Physical Education


Anglesey Coastal Trail Ultra
Anglesey Coastal Trail Ultra

A few years ago I spent a short time in Wales and ran around in Snowdonia, and Anglesey. It was like being in Scotland, with snowy mountains, fantastic coastline, but with more consonants in the place names.
The Endurance Life Costal Series Anglesey Ultra Marathon is known as one of the most beautiful short ultras in Britain. The course features national park, towering cliffs, hill top scrambles and a jaunt around the beautiful Anglesey coastline. Having actually managed to get off my back side and do some training this winter it offered the perfect chance to stretch the legs and get a little competitive action.
Sleeping in the campervan the night before, I knew it was going to be a wet one. Rain thudded down relentlessly turning a trip to the toilet into a wading expedition. I have never done an Endurance Life Costal Series Event before but loved the briefing. James explained “some changes had been required to the course, it was going to be wet, but if a dry outing was expected then why had we come to Wales?”   The event itself offered a 10km, 1/2 marathon, a marathon (which is actually 27.5miles) and an ultra-marathon. The route is outstanding, trail markings excellent, and the marshals offered us everything short of lobster soup. I can safely say I’ve never experienced such wet conditions in a race, with the mountain trail resembling a stream at times, whilst we encountered calf deep standing water on the roads reasonably frequently, and waist deep water once. I was testing out my new Merrell All Out trail shoes, and must admit to enjoying steady progress whilst Donnie Campbell who I ran with skidded all over the place. His back was entirely brown by the end of the race.
Donnie and I run together quite a bit, and he had a strong year in 2013, winning the Scottish 100km National Champs, being second in the British 100km, and 4th in the British Trail Championships.  It made sense for us to run together initially at Anglesey, to avoid any chance of getting lost and so we could laugh at each other when we fell over. By 20 miles we’d opened up a 20 minute or so lead, and so continued to tank along together.  We were running the same course as the marathon runners, and would have won the marathon by 16 minutes had we stopped there, but having built a 30 minute lead in the ultra, took the foot off the pedal a little to finish the 34.1 miles a couple minutes inside the old course record. The GPS data is here, including 1,266 metres of ascent.
Medal !
Medal !

Endurance Life put on a series of events, and I enjoyed this so much I’d definitely consider doing another.
I must say I was extremely impressed with Merrell’s new kit for the season, especially the All Out Rush. A top bit of kit that I’d recommend when they come out shortly. A review can be found on runblogger.
It’s been a productive week, including meetings with our Chief Medical Officer here in Scotland concerning getting Scots more active. Having enjoyed a year working for the Scottish Government as their physical activity champion, now that I’m about to complete my Sports Medicine training this is an area I am looking to push forward again. I love this short video, which demonstrates the importance of getting our children active:




lappingthecouchFirst of all the great news. Thanks to the huge generosity and efforts of family, friends, and companies like Footworks Edinburgh, Merrell UK, Tribesports, the Balmoral Hotel and UVU racing, and dare I say it many people reading this blog, we reached our targets from Lessons From Africa. A special thanks also to Arnaud le Marie for his fantastic and unstinting website work, and to Ross Lawrie for producing brilliant Graphic Designs, posters, and other great stuff all of which has led to the success of this project, and previous ones also.  Over 1000 pairs of shoes have been sent out to support Running Across Borders, over £10,000 raised to support African Palliative Care Association, and vital medical equipment has gone out to support Chogoria Hospital. Massive, massive thanks everyone.
New years bring new ambitions. I love the simplicity of a poster I saw “No matter how slowly you are going, you will still lap those on the couch”. It’s kept me going in December, when times were slow and the days cold.
2014 will be a huge year for sport in Scotland, and one that I’m looking forward to enormously.  There will be fairly major personal challenges from a running/ adventure point of view, and some great stuff going on at work.
Next week sees my first outing race wise of 2014, racing the Anglesey Coastal Trail Series . It’s a 34 odd miler, with about 1000metres of ascent and descent in a fabulous part of the world.   I’m usually one to pick races based on a place I fancy going and the seaside villages, coastal tracks and stunning beaches as well as the customary hills sound an ideal way to spend a Saturday morning.  As a bonus it is on a Saturday, so we can go climbing in nearby Snowdonia the day after.  The last time I was in Snowdonia, I did the Welsh 3000 feet peak challenge in winter, climbing all the 3000 peaks consecutively and running between them. The itinerary on Sunday might be a little less hectic.
The weekend also offers a chance to race in some new kit. My principal sponsor for 2014 are Merrell UK. I’ve enjoyed working with them last year, partly due to the top quality of their footwear and clothing but also they are good people- for example donating 150 pairs of new trainers to Running Across Borders during last year’s Africa trip.  I’m delighted to be a brand ambassador for both footwear and clothing this year, and a Merrell Pack leader. You can join the pack here, for information and lots of free giveaways.
Both weekends so far have offered the chance to do what I enjoy best- get outdoors. Last Saturday we had some fairly variable (glorious sunshine to white-out) weather up Beinn a Ghlo and a few of the Perthshire mountains and felt we’d earned a beer at the finish. In preparation for an epic challenge this summer, both Donnie Campbell and myself will be spending a load of time in the mountains.  This weekend I’m up in Crieff with the family enjoying some outrageous sunshine and doing a load of outdoor things.
Last year I had the chance to climb, run, bike and hike in a load of cool places, from the Dolomites to East Africa, but actually many of the amazing days were in the UK- running along the Giant’s Causeway and immense adjacent rock formations to days in the forests, on the coast, or in the mountains of Scotland. We also had some almost perfect weather for a week in the lake district.  This year will be no different, with trips planned at home and abroad- it is incredible what you can see in even a day.
Andrew & Kids
Work wise having largely worked in sport for the last year, I’ll start to direct more efforts into getting more people more active more often. For some of the reasons why check out a cool video called 23 ½ hrs, whilst January means that 6 Nations Rugby is round the corner, where I’ll be assisting Dr James Robson with the Scotland team during February as well as doing ongoing work with European Tour and Challenge Tour Golf, and the SportScotland Institute of Sport.
I’ve also started writing my second book – which will offer insights and smart solutions into the Science and Medicine of running for longer, and faster. I’ll share excerpts from this on my blog.
I’m speaking at a few (public) events in February, these ones feature some great line ups: Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival and Sports and Exercise Medicine Symposium.