INTERVIEW: Dr Andrew Murray, on running from John O’Groats to the Sahara!
UAM: Hello Dr Andrew Murray, thank you very much for agreeing to this interview! First, for people out there who don’t know who you are, would you care to explain a little bit about your adventures?
AM: Thanks. I’m a doctor, and an ultra marathon runner. I’ve been fortunate to race in places from the high Himalaya, the North Pole, Outer Mongolia, and the Jungle. This year I ran from John O’Groats in north Scotland to the Sahara Desert. I run for the views, and the excitement, and to promote causes I am passionate about. Currently I’m looking to promote the health benefits of staying fit. It’s fantastic both for physical and mental health, and while I’m not keen to make everyone run, letting them know the importance of staying active, helping to prevent Heart attacks, Stokes, some kinds of cancer, Diabetes, Depression and many other things is really motivating. I love supporting the Yamaa Trust, who I volunteer with in Mongolia. My book “Running Beyond Limits” describes the runs I’ve done is some of the most hostile, but beautiful places imaginable, and also talks about my work as a sports and expedition doctor, looking after some of the world’s leading athletes.
UAM: Obviously, you are famed for your ultra marathon running. To date, which run has been your biggest challenge, and why?
AM: Scotland2Sahara, the 78 day run to the Sahara in winter was tough as it was unremitting. I had to run over a marathon every day, even when I was carrying injuries or the weather was disgusting. However the hardest day racing has had was in North Canada at the 6633ultra. The temperatures were -40 Celsius, or -70 with wind chill, and I broke a bone in my leg. I had 30 miles left, dragging a sledge and even the raw beauty of the northern lights couldn’t fully compensate for the pain. It was agony, but stopping was not an option as it was far too cold to stop moving.
UAM: What inspired you to choose the Yamaa Trust in order to raise money?
AM: The Yamaa Trust are making a huge difference day in and day out in Mongolia. I raced the Gobi Challenge out there, one of the best races I’ve done, and certainly one with plenty cultural interaction. We stayed with locals each night, and their warmth and kindness made me determined to do something to support their health care system. The Yamaa Trust make this happen, and are changing lives in the Gobi region.
UAM: What started you running? Was it a childhood thing? Something inspired by your parents? Or is it true that you simply wanted to see the world?
AM: Running is my way of travelling and seeing a bit of the world. I’ve always played sports, but when backpacking, there is less chance to play for a team or similar. There are amazing races put on in fantastic areas nowadays, I’d encourage people to check them out. I actually grew up in Kenya, so should probably be a quicker runner than I am!!
UAM: If I’d told my wife I was going to run 2650 miles for 85 days, 3 months before our wedding, she would have hit me with a large stick. First, why didn’t your wife hit you with a large stick? And second, in what way is she supportive of your adventures?
AM: Jennie is fantastic. She’s gorgeous, funny, and most of all patient. She is a runner and climber herself, and I did promise that even if I hadn’t finished, then I’d be back for the wedding. The Metro newspaper actually ran a 2 page spread “Scotsman runs 2660 miles to escape wedding planning” which amused her.
UAM: What’s next for Andrew Murray?
AM: I’m working to promote physical activity and exercise. I think that this is a fundamental challenge of our age, as the health problems associated with not doing regular exercise are enormous. I’ll also do the Highland Fling and the West Highland Way race in Scotland this year, and will make another documentary about a run I’m doing which involves running 100km on each continent consecutively. The locations are stunning.
UAM: Your book has genuinely inspired me to take up long(er) distance runs. Any tips?
AM: I’m genuinely thrilled to hear that. Running wise, I think knowing that after a few weeks things will get easier always helps. Run routes that you enjoy, and perhaps incorporate into everyday life, for example is it possible to run to work?
UAM: Thank you! Andrew’s book Running Beyond Limits can be purchased from all good book shops, ISBN: 978-0-95629957-2-9, and online from various retailers. To read more about this incredible adventure, check out http://www.scotland2sahara.com .
“The Ultimate Marathon Man,” DVD, a copy of the 1 hr BBC documentary following Andrew’s run, along with extra features is ALSO available from Mountain Media.