Murray set to take on deadly desert

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The Namib desert is widely considered one of the most beautiful and most savage places on earth, which means former Borders doctor Andrew Murray has to run across it.

With the world’s highest sand dunes, and lowest rainfall, it is unsurprising that no-one has tried it before, but it’s a task that Murray and fellow endurance athlete Donnie Campbell find hard to turn down. 

The duo have been challenged by veteran expedition leader David Scott to take on a challenge billed The Namib 550, which starts on February 2.

The event takes in 550 inhospitable kilometres, almost entirely on sand, and the runners hope to exit the desert 10 days later.

That amounts to more than 50km a day over the dunes.

Former BGH doctor Murray, who runs for Merrell UK, told us: “Having run all over the world, I can say, hands down, the Namib desert is the most fantastic place we could have chosen.

“It is not just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s also a massive science experiment.  It is up to ourselves to involve the right people and do the right training to counter the extreme terrain, temperatures, and challenges that emerge.

“We’ll likely be drinking about 10.5 litres of water a day. We’ll also look to promote the value of regular exercise.

“We’re not asking people to run ultra-marathons. Just 150 minutes a week of any exercise, for example walking, adds seven years to your life, and even five minutes’ exercise gets the happy hormones going – each step is a step to health and happiness.”

The event will be supported by expedition organisers Sandbaggers, while Edinburgh based film-makers BigShot Productions will accompany the expedition, documenting it.

Following the expedition, some local community work will see a donation of medical equipment from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and sports gear from Merrell and others that has been requested by local communities along the Kuiseb river. 

Campbell and Murray are no strangers to extreme endurance challenges, with Murray, 34 – who now works as a medical doctor with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, as well as with SportScotland’s Institute of Sport – having run a phenomenal 2,659 miles from John O’Groats to the Sahara, as well as winning races at the North Pole, Antarctica and Outer Mongolia.

Campbell, 30, a former Royal Marine Commando who works as a personal trainer, once ran 184 miles from Glasgow to Skye non-stop.

But this latest challenge is not for just any fitness fanatic.

Leader David Scott said: “The desert will always find a way to break you down and can kill you, if you let it.

“There is no water along our route in the Namib and it supports no human life.   Proper preparation, professional support and a definite plan of action will be essential not just for the success of this endeavour, but for the very survival of its members.

“On an expedition to Namibia earlier this year I was struck by the sheer beauty of this harsh landscape and, studying the maps by the fire one evening with my South African colleague, we hatched a plan to deliver a team of runners across its length from south to north – a world first.

“It subsequently took less than 10 minutes to convince Donnie and Andrew to take on this epic feat, and we are now soundly on our way to heading out there and getting on with the job. 

“We are indebted to Bert Jukes and sponsor Lyprinol for believing in this expedition, and supporting it from the outset.

“The chances of failure are ever-present, but I know the boys will fight a precise campaign, giving it everything they have.”