Tomorrow morning, Scottish ultra-runner Donnie Campbell will set off on a self-propelled Munro Round. He plans to run, cycle and kayak between the 282 mountains and has set himself an ambitious schedule to try and beat Stephen Pyke's 2010 record of 39 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes.
Starting on the Isle of Mull, Donnie will be relying on a support team of friends who will run and cycle sections with him. He will then track east towards Lochaber until he reaches Mt Keen. After this, he'll head south-west to the most southerly Munro, Ben Lomond, where he'll do an about turn and head up the west coast, finishing sometime in September.
Before Stephen Pyke's record, Charlie Campbell had held the top spot for a decade and taking into account the amount of time needed and the punishing schedule, it's no surprise that few ultra-distance runners take on the challenge. Donnie has the right sort of CV, however; he's represented Team GB at the World Trail Championships in 2016, completed a winter Ramsay Round and a Rigby & Mullardoch Round.
We caught up with Donnie and asked him about his preparation and the logistics surrounding his attempt:
Have you done a Munro round before?
No, I have not done all the Munro's. The reason behind the Munro Round is I have always wanted to bag them all this is just the added extra motivation to go and bag the very remote and boggy Munro's.
How long have you been planning this round, and can you tell us a bit about the route you're taking and the logistical/support arrangements you've put in place?
I have been planning this Munro Round for over 12 months. Decided last summer that If I want to bag all the Munros then I need to give myself some motivation otherwise I would just keep running my favourite hills, also it seems like a good way to spend a summer holiday! I am following a similar route to Stephen Pykes who holds the record for a self-propelled round which is an incredible 39 days. So I start on Ben More on the Isle of Mull, then I head up to Lochaber and head East through Laggan to Dalwhininie then onto Cairngorms, MT Keen and Lochnagar. Then I start heading South West through Glenshee, Blair Atholl, Glen Lyon towards Crianlarich, from there I fetch the outlier of Ben Chonzie, Ben Vorlich & Stuc a Chrion before bagging the Munro's around Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum then heading south to the most southern Munro Ben Lomond. From there I basically make my way up the west coast finishing up on Ben Hope in Sutherland.
For logistics and support, I will have a support crew following me by road in my motorhome where I will sleep each night, refuel etc and they will also shuttle my bike about so I can follow a more linear route.
How much stuff will you be carrying on the hills, and could you give us a rough kit list?
Well, it depends on how long I am away from my support crew, but some of the basics will be:
GPS Watch (Suunto 9) which will have the routes loaded up onto it to make navigation easier but will also be carrying my phone with the OS Maps downloaded on it for back up.
- Survival Bag
- Food & Hydration Active Root, Cliff Bars, Shot Blocks etc
- Lightweight Water Proof Jacket (Salomon S/LAB Motionfit 360) & Trouser (Salomon S/LAB Motionfit 360 pant)
Climbing individual Munros on multiple trips must be very different from linking them all together: how much of the round is going to be new ground for you?
Yeah, not having the restriction of having to get back to where you started has opened up so many interesting options. There is going to be a lot of new ground for me, my anticipation is it's going to be a lot of bog and heather!
How much reccying have you been doing?
A fair bit, I would have obviously liked to have done more but the Covid pandemic and the lockdown meant I was unable to do all that I wanted. However, I have done the bits I really wanted to do and feel confident in the route I have planned.
Why go self-propelled?
As running it all would just take too long to be away from work and I don't think my wife would have been too happy with that! It seems like a really cool challenge and a great way to see Scotland.
Which areas or sections of the route are you most looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to getting to my home Munro's of the Cuillins. Once I have done them I will only have less than 80 Munro's to go. They are the ones that worry me the most as well as they are the most technical and they are probably the only Munro's that if the weather is really windy and wet then I will have to wait or come back to them.
Which bits do you anticipate being most challenging, and why?
Apart from the Cuillins for the reason above, Day 10 from Glenshee to Blair Atholl as it is my longest day +80km with 5500m ascent, followed by two fairly big days after that!
So many long hard days back to back must take a toll: how are you planning to manage recovery and generally keeping your energy and momentum going?
I am planning on just trying to be patient and go easy so I don't do too much muscle damage and eat loads while moving to refuel. In the evening's, the focus will be on eating and sleeping!
Starting August 1st – if you're going to beat the record, and stick to your schedule, what sort of overall time are you aiming at?
I have a very ambitious schedule that will see me complete the round in under 33 days, to achieve this I will need everything to go my way and for the weather not to be too Scottish! Realistically with a challenge like this so many things can happen so my main goal is just to complete it and if I can beat Stephen Pyke's record then that would be the icing on top of the cake.
Why did you choose to raise money for the Red Cross in particular?
As there is so much suffering and poverty in the world, I recently saw a report on child poverty in Yemen and how it is getting worse as Charities have lost a lot of funds due to the Covid Pandemic, it was so heartbreaking and I felt helpless.
Donnie is sponsored by Salomon, Suunto, Run4It, Active Root, Red Bull and Teko Socks and without their backing, a self-propelled Munro Round would not be possible.