Scots pair to discover the secrets of East African athletes

Dr Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell

Endurance athlete Dr Andrew Murray (left), a member of the Faculty of SEM who works for the sportscotland institute of sport, is set to embark on a spectacular challenge across East Africa with former Marine Commando Donnie Campbell.

Beginning on 1st July, the pair will run more than an ultra-marathon (50km) every day in an epic 18-day run across East Africa, that will include running up and down Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, through wildlife-filled game reserves, tropical rainforests, and running with world-record holders and world champions.

Doctor Murray’s objective is to discover the secrets to the prolific success of East African athletes – home to the best endurance athletes in the world – and to use that information to help inform the work that he and his colleagues at the sportscotland institute of sport are doing to support Scottish middle and long-distance runners ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow this August and next summer’s Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The entire expedition will take place at significant altitude, constantly remaining above the height of Ben Nevis.

Remarkably, at the 2011 Athletics World Championships, Kenya won 17 medals, with no fewer than 10 of them going to former St Patrick’s high school pupils in the tiny village of Iten.

It is a statistic that borders on the absurd: 10 medallists from one school succeeding at one world championships. It remains the single greatest, most concentrated, production line of talent in world sport.

Andrew Murray, who works as a General Practitioner, and Sports and Exercise Medicine doctor with the sportscotland institute of sport, said:

“There is no better way to find out what makes these athletes so fast, than to spend time in their company and take on some of the biggest challenges East Africa has to offer.  We will run through places of phenomenal difficulty and beauty. These will include running the mighty Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro, jogging through iconic national parks, past spectacular geysers, and through the cradle of civilisation.”

He added:

“It’s all about learning from Africa. 66 of the best 100 marathon runners in the world are from Kenya – is this due to the training regime, genetic factors, the food that is eaten, the altitude, or other factors?

“We aim to find out what lessons we can learn from the Kenyans’ incredible success and then apply those to help Scottish high performance athletes ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where Kenyans will dominate endurance events as usual.”

Donnie Campbell said:

“The consistent high altitude is likely to be brutal, quite apart from the mountains and the 350 or so kilometres per week. We think we can give something back as well. Many people in Africa die in terrible pain, so we are looking to improve access to vital painkillers in Africa by raising money and awareness for the African Palliative Care Association.

“Although East Africa has some of the finest athletes on earth, good quality footwear is at a premium out there, so we will try and collect 500 pairs of trainers to take out there. We are working with Running Across Borders to do this. Please contribute if you can by donating your old but useable trainers to Footworks, 14 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh.”

News released by sportscotland


Edinburgh resident Murray, who grew up in Kenya, shot to fame in 2011 when he ran 4290km from John O’Groats to the Sahara desert, and in 2012 he won the North Pole Marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, and completed a world record seven ultra-marathons on seven continents in under a week. He recently worked for the Scottish Government as their first Physical Activity Champion, promoting regular exercise for health.  Campbell is the current Scottish 100km champion, and previously ran 184 miles from Glasgow to Skye non-stop.

Contact: Karen McCall 0141 534 6588 / 07787 151015 or

Or Andrew Murray 07791303980

The challenge can be followed via / @docandrewmurray and

Donations are gratefully received at whilst shoes can be handed in or sent to “Footworks, 14-17 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh, EH10 4HN.