Doctor to research best endurance athletes in epic trip

Dr Andrew Murray with specialist running shoes destined for Africa. Picture: Nigel Darling
Dr Andrew Murray with specialist running shoes destined for Africa. Picture: Nigel Darling
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An endurance runner is to cover hundreds of miles through the mountains of East Africa in a epic challenge – in a bid to unlock the secret of the continent’s running success.

Sport scientist Dr Andrew Murray will take on a gruelling ultra marathon every day ­during the 18-day trip.

Andrew, 32, from Newington, will join forces with former Marine Commando Donnie Campbell as they run up and down Mount Kenya and ­Kilimanjaro, through wildlife-filled game reserves, and tropical rainforests – all the while training with world-record holders and world champions.

A general practitioner and sports and exercise medicine doctor with Sportscotland, Andrew hopes to unlock the secrets to the success of East Africans – home to the world’s best endurance athletes.

The information will be used to support Scottish middle and long-distance runners ahead of the 2013 World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

He said: “We are trying to do two things – to work out what makes these Kenyan runners so talented and to take on some epic challenges 

“It’s all about learning from Africa – 66 of the best 100 marathon runners in the world are from Kenya. The question is, is it genetic or down to other factors?

“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.”

Originally from Kenya himself, Andrew – who moved to Edinburgh when he was eight-years-old – has been running up to 150 miles in training.

The expedition will take place at significant altitude, constantly remaining above the height of Ben Nevis. 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 – the single most concentrated, production line of talent in world sport.

Donnie said: “The consistent high altitude is likely to be ­brutal, quite apart from the mountains and the 350 or so kilometres per week.”

In addition to their fact-­finding endurance challenge, the pair also aim to raise money to improve access to vital painkillers in Africa by raising money and awareness for the African Palliative Care Association.

Andrew and Donnie have also joined forces with the charity Running Across ­Borders to collect as many pairs of quality shoes as possible, which are at a premium in East Africa.

Already, more than 500 pairs are waiting for collection at Footworks, which specialises in barefoot and minimalist ­running shoes.