Think of a Scottish sporting Andy Murray, and the chances are you’ll think of Dunblane’s Olympic and double Wimbledon champion.
But he’s not the only one with that name who achieves sporting success.
The ‘other’ Andy Murray is a family doctor and ultramarathon runner, but above all he is an inspiration who has raised £150,000 for charity.
What is an ultramarathon?
An ultramarathon is anything that is more than a standard marathon, but they can be up to 100 miles long. I’ve raced at the North Pole, Antarctica, the Sahara Desert, Outer Mongolia and also there are some fantastic races in Scotland. You get some absolute behemoths, like running the 96-mile West Highland Way in a day.
You are a doctor, a runner, a speaker and an author. Which came first?
My main job is as a doctor. I’m a day-to-day GP, and then I also do some sports work. I started running as a way of seeing the world. You can pretty much access anywhere. You don’t need anything more that a pair of shoes and perhaps some clothing, and it’s also a really easy form of transport. Even today, I’ve been running between my two or three different jobs rather than spending £1.50 on the bus or money on petrol. It helps keep me fit but also saves me money into the bargain.
How did you progress from jogging to these type of races?
I’m always looking for the next challenge. The first marathon I did was the Everest marathon in Nepal. I hadn’t planned to do it, but one of my friends had left some valuables further up the trail. Because it was getting dark, the only thing to do was to jog back up and get them. Some other runners asked me if I was training for the marathon and I said that I wasn’t. But then I thought that it didn’t sound like such a bad idea, so I just cracked on and did it.
Have you had any particularly hairy moments?
I remember answering the call of nature when I was running through one of the national parks in Kenya and was confronted by three very hairy buffalo. Now, buffalo are the second most dangerous animal in Africa and they are amongst some pretty live contenders there. The look that they gave me was scarier than any that I’ve encountered in an Edinburgh or Glasgow night club, that’s for sure. I scarpered pretty quickly.
What’s the biggest challenge you have ever set yourself?
I ran 2,660 miles from John O’Groats to the Sahara over 78 days. A total of 34 or 35 miles per day. It was hard work because there were no days off. Come terrible weather, deep snow, injuries or whatever you just had to get on and do it. So in the summer I ran an ultramarathon every day in Africa. It included running up Mt Kilimanjaro in seven hours and Mt Kenya (these mountains usually take six or seven days to get up and down). I also spent time with some Kenyan runners and coaches who are some of the best athletes on earth.
Do you still get that runner’s high at the end?
Absolutely. Although it’s like a rollercoaster, you get these great big highs and crashing lows, but by the time I get to the finish it tends to be a high.
What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to get more active?
People say that they are too busy, but it’s a question of can we limit our inactivity to 23.5 hours per day? The first few days are always the most difficult. Find something that you enjoy, do it with friends if possible and recognise that some days it won’t start brilliantly but that you will have a smile on your face at the end of the day. Setting foot outside the door when it’s peeing with rain can be tough, but it’s brought me so much. I’ve experienced some amazing parts of the world and been able to raise about £150,000 for some charities that I am really passionate about.
- This feature originally appeared in 2014.