Some like it hot, but they would have been disappointed by the mountains of Mongolia which hosted the Genghis Khan Marathon in temperatures of minus 32 Celsius.  The task was to navigate through a frozen river network, before enjoying traditional Mongolian and Scottish festivities.  Nowhere can beat Mongolia for the sense of space, and remoteness, almost immediately this grabs you as we drove out of the capital Ulan Bataar.

There were multiple purposes to my visit, first among them was to further experience the charm and culture of Mongolia, which I enjoy more every time I come.  The advantage of small race groups allow a genuine insight into daily life in temperatures that often dip below minus 40 in winter.

As the horn signified the start of the race, conditions were perfect. Minus 32, and very little wind was certainly a good deal more pleasant than a windy minus 40 might have.  I set off at around 3 hour pace, but quickly realised that underfoot conditions (either snowy on the trail, or very slippy on the ice river) meant I wouldn’t be under last year’s time of 3hrs 7 mins.

There were certainly more husky dogs and yaks than humans on the way round, and fortunately no sign of wolves.  The ice occasionally splintered a little beneath my feet, making me a little nervous until pop- though the ice my right foot went, plunging into the frozen river. Instinctively I pulled it straight out my heart racing.  Wet feet at minus 32 is no joke.  I waited to feel the wet and the cold, but it never came.  The gaiters on top of my Merrell All Out Terra Ice had stopped anything coming through.

Race Director, and Honorary Consul of Scotland to Mongolia Dave Scott (Sandbaggers UK), was there to greet competitors at the finish.  I finished ahead of Chris from England who had avoided wet feet.  A special mention should be given to Audrey McIntosh who finished the marathon having the week before ran in the extreme heat of the Namib desert.  Dave had some innovative recovery food lined up.  Haggis, as well as traditional Mongolian delicacies such as goat and potatoes could well be ideal for recovering for the rigors of a race. It is actually not bad from a technical perspective, with carbohydrates as well as protein.







From the north, we head back to Ulan Bataar- at least I don’t have to run back this year!



Very few places excite taxi drivers, but Mongolia seems to do that to everybody.  Pavel was chock full of questions, of a place that at this time of year is one of extreme beauty, temperatures and terrain.This time last year, I was running from the reputed birthplace of Genghis Khan to the modern day capital of Ulan Bataar, thinking it was much easier to run in the extreme cold, than it was to drive.  Temperatures had dipped to minus 45, and the driver had the blowtorch out to unfreeze the radiator and the diesel tank.  Interesting.

In addition to the longer run, last year I took place in the inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon.  There is something very special about running on a frozen system in Outer Mongolia, with a yurt as the base camp, and the howls of huskies ringing in our ears. Eleven hardy competitors took to the start line, and only two got a touch of frostbite in temperatures of minus 35 (it was a beautiful clear day).  The question I get asked most is what I wear.  In short I use lots of thin layers, including two pairs of gloves, and a special ice shoe with studs in the bottom (Merrell All Out Terra Ice).

So this year, I am joining Sandbaggers at the World’s Coldest Burns Supper, followed by the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon mark 2.  We will have the opportunity to catch up with old friends, and to update on the various Yamaa trust projects that are ongoing.

It will not be boring, and it will not be warm.


The finish line for a marathon is always one that requires considerable work to get there. I knew that reaching the finish at Loch Rannoch, having had the opportunity to run around the Loch in it’s full autumn glory would be extremely worthwhile, but I could not even think about the finish standing on the start line.

Loch Rannoch- thanks Jimbo Ramsay for the snap

My nose was sufficiently blocked that I simply could not breathe out of it. My pulse rate was a good 30 beats a minute faster than normal. Due to a minor packing issue I had not got any of my running kit with me, and had had to dive into the supermarket to pick up some food, and the other things I would need. I had slept very poorly due to an over-excited baby daughter and an early start.

The feeling of not wanting to put one foot in front of the other is familiar to me.  I often get it when it is raining outside, or I have not had a decent sleep. I usually combat it by putting some music on if these factors are at play, but in this case, chatting to a few friends that had done the course before and declared it a belter enthused me sufficiently to set off.

Scotland is a country like no other in terms of the way that light shifts depending on the season and time of day. The trees looked like a technicolour dreamcoat, partly draped in a variety of autumn shades.  Making a series of disgusting noises due to blocked sinuses, I set off up the road, leaving the eventual winner Lee to set the early pace. Running at a comfortable rate, and having no expectations allowed me to enjoy the colours, and the tremendous support of all the marshalls, and spectators.  I am pretty sure I snorted out a greater volume of bogeys than  volume of fluid I took in- drinking and eating pretty much needed me to stop.

The Loch Rannoch marathon has been absent from the calendar for 20 years. It is fantastic that it is back. Both this, and the Loch Katrine marathon offer fabulous courses, and excellent organisation. It is difficult not to enjoy a scenic run in such a setting.  The finish was a treat for me, the first that my daughter Nina had attended. As I rounded the final corner, there she was in her buggy, asleep on the job!  On a gently undulating course, I was pleased to finish in 2hrs 50, good enough for 2nd place overall although well behind Lee.   The added bonus was that in the absence of my usual trainers I had my shoes (Merrell All Out Terra Trail) for the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon in the car so wore them instead.  Perhaps more aggressive than my usual road shoes (All Out Rush) they were comfy and got the job done well.

