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From ward to world

Running 2,659 miles from Scotland to the Sahara, then running seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in a week, was not enough adventure for GP and Scottish distance runner Dr Andrew Murray, who recently ran up the ‘big ten’ in the UK in one day

The aim was simple – run the ten highest mountains in the UK in a day with Donnie Campbell from Team UVU. The challenge is different than my day job, but the principles are the same:

  • Have a clear focus
  • Involve the right people
  • Tackle difficult situations with a level head
  • Manage uncertainty

Scotland’s mountains are nothing if not unpredictable, the route could be hindered by cloud, the rain could make the rock wet and slippy and the wind could blow you sideways. 

So how do you prepare for an event like this? Run up hills morning and night in and around surgeries. I ran on average 80-110 miles per week.

The Big 10 are spread across three ranges, with Ben Lawers north of Loch Tay, the Nevis Range adjacent to Fort William, and the Cairngorms east of Aviemore. Beforehand an apocalyptic weather forecast ensured all waterproofs were packed.

Ben Lawers at 1,214m was our first ascent. We were joined by BBC Scotland’s Adventure Show, who filmed our trip. We reached the top in an hour, before heading to the Ben Nevis range. My back and hip were niggling, so I grabbed some paracetamol from the car; it actually made the pain worse.

The clouds broke as we tackled the next four peaks Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis itself. Doing live radio whilst running along the Carn Mor Dearg arête was challenging.

While heading to Cairngorm we made steady progress of the stock of food in the car. It was the only mountain not clouded over so the views were spectacular.

By the time we summited MacDui it was raining, making the boulderfield descent into the valley treacherous. With the legs emptying and the weather deteriorating we pushed on to Braeriach, Angels Peak before finishing up on Cairntoul.

By the end I felt wet, tired and relieved that my back had not ‘gone’, and the weather had been short of the disaster forecast. Apparently this was the first time the highest ten mountains in the UK have been run in under 24 hours. We finished in 13 hours 10 overall, running for 9 hours 10.

My wife sounded pleased as we arrived at the pub afterwards; “you didn’t lose my hat, that’s good”, she quipped. As I approached the bar I requested a pint and a new pair of legs!

Visit: www.docandrewmurray.com, follow @docandrewmurray. Andrew raises money for a few charities he is passionate about, with support from the Scottish Association of Mental Health through “the Big 10” www.justgiving.com/runners4getactive.
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