Monday afternoon, I’m on my 5th coffee of the day, a little tired but still buzzing from the small part I played in such an epic and inspirational sporting event.
Background of the event:
Scottish International distance runners Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell are set to attempt a climb of the 10 highest mountains of Scotland in a day. Taking on a challenge that may not have been completed before, on the 19th of July they will first run up and down Ben Lawers before driving to then take a route including 4 mountains through the Nevis range, followed by another drive to the Cairngorm mountains, where the final 5 mountains await. The challenge, billed “BIG10CHALLENGE” will be followed by a team from BBC Scotland’s “The Adventure Show”, and may well set a marker that will see others trying to go under the magical 24 hours, with faster folks going for any potential record.
“Why are they doing this I hear you and my father asking…!?!” 😉
They are doing this because “we had a free Saturday and fancied a challenge”, but also to raise some money and awareness for SAMH (each penny makes a huge difference) and for the “Fit in 14” campaign which is well worth supporting.
Andrew said “There is nowhere I would rather be than in the mountains of Scotland on a summer’s day. This will be a tough but beautiful shift, but what we are hoping to do is raise awareness of the benefits of exercise, and being in the great outdoors. We know for example that even doing 30 minutes walking 5 days a week has been shown to make people happier on average, and live 7.2 years longer, so we’re urging people to build walking into their routine, and take advantage of schemes like “Fit in 14”. It’s inspiring what some people have achieved for example Paul Giblin running the entire length of the West Highland Way in 14hrs 20 minutes, but even a little exercise goes a long way towards happiness and health.”
With the likes of Andrew Murray, Donnie Campbel and Paul Giblin around, how can you not be inspired to get out there and see what all the fuss is all about…!
I guess my involvement of supporting this challenge came when I rather ironically, had been out running across the Ochil Hills and had noticed that I’d missed a call from Andrew. Having ran into an area of reception, to return the call, I was honored to find out that Andrew and Donnie had yet another crazy adventure in mind and were asking if I could, in anyway, offer some support. “Bobbydazzler!!!” I was more than happy to do anything that I could, from PR / media coverage, filming, photography, running support, heck even making teas and coffees would be fine by me – and as it would turn out, all of the above was to be the case! 🙂
Having met with the crew on Friday night (18th July), it wasn’t long until Andrew and Donnie were being interviewed by BBC’s Adventure Scotland broadcast team and then final preparations discussed before bed. We had all met up at the Firbush Outdoor Centre by Loch Tay – known well from my Rob Roy Challenge “Spidey” days! 😉 The crew were spending the night here but my wife Eilidh and myself, had planned to spend the night in the woodland carpark, by the base of Ben Lawers. The reason for this was that I was planning on getting up an hour before the rest of the team (2:45am) and head up Ben Lawers to recce the route and spot where, amongst all the low visibility, might be a good spot to capture the lads, on film, during their speedy accent and decent.
It was a beautiful, peaceful evening, where we parked up in our campervan, we both got our teeth brushed and settled in for the night surrounded by a stunning view of Loch Tay below us and the mountain range of Ben Lawers above and behind us. That night I went to bed with a smile on my face…
…come 2:45AM!!!! – and the face was a different story! 😉
I was changed, fed and on the trail for 3am. I had a confident feeling that today was going to be epic, so off I skipped up Ben Lawers with an early enough shift to enjoy my Petzl NAO, which hadn’t been played with since a short spell during the West Highland Way Race and the previous winter months. 
The weather wasn’t too bad for the kick off, just enough wind and drizzle to keep the midge at bay and allow me to enjoy a refreshing early morning run, with a Munro that was all mine – for the time being anyway…!
Having hit the top of the munro, I decided to play back down to some ‘lighter’ cloud cover and waited for Andrew and Donnie to arrive. The passing of time was spent with numerous hill reps, to keep me warm as the higher areas were now more exposed to some of the strong gale force winds, that had been promised and forecasted for later that day. I got my text from Eil to say that the lads were on there way up, signalling to me, that the start of this record attempt had begun and the dawning realisation that I was going to be part of something epic! – it didn’t take the lads long to appear, running towards me, through the early morning mist and drizzle. Soon we were greeting each other, with the joys and excitement of what lay ahead.
Doing my best to keep up, I had taken a few quick snaps with my camera, some video clips with the GoPro and then I left them to head off climbing higher and disappearing into the cloud cover above…
I knew there wasn’t much time from where Andrew and Donnie had left me, to when they would be on their return and hitting the trail hard and fast on their descent. Thankfully, I had heard their voices before they pounded on by and down the trail. GoPro and camera at the ready, the deed was done and I was now chasing down after them, in the mad hope that I might pass them and get some further shots on lower ground. It had now open out to being a beautiful post sunrise, early morning. Somehow I managed to catch up, snap a few shots for a panoramic and then join the lads in their chase to the car park. As we pounded on downhill, the mood was a strong and positive one, with the odd cheer and banter as we approached the base of the hill. What an exhilarating way to spend the early hours of a Saturday morning, up on the hills with some ‘crazy ass’ mates!!!! %o)
Pleased with what I had managed to capture, I was happy to bleed off from the final 100mtrs and allow the lads to run in, in camera shot and the welcome of the BBC and support crew. Eilidh was there to welcome me with a bowl of weetabix and chia seeds and a cracking wee espresso! – this trail running/campervan life was turning out to be everything I had expected it to be! 😀