Loch Rannoch finish with Nina

In terms of what is next, the big one is heading out to Mongolia in January. Ahead of this I will be doing a load of running and may pick up a race or two.



Running to from John O’Groats to the Sahara Desert last year, I was eating enough calories for a 700kg crocodile. I did a fair bit of reading about nutrition for runners. Here are some things I learned. Please feel free to add some tips/comments, and let me know if you disagree:

1) Eat loads of carbohydrate the day before. Things like bread, rice, pasta, potato, etc.

2) Have a smallish meal 2 or 3 hours before the start – a couple bananas or pop tarts are my usual.

3) Eat small amounts often during a race – jelly babies or a gel every 30 mins.

4) Carbohydrate is the body’s preferred fuel during a race – eat this rather than things with fat or protein.

5) DRINK TO THIRST. Drink if you are thirsty, don’t if you’re not.

6) Can get calories in a drink as well as food – 6% carbohydrate is about perfect.

7) Caffeine in the last hour or two of a race improves performance.

8) Eat plenty in the “golden hour” after you finish- you’ll recover better.

9) Take one immodium tablet at the start, it can prevent excess loo stops.

10) Make sure you are used to the food you will race with. Use it during training runs also.


RUN YOUR FIRST 5K, 10K OR MARATHON – with Donnie Campbell

Donnie  was once 17 stone and by his own admission could barely run a 5k, but in 2008 he took up running to lose weight and improve his fitness.  Since then he’s lost 4 stone but won a load of races. He is now a top Running Coach and Personal Trainer.

Doctor Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell

Doctor Andrew Murray and Donnie Campbell

Donnie  shares 10 tips that personally helped him get started.
Enter A Race

As this will give you a goal to aim for and will help keep you focused and motivated. It does not matter what race you enter as long as its a realistic target for your abilities, so for example if your goal is to run a marathon but have never ran before don’t enter a marathon thats 2-3 months away instead enter one maybe a year away as that will give you plenty time to train and build up for it. Check the Scottish racing calendar.
Get a Pair of Running Trainers

I am a big fan of natural/minimal running as I believe its a more efficient running style, however there is no evidence it reduce injury rate compared to Normal running trainers. So my best advice is find a pair of trainers you feel comfortable to run in and go for it.
Get Out And Run

No matter what your ability is everyone can run, if you are a beginner and can only run for a min, then run min, walk a min and repeat and gradually build it up.  Find an excuse to go running- visit a friend.  For more advice on training check out
Speed Work

No matter what race distance you are doing speed work is important, as if you keep increasing the distance and time you run and don’t do speed work your pace will become slower. I recommend at least 1 speed session depending on what race and fitness level you are at. The most common speed session are Interval, Fartlek, Hill repetitions and Tempo Run. Get more info and suggested speed session.
Join a Running Group or Get a Running Partner

There are so many benefits from joining a running group or having a running partner, it can increase motivation, adherence to your training, as you are less likely to miss a session if you have to cancel on someone. My favourite reason is it make running more sociable and there is nothing I like more than going away for a weekend with friends to run in the hills. Find a running club in your area
Change Eating Habits

The majority of people take up running to lose weight, and when it come to weight loss diet counts for 70% and exercise 30%, so even if you train like an athlete if you have a poor diet and consume more calories than you burn you will still struggle to lose weight. As a Personal Trainer I don’t like to put people on diets as there are only a short term measure, instead I like to try to change the eating habits and behaviours this way once they have lost the weight they will be able to keep it off as well. I recommend only making a few changes to your diet at any one time this way it increase the chance of sticking to it and less likely to fail and give up. So for example change semi skimmed milk to skimmed milk and white bread to brown bread, once this has become a habit then I would look at changing something else like limiting chocolate to one bar a week and so on.
Cross Train

Cross Training can be really effective as it can reduce the risk of  injury especially if you have just started running while still improving your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, also means in some case you can still train even when injured to maintain your fitness. Types of cross training I recommend for running are core workouts (stomach and back muscles), cycling, yoga, Pilates, swimming and walking, basically anything that get your heart above its resting rate and holds it there for at least 20min!
Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself can be a wee trick used to increase your adherence and motivation to your training. For example if you reach my target or even if I I don’t miss a training session this week I will reward myself with a new piece of running equipment. Also posting about your training on social media sites can be looked as a reward as your friend will likely congratulate you on your commitment to  your training. Note of caution don’t reward yourself after every run with a cake or a take way as this is a short cut to a bigger pair of jeans!!
Running is a Skill

Just like kicking a football running is a skill. Yes everyone can run but some people run more efficiently than others, just like everyone can kick a football but David Beckham can kick a football more effectively than me. So towards the end of a run try to run like you did at the start

Most Importantly have Fun, the best form of physical activity is the activity you enjoy doing as you are more likely to do it more regularly, so if you enjoy running excellent if not find a sport or physical activity you do enjoy doing. Running decreases risk of dying prematurely by 30% so you’re doing yourself a massive favour by getting out there