Having found the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon both arduous and spectacular, it was with some trepidation I looked at the map plotting the route that Genghis Khan took hundreds of years ago from the Tuul and Terelj gorges at the base of the Khenti mountains, the land of his birth to the modern day capital of Ulan Batar. Estimates of the distance varied wildly, from 100km, to 100 miles depending on the route taken, and the estimation of locals.
On the run in Mongolia-Credit John Graham
It is a route laced with history and scenic beauty, but perhaps one also that carries an element of jeopardy. To that end, Sandbaggers had provided a vehicle, and a highly experienced driver to set off from the rugged interior southwards, with the van fully stocked by my parents who had come to Mongolia not only to help, but to experience riding huskies, playing wild golf and this most beautiful of countries for themselves. It was bitterly cold driving across a frozen expanse to the start.  We were not on a road, but cutting tracks across the frozen landscape. Frozen really did mean frozen, with despite the engine having been on all night, everytime the vehicle stopped, the diesel and radiator froze, forcing our driver to defrost it with a blow torch.  I didn’t say anything when I saw this, but it would be fair to say that the prospect of an immobile vehicle, off the beaten track, in temperatures below minus 40 was not attractive.
An easier form of transport
Reaching the start felt like an achievement, when I set off following the historical route south, jumping out the vehicle exposing zero flesh to the elements, and just putting one foot in front of the other until the sun came up offering up improved temperatures in the minus 30’s.  It is amazing the difference that this can make, and I slowed to a more sensible rate at daylight having ran faster than I did in the marathon for the first hour simply to keep warm. 50 odd kilometres elapsed before we hit the junction for the road to Ulan Batar, a road sign that brought me more joy than any of the other road users. The fact that there was actual consistent traffic brought me some baffled looks, while I just concentrated on eating frequently, and warding off the early signs of frostnip I had in my right hand.  I had the Merrell All Out Terra Ice shoes, and decent clothing on which kept the rest of me toasty.  As a stiff headwind picked up, I was joined by a friend Ally, who knocked out a few miles with me and kept me sane until the high rise of Ulan Batar emerged.
Having jumped in the support vehicle to warm up and refuel a few times, I felt relatively OK at the finish.  By that I mean that I was not completely wrecked but still mentally and physically shattered as the signs for Genghis Khan International Airport emerged from the dark that had fallen. I had covered a distance of 104km in a none too speedy 11 hours, although to be honest I was extremely happy with that given the terrain and conditions.  It would have been a tonne slower without having my folks feeding and helping me.
This week’s adventures have been captured by Johnny Graham, and award winning adventure photographer from DigitalPict, and Rich Alexander, a TV presenter and producer who is making a film about the adventures.  Having seen some of the footage already, these guys are awesome and we are all looking forward to seeing the finished products.
We have also been raising some cash and awareness for the Scottish Association for Mental Health and for Riding for the Disabled. People have been hugely generous in donating already, for anyone that would be kind enough to spare some pennies the link is below
As always these adventures are only successful with the help of many. In particular thanks to my family in Mongolia, and back home (our 1 year old Nina did not fancy the trip!), Sandbaggers for their utterly first class organisation, Merrell for providing the best kit and their support, Arnaud Le Marie for his excellent work on the website, my coach Donnie Campbell, and the many other people that make these things possible, and most of the time enjoyable.
Trying out husky riding the day before

Physical Education


17 October 2014
Below is some information from SportScotland about an event I am excited about being involved with on Monday.  Please follow the links and come along. John Ngugi and Euan Burton are absolutely top athletes and people with stories worth sharing.
‘Being your Best’ is the theme of an event being organised by the Fitness Assessment and Sports Injuries Clinic (FASIC), based at the University of Edinburgh on Monday (20 October). It’s a theme as applicable to school-aged children making their first steps in a sport to top Scottish athletes who already benefit from individually tailored programmes through the likes of the sportscotland institute of sport.