This was my first real experience at being part of a ‘support crew’, normally I was the one being supported and I was thoroughly enjoying the experience! I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy a weekend than supporting some mates, running for a great cause, that also included me having to run a few trail miles myself, as well as having the excuse to take the ‘odd’ photo here and there and then blog and post about it online! 😉
Rachel Miller, Donnie’s fiancee, was the support driver for Andrew and Donnie and they soon shot off, from the base of Ben Lawers and headed for the Nevis Range where GB 24hr Running Champion, Marco Consani was waiting to join them on the bagging and tagging of the next four Munros of the Nevis Range…
Myself and Eil got to head off for Aviemore and the Cairngorms, where we would enjoy a cracking breakfast courtesy of The Mountain Cafe, after-which we would rest up and prep for the afternoon shift on the Cairngorms Range. As well as having had a great time driving from Ben Lawers to the Nevis Range, it turned out that the lads were also doing great for time and we had been given an eta on the Cairngorm Ski Centre car park and I now needed to get my running gear back on for my phase two…
…with my Suunto set, I was off once more!
Whilst waiting for the lads to appear at the top of the Cairngorm, I met a few groups of walkers and runners, where I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they were aware of the challenge and were keen to show their support, with a few cheers. At one point I was even mistaken for Andy, as I was running and caught up with a group of walkers – “Are you Andrew Murray?” Sadly no! Perhaps if I had said yes, I’d have gotten do do something exciting such as sign a rucksack or something! 😉
With the boys reaching the Caringorm, I was invited to join them for the rest of the way, whilst attempting to keep up, take a few photos and video at the same time. It was here where I noticed Andrew was suffering a bit, from understandable fatigue and a bad hip. Donnie, on the other hand, was looking fresh and surprinsingly light on his feet, considering the distance, ascent and descent that these guys had covered up until now. Donnie had decided that he’d have a play with the GoPro and headed off to take some additional shots, running and bouncing around, even taken clips of myself and Andrew, which had him doing various additional hill reps!!!! The man is a machine! As the three of us headed to bag the 7th Munro (Ben Macdui), the weather was once again coming in, the higher we got, the more the conditions turned for the worse.
I was really enjoying my time with the guys and blethering away with Andrew, that I had forgotten about the technical descent that was approaching us, as the route very quickly dropped down into the Lairig Ghru valley. I had ran this once before with Donnie on a training run and knew that I was now going to have to leave the lads to it, as they powered off downhill, with the expert skills that were needed, for their speed and the wet, slippy conditions of the boulder field. Somehow I had also managed to get cramp in my left calf and this definitely put a halt to me keeping up with the boys. I called out, that I’d be stopping for a gel and a small stretch before I took on the rocky descent and would then bleed off right, along the valley floor and get some more of the recent shots uploaded online, once I was back at the van. This made more sense, I told myself, as keeping everyone that was following this event online, updated with as much live feed as possible was more important than my selfish desire of wanting to carry on with the boys, as they finished their adventure. Andy was very understanding and said that they wouldn’t mind waiting a couple of minutes for me but this was a timed effort and I wasn’t going to be the one to hamper them on their quest for a cracking result. By now Donnie was out of sight and off into the mist. I’m sure his only words of wisdom to me would have been “MTFU!” So, again, I appreciated Andrew’s parting well wishes and watched them both disappear…
Andrew had also mentioned that if there was a chance to grab any footage of some wildlife, that I should take the opportunity and capture some of it for the BBC tv crew, although I never managed to spot and deer, I did however manage to stumble across the odd frog or two and took this opportunity to film and photograph the little fellas. The funny thing was, that they seemed to have also mastered the ‘downhill’ technique of tumbling down and out of danger – we had more in common with each other than I might have first thought! 😉 If anyone had caught a glimpse of me halfway down a rocky boulder filed, in the wind and rain, chasing frogs, they’d have probably thought I’d lost it for sure 😉 but this to me, this is also one of the reasons why I love trail running. Getting into the great outdoors and crossing paths with nature!Eventually, I was out of the Lairig Ghru valley, through the Chalamain Gap and heading for the Sugar Bowl Car Park for a dry welcome, from Eilidh and Rachel, with a comfy seat in Minty (campervan), and time once more to upload the film and photos online… WHAT A DAY! 😀
It was during this time that the news came through that Andrew and Donnie had reach the final 10th cairn (Cairntoul), in a time of 13hrs 10mins! – 9hrs 10mins running and 4hrs driving.
All that was left for us to do was send congratulation texts to the lads and get online and share the good news…
Andrew and Donnie arrived at the carpark, wet and elated! Time for a quick ‘manhug’ and then it was off for a shower and dinner. All I had on my mind now was to get out of these stinking wet socks and tackle that “all you can eat buffet!” 😉
The lads are still actively seeking any charitable support that you can afford, and would really appreciate the gesture!
This event wasn’t just about the ‘bagging and tagging’ BIG10CHALLENGE but also about raising awareness for the ‘Fit in 14’ campaign as well as SAMH – (every penny really does make a huge difference)
Thanks in advance for your support!!!Again, a HUGE CONGRATS to Andrew and Donnie on their epic “free saturday” day out! 😉


One response to “BIG10 CHALLENGE!

  1. Pingback: the adventure show – BIG10 CHALLENGE! | Barefoot And Running Blind!·

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