ULTRA-MARATHON man Andrew Murray has completed his Scotland to Sahara challenge – a full week ahead of schedule.
The 30-year-old will return to his Melrose home on Tuesday after running 2,650 miles in just 78 days – an average of more than 34 miles a day – in what is thought to be a world record.
The GP was due to reach Erg Chebbi in Morocco this Monday, but added extra miles to each of his daily runs and managed to finish a week early.
Speaking to TheSouthern from Africa as he prepared for the long journey home by car, Dr Murray said: “The target of 85 days covered me if anything had gone wrong, but it didn’t so I upped the mileage towards the end.
“It was an amazing feeling to see the Sahara Desert and finish –it was one of my best memories.”
A former doctor at health centres in Galashiels and Hawick and Borders General Hospital, Andrew started his epic expedition on November 8 in John o’ Groats.
It was less-than-perfect timing to experience some of the worst weather to hit the UK in decades.
However, he still rates the Borders as one of the most memorable sections of his trek.
“Coming through the Borders was definitely one of the best moments,” Andrew said.
“Running with 50 other people to Borders General Hospital on the fun run and visiting places I had worked in was great. I still have a home in Melrose I intend to live in. It is great to see a running club started up by Ian Reilly since the fun run and to get messages from people in the Borders saying that they have been inspired to start running.
“The Borders is absolutely beautiful and it was one of the highlights to see the Eildon Hills.”
With support from the likes of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Sir Steve Redgrave and the Queen, he moved south, battling more extreme snow and low temperatures in England and northern France during December.
There was no rest on Christmas Day as Andrew ran 38 miles in Spain, where the hills proved “absolutely knackering”, although he did enjoy his Christmas dinner with fiancee, Jennie.
The doctor made it to Africa this month, having to eat enough calories for two-and-a-half men each day and coping with more wintry weather, before making his incredibly fast finish.
Andrew added: “The variety of scenery was amazing and we’ve raised over £51,000 for the Yamaa Trust so far. The trust’s sole aim is the amelioration of poverty in Mongolia which is a fantastic cause and one very close to my heart. I’ll keep on busting a gut to reach that £100,000.
“The physical challenge was huge. I’ve been through some tough weeks with knee and Achilles tendon injuries, but I think the toughest part was mental, having to get up and run 30 odd miles even when the weather was awful and everything hurt.
“It’s been wonderful to have so many people help with fundraising along the way and the support I’ve had throughout the challenge has been overwhelming.”
Andrew will walk instead of run down the aisle to wed Jennie on February 19 in Edinburgh.
As for his next challenge, Andrew, told us: “I am just thinking about the wedding now, but I do have a few ideas for my next expedition.”
His efforts were recognised by Melrose Tennis Club, where he is currently singles champion.
Ian Reilly of the Gibson Park club added: “It just defies belief what he has achieved.
“Everyone at the club is very proud of Andrew and are very glad he joined the club during his stay in Melrose.”
Tennis coaching, coffee and cakes will be served up this Sunday from 2pm to 4pm at Melrose TC to raise funds for the Yamaa Trust.
To donate to Andrew’s cause, visit www.scotland2sahara.com