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.
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.
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…