Endurance runner Dr Andrew Murray can fill a 20 minute coffee break with a story the likes of which you are unlikely to hear almost anywhere else.
The 35-year-old has been to parts of the world few will ever reach and witnessed some amazing sites.
During his most recent adventure he passed the Edward Bohlen shipwreck, partly submerged in sand and suck miles in land, during his arduous but ultimately success trek across the Namib Desert.
Back in the more comfortable surroundings of his Edinburgh home the former Borders GP thinks back to January 2011 when he first hit the h eadlines after running from John O’Groats to the Sahara Desert.
“I have fond memories of the Borders leg of the challenge. Coming through the region was definitely one of the best moments,” he recalled.
“Running with 50 other people to Borders General Hospital on the fun run and visiting places I had worked in was great.”
Since then Andrew has become one of Scotland’s most successfully endurance runners. All this would not be possible without the grassroots support of his devoted wife Jennie, family and friends. Running partner former Royal Marine Commando Donnie Campbell, Dave Scott, the legendary Scottish Exhibition organiser and his Sandbaggers team, have also been vital sources of support.
It is no surprise to learn that as we settle into a new year Andrew is once again off on his travels. Today he joins a small group of hardy runners taking part in the inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon. The runners, around 12 in total, will battle -40C temperatures as they run the 26.2 miles along a stretch of the frozen Tuul gol river in Mongolia.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the years to visit some spectacular places with my running and this is probably the one that I am most looking forward to, not just in terms of the drama of the scenery but also the hostility of the environment but I have some four legged friends to help me,” he said.
“There is no escaping the dangerous nature of this challenge. Runners won’t be simply fighting the intense cold. This particular stretch of the baron Mongolian landscape is heavily populated by wolves, so the route will be patrolled by teams of huskies to ensure safety, and that supplies get through.”
The conclusion of the marathon does not signal the end of this man’s Mongolian adventure. After 26.2 miles running along a frozen river Andrew will then embark on one of his most physically demanding challenges to date, running 100-miles in 24-hour from the region of Genghis Khan’s birth, through the Terelj national park, to the modern day capital of Ulan Bator.
Even an undertaking on this scale in such extreme conditions doesn’t appear to faze him. However there is more to this trip than the physical demands placed on Andrew and his fellow runners.
“It’s a unique and very diverse culture,” he expanded.
“You learn a lot about yourself but you learn a lot more about other folks. We will be looking to take over there the Scots hospitality and Robert Burns optimises that so we are really looking forward to meeting some senior Mongolian officials including their ex-president and many Olympians at the Ulan Batar Burns Supper which will be a really exciting occasion that we can share.”
If all that wasn’t enough the event organisers have decided to take a sport synonymous with Scotland to another level. St Andrews is famous for its Old Course. While in Mongolia Andrew plans to take on the Cold Course creating for a day the Wild Golf World Series.
Mongolia has many things. However golf courses are few and far between but there is one in the Terelj National Park. A spectacular course in summer it will be a altogether different proposition in winter but nevertheless Andrew, who is currently studying a PHD in golf, is looking forward to playing a few holes on Mongolia’s only upland course before playing some wild golf on the frozen river cutting holes through a surface similar to a curling rink, hit some balls through them and catching some fish!
He’ll even take time in his role as a medical practitioner Andrew to meet with the Mongolian health minister to share ideas and discuss the progression of projects set up during previous visits.
“I don’t quite know what will happen but I can tell you it will be interesting. Having people from Scotland and other parts of the world coming together in Mongolia in winter tells me it will be one that won’t be forgotten,” he concluded.