With John Ngugi and athletes in Kenya
With John Ngugi and athletes in Kenya

John Ngugi, 1988 Olympic 5000m gold medallist and 5 x World Champion is one of the three guest speakers on the evening.  Revered in his homeland of Kenya, Ngugi is regarded as one of the greatest middle distance runners of all time.  In what promises to be a fascinating talk, he will share his thoughts on ‘what it takes to win Olympic gold.’ The FASIC event is supporting the John Ngugi Foundation, an organisation that aims to help young athletes in Kenya.
From a Scottish perspective, keynote speakers will include Scottish judoka and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Euan Burton and Dr Andrew Murray.  The latter is an ultra-distance runner and a sport and exercise medicine consultant to the sportscotland institute of sport.
Speaking ahead of the event, John Ngugi commented: “What does it take to become an Olympic Champion?  Why have Kenyan runners won so many golds and broken so many records? My motto is train hard, fight easy and believe.  If you train hard you will be successful but belief is also vital to be your best. I look forward to sharing my insights and those from my country when I come to Scotland. I also look forward to hearing from experts at the sportscotland institute of sport and Edinburgh University and taking these ideas back to Kenya.  In particular, I am honoured to be opening the Scottish Running Clinic at the University.”
Success looks like this
Murray, who recently ran Scotland’s ten highest Munro’s in under 24 hours, has previously visited Kenya to gain insights to the factors that help the East African country produce so many world-class track middle and long distance athletes.
On Monday Murray will offer insights to how ‘science and medicine can improve performance’ while Burton will recall his experience of preparing for and competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Murray commented: “On Monday we’ll hear from two incredible athletes. John Ngugi, both physiologically and in terms of medals won, is amongst the greatest athletes the world has known. He was a real pioneer for Kenya, a country that in world terms remains the most successful nation in middle and long distance running.
“Euan Burton’s (2014) Commonwealth Games gold winning performance was one of the iconic moments of the summer. As a coach and part of the sportscotland institute of sport, he contributed to what is the single greatest and most concentrated production line of medals in Scottish Commonwealth Games history, with 93% of the judo athletes in Team Scotland winning medals. As an athlete and as part of the team behind the team his insights promise to be fascinating.”
Event information
The “Being Your Best” event will be held within the Anatomy Lecture Theatre, University of Edinburgh from 630pm-830pm on Monday 20 October.
Tickets for the event are £10 each and are available through the EventBrite site:
See also:
Notes to the editor
For interview requests with John Ngugi, in the first instance please contact: Malcolm Anderson – Mob: 07956098281 /
For comment from Dr Andrew Murray please contact Dr Murray directly on:
Issued on behalf of sportscotland and organised by 3×1 Public Relations, Tel: 0131 225 7700.
The event has been staged through help with FASIC University of Edinburgh, Running Across Borders, Purple Reign, the John Ngugi Foundation, Edinburgh Sports and Exercise Medicine Society, Merrell UK, Footworks, Judo Scotland and Sportscotland
Scottish Running Clinic

Running Challenges


Is there anything runner’s would rather do than run a stunning course in glorious weather? For all of us lucky enough to enjoy the Loch Katrine Running Festival this was exactly what was served up.

Loch Katrine landscape
Loch Katrine landscape

Runners could choose between a scenic and undulating 10km, a half marathon, or the full marathon on a day that the sun shone, and the towering peaks of the trossachs glistened like a collection of wedding cakes all around the loch. All events are run on the road, which climbs and descends around the loch, offering magnificent vistas and some chunky hills.
I love turning up at races and seeing some familiar faces.  Running back in Scotland, there were loads of friends running, as well as stalwart marshalls and race organisers like Julie Clarke, and Audrey McIntosh.  Audrey has been to the ends of the earth with her running, raising huge amounts for Alzheimers Scotland, details for her incredible runs out in Antarctica last year can be found here .
I’d camped at the Lochside and woke up to a frost which could only mean pleasant cool conditions. I got chatting to Gerry Craig, who had finished second last year, who raved about the course but mentioned “that a few would know all about the hills by the finish”. I ran the first 15km at a comfortable pace, having had a large week in training. At the half way point I remember feeling pretty fresh and thinking about a negative split. That is how it proved, with the second half being a mix of hellos to other competitors (it is an out and back course) and looking around at the scenery. Needing the toilet is a great incentive to speed up for the last few kilometres, and the second half of the race was 4 minutes quicker than the first, hitting the tape in 2-49. I was pleased with the run, which took 8 minutes off the course record and was good enough for first place.
Needing the toilet - picture credit Susan Harley
Needing the toilet – picture credit Susan Harley

This is definitely a race I can recommend for someone looking for a course of outstanding beauty- although is definitely not a PB course. It also raises plenty cash for an outstanding charity. On the subject of generosity, a huge thanks to Muir of Ord Jog Scotland group for their generosity in supporting SAMH, a charity I am passionate about. I have been fortunate to share stories and talks in Muir of Ord, Inverness, Glasgow and a few other places in the last few weeks and have a few upcoming in the next few weeks. I really enjoy hearing the stories of others, and getting ideas for the next race or adventure.
Antarctica united, with race organiser Audrey McIntosh - Credit Colin Smith
Antarctica united, with race organiser Audrey McIntosh – Credit Colin Smith

I am not sure where I will race next, but may do Lochaber marathon or possibly the Glasgow to Edinburgh double marathon in a couple weeks. I have been selected to run for Scotland in the Home Nations Championships (Anglo Celtic Plate) at the start of May so will be putting the hours in on the road, as well as the hills.
Thanks as always to coach Donnie Campbell, and to Merrell UK as ever for their support.