'm happy

Sun and a medal- I’m happy

Endurance Life put on a fantastic series of events, I can recommend trying one of them for yourself.  I used Merrell’s new kit for the season, the All Out Rush trainer (review can be found on runblogger) and Science in Sport nutrition.

Good luck to everyone running races soon- next one for me is the Glasgow to Edinburgh double marathon at the start of April.

Andrew

 

TERRIBLE ADMIN ON MY PART DENIES ME SCOTTISH 50-KM TITLE!

Perth, UK

Perth, UK


31st March, 2013 saw the 100-km and 50-km races at Perth, which were the Scottish Athletics Championships, with the 100-km race also being the 100-Km Home Nations Championships.

My usual preference is to concentrate on expeditions, and races in parts of the world that I have always wanted to see, but this year I am thinking about doing a couple of “Championships” races, with this being the Scottish one.

Essentially due to laziness on my part, and working fairly long hours I’d neglected to get much in the way of training in so set off fairly conservatively in the 50km. I let Paul Fernandez, of England and GB out of sight as he went off at a rate of knots. While being a medic at a high altitude camp earlier this year, Paul was an athlete with British Athletics, and the training had obviously agreed with him.

I ran with a couple of guys from the GB long distance team, looking forward to the world Championships in May and settled into just knocking out laps on the 2.3km course at a regular rate. With 11 kms to go I moved into second overall, and first Scot. Grant Jeans had dropped out with injury, and I’d passed a couple of others. Grant is one of the quickest in Britain but he has been unlucky with injury recently – he may have raced Paul if injury free. There was no point in chasing Paul Fernandez (3 hrs 4 mins), who was miles clear, and I had a few minutes gap on third place so ran steady until the finish in 3 hrs 21. GB/English athlete, Robbie Britton was 3rd, with Gerry Craig and Craig Reid 2nd and 3rd Scots.

I was happy enough with second, and first Scot- at the Scottish Athletics 50-km National Championships. There were some good runners behind me, and I’m looking forward to picking up the training for a run across Kenya in the summer.

You may ask if being first Scot at the National Championships makes me the Scottish Champion for that distance. The answer is technically not – as I had not got round to joining Scottish Athletics, so Gerry Craig gets the prize – and had a great race.

Below is what I used, and will be using this year, having found them all to be excellent:

Shoes – Merrell MixMaster

Clothes – UVU

Nutition- Clif gels, bars and shot blocks

The 100-km National Championships, also had the Home Nations Championships as a part of them. The overall team prize was won by Scotland, although the individual prize was won by Irishman Daniel Docherty, with Englishman Craig Holgate 2nd. My good mate Donnie Campbell was first Scot, and 3rd overall, with Marco Consani 5th, and Paul Giblin 7th. It was a fantastic achievement by the team who all looked simultaneously wrecked, and delighted as they finished. All these guys will have brilliant seasons no doubt.

A huge part of the event were the marshalls, and the crowd, with many friendly faces offering encouragement, and goodies. Special mention to the as always race organiser Adrian Stott of Run and Become, and Scottish Athletics – the organisation was impeccable!

Next longish race I’ll do is over in Northern Ireland, at the Giants Causeway, with 50-kms of epic cliffs, wing bridges and funny shaped rocks to run over, before teaming up with Donnie for a 20-day beast of an expedition through East Africa.

Andrew

FASTER, HIGHER, LONGER – LESSONS FROM AFRICA

An epic endurance challenge – traversing a series of iconic locations, running with the fastest runners on the planet. July 2013

An epic endurance challenge – traversing a series of iconic locations, running with the fastest runners on the planet. July 2013

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.

Doc Andrew Murray, S2S challenge

Doc Andrew Murray, S2S challenge

Coverage of these challenges includes television features in over 70 countries and a 1hr BBC documentary.

North Pole 2012, Finish Line

North Pole 2012, Finish Line

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.

Running the Scottish Mountains

Scottish Mountains

July, 2013

1-5th Acclimatisation.
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.

Point Lenana, Mount Kenya

Point Lenana, Mount Kenya

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.

Kenya

Kenya

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

THE GOBI CHALLENGE

Doc Andrew Murray, Gobi Challenge

Doc Andrew Murray, Gobi Challenge


Winner of the 2012 UVU North Pole Marathon, UVU prototype tester and Olympic torch bearer Dr Andrew Murray writes about his experiences doing the Gobi Challenge.

There can be no finer experience in running out there than the Gobi Challenge. The 218km course winds its way through mountains and ice gorges, before descending into the desert plains where the famous Fire Cliffs and sand dunes of the Gobi Desert rear up.

I’d set up the medical cover for this boutique event, but the volume and skills of the doctors and first-aiders present left me free to run also – I couldn’t resist the chance to take on the heat and the terrain.

There were 11 runners at the start as well as a walking group. A couple of good Mongolian runners blasted off on the first day whilst I struggled with a bit of jet lag and a heavy cold. I’d felt fevered in the tent prior to the start, never mind in the 41 degree heat, so it was an uncomfortable day. This was helped massively by the stunning views cutting through high mountain ranges, and the vision of clogs of ice inside the gorges, despite the heat. The stage was won by Mongolian ultra marathon champion Batargal who welcomed me with a sympathetic grin at the finish.

This 6 day event is a self-sufficient Marathon des Sables style event, so you carry all your food and bedding for the week. Each day the pack would get lighter and even on day 2 this was noticeable. Batargal and his compatriot Bayar launched off the front again, although I caught the former sling shotting out of the final canyon, and the latter eventually 2kms from the finish. Cold water and camels snorting greeted us at the finish.

Part of the joy of the trip was having my wife Jennie walking the route, and having the opportunity with the Yamaa Trust to get a bit of work done and see first-hand some of the things the charity had achieved. Day 3’s finish was high in the mountains in a small community who had lost their shelter and goats to fire. The generosity of people supporting my Scotland2Sahara.com run last year had allowed these to be replaced, and the warm hospitality of our hosts in their new Ger was one of a number of special moments for those on the trip. As a cultural experience, the Gobi Challenge is unsurpassed.

In cooler conditions I’d won days 3 and 4 by decent margins, although cool is a relative term in the Gobi. Running was punctuated by visits to local hospitals, family homes, and other trips with the Yamaa Trust.

I joined forces with Bayar on day 5, for the whole run passing a world of dinosaur fossils and red sandstone bluffs. It was something from a different world. Sandy conditions underfoot had increased the average number of blisters to 6, and forced a couple runners to retire. Day 6 again skirted towering cliffs before plunging UVU North Pole Marathon.into the plains, and the sand dunes the Gobi is famous for. I was grateful to my “Sandbaggers” gaiters for keeping the sand at bay whilst others continually stopped to remove shoe-fulls of sand. The uphills on the dunes remind me of the “travelator” from Gladiators. One step forward half a step back.

Experiences shared, fantastic photos and wide smiles were what I’d recall of the finish. There were some great runs from Englishmen Jon Gillott and Greg Harris, and I’d sneaked home in first. Conditions had been completely different, but no less inspiring than my previous race, at the UVU North Pole Marathon. With a heavy heart we left the Gobi, glancing behind us all the time…