Donnie Campbell on Aonach Eagach above Glen Coe

Donnie Campbell on Aonach Eagach above Glen Coe

Runner Donnie Campbell has completed a record-breaking round of all Scotland’s munros.

The Inverness athlete beat the existing fastest time for a ‘self-propelled’ round of the 3,000ft mountains by more than seven days.

The 35-year-old endurance runner completed his ascent of the final and most northerly munro Ben Hope at 5.02am on Wednesday, in a total time of 31 days 23 hours.

His challenge involved running 1,422km (883 miles), with 126,143m (413,854ft) of ascent, the equivalent of more than 14 ascents of Everest. He also cycled 1,443km (896 miles), climbing 14,251m (46,755ft) during his journeys between the 282 munros, the listed Scottish peaks of 3,000ft or higher.

He even had to ascend one peak twice, having realised he had missed the actual summit when he checked his trace.

The previous record was set by Stephen Pyke, known as Spyke, 10 years ago, though he had to summit one extra peak as there were officially 283 munros at the time, before a re-evaluation following surveys. Campbell’s aim was to complete the round in 33 days.

He said: “Spyke’s record was an incredible time but I wanted to push my limits and see what I could achieve. The 33 days was simply the outcome of my planning.

“I knew my schedule was very ambitious but it excited and scared me. With the right conditions, I thought it might be achievable.

“I feel very pleased to have finished ahead of schedule and in less than 32 days. It also feels great to have done a munro round finally.

“I had always wanted to do a round but I needed the motivation to do them all, especially the ones that I thought were very remote or very boggy.”

Campbell celebrates on Ben Hope with his wife Rachael

Campbell celebrates on Ben Hope with his wife Rachael

No motorised transport was used although he did have a back-up motorhome driven by his wife Rachael, in which he slept each night.

Campbell started his munro round bid on 1 August on Ben More, on Mull. He then kayaked to Glenfinnan, before traversing the Cairngorms to reach the most easterly munro Mount Keen.

His next target was the southern Highlands, including the most southerly munro Ben Lomond.

He returned to the North-West of Scotland, with the most westerly munro of Sgùrr na Banachdaich on Skye – the island of his birth – and a finish on Ben Hope in Sutherland.

The running coach said at the finish: “It is great to have done it, and I am really pleased I don’t have to run again today.

“Doing all the munros is something I had dreamed about for a long time and for it to finally come true in a fastest time feels surreal.”

He said his toughest days were some of his final days of the round. On Monday, he ticked off 18 munros in the north-west Highlands, from Slioch near Kinlochewe to Ben Wyvis near Dingwall.

The runner kayaked between Mull and the mainland

The runner kayaked between Mull and the mainland

After only 30 minutes of sleep, he then cycled to Am Faochagach in Wester Ross, and then completed another 10 munros to finish on Ben Hope.

On day 29, he was also forced to climb the same munro twice.

He said: “It was annoying when I realised at the bottom of Moruisg in Glencarron that I needed to go up again.

“It was my own fault due to cloud and a lack of concentration at the top.

“I reached a large cairn which I thought was the summit but my tracker showed later that I needed to go another 200m to a small pile of stones.

“It wasn’t the end of the round or the record but it did mean another 90 minutes of climbing and some 600m of ascent on the end of an already long day.”

The hardest time for the athlete was the 17th day when he said he felt fatigued both physically and mentally.

He said: “This was the lowest point, I think. I’d been going hard and it felt relentless and I was only around halfway.

“I’d just done several long and tough days back-to-back and I was questioning what I was doing.

“I’d been busting a gut for so long but I couldn’t see the end.

“At no point did I think I would give up but I had to work hard to keep going. I told myself it wouldn’t last forever and I simply focused on the routine of eat, run, sleep and do it again.

“Of course, it did get easier mentally the closer I got to the finish.”

He said he plans to put his feet up and get back to his day job coaching other runners. He said: “It feels great to have finished and I am sure it will all sink in at some point.

‘I still can’t really believe it is over after all the planning and then all the days in the mountains.

“I am looking forward to a rest and being back home. I want to thank my wife and all my friends who have helped and supported me on the round. I could not have finished it without them.”

Donnie Campbell, left, with previous record holder Stephen Pyke

Donnie Campbell, left, with previous record holder Stephen Pyke

Donnie Campbell also set up a justgiving page to raise cash for the British Red Cross Society which, at the time of writing, had pledges of more than £9,000.

Campbell’s new fastest time for the munro round was 31 days 23 hrs 2 mins, comfortably ahead of Spyke’s 39 days 9 hrs 6 mins.

The new record holder was the winner of the British Trail Championships in 2016 when he ran a record-breaking time for the 53-mile Highland Fling. He has also crossed the Namib Desert on foot and run from Glasgow to Skye.

In 2015, he was sixth in the Mont Blanc 80k Skyrunner World Series Race and the winner of the Iznik Ultra Race. In 2018, he took third place in the Mont Blanc 80k.

He is founder of Get Active Running and is sponsored by Salomon Running, Run4It, Active Root, Suunto, Red Bull and Teko Socks.

The munros are 282 Scottish mountains listed by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. They are all 3,000ft (914.4m) or higher and are named after Sir Hugh Munro, who first produced hill lists of the nation’s peaks in 1891.

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