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The Pack / Andrew Murray / Trail Running

Q&A with Merrell Pack Leader Andrew Murray

Where did the idea of the 7 ultramarathons come from - was it yours?
I was out racing in the Ice Marathon in Antarctica anyway- I’m always keen to max out any trip and thought I’d take the long way home, seeing some of the most epic places on earth. However as a doctor we get pretty short holidays so I had to do the 7 ultra marathons in a week

You obviously do long distance events regularly, did you have to change your training much in preparation?

I ran a maximum of 185 miles per week, for a fortnight. I also deliberately did a few night runs to prepare me for the jet lag. The severity of the weather was difficult to prepare for. Even Aberdeen is no match for Antarctica temperature wise

Is it true you only slept for 5 ½ hours in the first five days of the challenge? Did delirium set in?

Yes, I slept 5 hours in the first 4 nights, and the fatigue was harder to deal with than the miles. And actually you never put your feet up, even when you are sleeping so my feet were pretty swollen by the end. You are either walking through check in, getting transport, or running. I was fine when running but had major problems staying awake when in airports going through security and the like

How much does being medically trained help when injuries/fatigue set in?

Being medically trained is a mixed bag. You know what to expect, so can plan for it and adjust, but you also catastrophise, and think of all the things that could go wrong. I didn’t really get injured, but the fatigue hit pretty hard. I eventually prescribed myself 2 spoons of “get on with it”- which seemed to work

Did you have a favourite out of the seven? Or was one much harder than the others?

Antarctica was my favourite. It’s an absolute frontier, I had miles and miles to myself, and the mountains are stunning. It’s also a genuine challenge running/ wading through the snow in fairly parky conditions

How did you get into long distance events in the first place? Is it something you’ve always done?
No- I never used to run- I played a loads of sports but I love travelling, exploring, and testing myself and this fits the bill on all 3. Running gives you the opportunity to see the world differently, at the pace you can run- and gives you a chance to think and take time out of work mode

How does your training go on a day-to-day basis? Is it purely running-based?

No- I play a load of sports with friends, and run to and from work, and run in the hills at weekends

What does your job as Physical Activity Champion for the Scottish government entail? What are your main roles/objectives?

I worked for a year as the Scottish Government’s Physical Activity Champion. A lack of fitness kills more people than smoking- a little known fact- we are making tackling this a national, local, and community priority in Scotland- I worked with politicians locally and nationally, with health professionals, and communicating key messages .
You also ran from northern Scotland to the Sahara, any favourite places along the way?
See blogs on

Do you know what the next challenge will be yet? Have you got a list you’re ticking off?

What are the biggest differences between casual running and ultra/longer-distance events? Is it just a case of increasing the miles you do in training?
Pretty much anyone can run ultras, but it’s a question of building up to it gradually and wanting to do it. My advice is if you want to do ultras, it’s possible, but build up to it.  Take advice from those that have made the jump. However if you haven’t done the training you will be found out.

For those who want to take up running, or simply get fitter, what is a good way to start or get involved?

Start small and set achievable targets. The first few weeks are the hardest. By sticking with it you’ll be healthier and happier. I find running with someone is always easier.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?
work wise im working for Scottish Rugby, European Tour Golf, and Scottish Institute for Sport. I’ll probably write another book, as “Running Beyond Limits” seems to have been popular

Thanks Andrew


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