A Scottish doctor due to defend his title in the gruelling 2017 Genghis Khan Ice Marathon held in temperatures of minus 34C in Outer Mongolia has revealed his secret training tips ahead of next week’s race.
Dr Andrew Murray, an endurance athlete who works as a sports medicine doctor at the University of Edinburgh, who won the men’s inaugural 26.2 mile (42km) race in 3 hours and 7 minutes last year, said he had learned from past mistakes and had fine-tuned his techniques.
His key “weapons” for the race in one of the most remote locations on Earth include a plastic card normally stashed in his wallet, taking two ski masks, specially-commissioned running shoes a size too big complete with spikes...and extra pairs of socks and Jelly Babies squirrelled away in his gloves.
The race which is hosted in the Terelj National Park starting on 25 January and finishes on 31 January. It is held in brutally cold conditions involves running along frozen rivers and rugged mountain valley terrain while special patrols with huskies guard competitors from wild wolves roaming nearby.
Competitors will also attend two Burns Night suppers - one with local Mongolian people and an official one in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.
“Experience is the best teacher. If you’ve done something before you know how to go about things the next time round.
“One of the first things to tackle was how to stop my ski mask misting up and freezing while I was running. You have to cover every inch of flesh because it is very, very cold, “ said Dr Murray who is competing to raise money for a number of charities, including legacy work for projects in Outer Mongolia.
“Then it hit me. If I took two ski masks and a plastic card I could scratch away at the ice on one while I’ve got the other one on and still running, sort of like de-icing a car windscreen.”
Dr Murray, 35, Merrell UK ambassador, worked with the sport company’s in-house product design team to produce a running shoe which could cope with Outer Mongolia’s extreme weather conditions.
“I wanted to do something about my footwear so I ran a mile outside trying out three different pairs and eventually came to the conclusion that I’d get a pair designed for me which had spikes and were a size too big and just wear extra socks.”
Training involved running in locations such as the Pentland Hills, Arthur’s Seat, and the Highlands. But Dr Murray has recently cut down from around 130 miles a week to 95 miles.
“My wife Jennie gave birth to our second daughter, Franscesca, four months ago. We also have Nina, who is two, so there is a lot more to do.
“But I do believe in terms of preparation it is a case of ‘quality rather than quantity’. Mentally, what I do is break the race down, ‘fragmentalise’ it down to the next bend in the river or the next landmark. Having done the race before it will be more relaxing than before and I’m more likely to do well.”
Last year eight of the eleven competitors who completed the marathon were Scottish.
Brandnation and race spokesman Will Booth said: “Scotland’s highlands provide runners with the perfect training camp for this race, helping them acclimatise to Mongolia’s extreme weather.”