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David celebrates 50th birthday with a year of outdoors challenges

Written by Fiona

December 11 2017

When David Venables turned 50 he decided to make it a year of sporting challenges. He explains: “I set myself lots of challenges because I wanted to do something that creates memories. Another reason is that physical fitness can sometimes seem so transient and fragile and I want to make the most of it while I have it and not look back with regret.

“In addition, my day job running a biotech company of very smart scientists is very cerebral, very intense – for example, we completed a £5.2million fund-raise in 2017 – and involves a lot of travel, so outside of work I need a good counterbalance. Strenuous physical activity in wild and remote places is perfect for that and helps me maintain good mental, as well as physical, well-being.

“Plus, while I am being active in the outdoors I can think through work challenges.”

David’s 50th year of challenges

His birthday “treat” was a 50km mountain bike ride with friends near his home in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, on December 17, 2016.

In January he created his own challenge while in America called the Florida Keys Challenge. On Day one he cycled 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West; day two he ran the Key West half-marathon and on day three he cycled 100 miles back from Key West to Key Largo.

His next challenge was cycling in Majorca over six days in April. His total mileage reached 374 miles and 45,309ft of climbing (that’s 1.5 times the height of Everest!).

The Celtman Extreme.

Two months later, David took part in his “race of the year” the Celtman Extreme Triathlon. The race comprises a 3.4k swim in Loch Shieldaig, a 202k ride on a very hilly road course through the Highlands and a run of 42k over two Munros.

David said: “My aim was to made the cut off for the blue t-shirt, which meant reaching transition two after the bike ride by a certain point. I wanted to do this more than actually finishing. I did both in the end but it was very tough.

“The condition on the day was brutal with rain and high winds. The race organisers decided to close the high-level run route over the Munros and while I did make the cut off I then did the lower-level run course like everyone else. That was enough after a challenging bike ride. I was delighted to finish.”

In August, David set himself a swimming challenge. He entered the 5k Great Swim in Loch Lomond. He said: “This was the furthest I’ve ever swum so it was a good challenge.”

Cycling in the Dolomites with Marmot Tours.

One of the many summits of the Italian mountain passes.

Between a swim challenge and his next event, a run challenge, David headed to the Dolomites on a cycling holiday. The tour including riding many mountain cols. Over six days of cycling his total mileage was 338 miles and 54,000ft of climbing (that’s more than 1.8 times the height of Everest!).

A dram at the start of the Dramathon.

The run challenge came the following month in the shape of the new Dramathon. The race of around marathon distance took place on Speyside with a course that run between whisky distilleries. David said: “I had been unable to run long distance since 2012 so this was a challenge to see if I was recovered enough to start doing long distances again.” He finished the race with a big smile and a second place in his age group (see there is an advantage to being over 50!).

Taking part in the Dramathon.

50 Munros for his 50th year

Behind the scenes of all these events, David was also ticking off Munros. These are mountains in Scotland with a summit of at least 3000ft. He wanted to climb 50 different summits in his 50th year. He finished this late last month on Mayar and Driesh at Glen Clova.

David said: “The challenge was that these 50 Munros had to be Munros I had not done before.

Between May 12 and November 27, David summited:


Munro one of 50.

David’s 8 munro day: Ben Nevis to Stob Ban.

The Mamores traverse.

Ben Alder six-in-a-day Munro circuit.

David’s 50 Munros:

Spidean Coire nan Clach

Beinn Eighe Ruadhstac Mor

Mullach nan Coirean

Stob Ban

Am Bodach

Stob Coire a Chairn

Na Gruagaichean

Binnein Mor

Sgurr Eilde Mor


Stob Diamh

Beinn Sgulaird

Carn Mor Dearg

Aonach Mor

Aonach Beag

Sgurr Choinnich Mor

Stob Coirean Laoigh

Stob Choire Claurigh

Stob Ban

Beinn Bheoil

Beinn Eibhinn

Aonach Beag

Geal Charn

Carn Dearg

Stob a’Choire Mheadhoin

Stob Coire Easain

Chno Dearg

Stob Coire Sgriodain

Beinn a’Chlachair

Geal Charn

Creag Pitridh


A Mharconaich

Beinn Udlamain

Sgairneach Mhor

Meall Chuaich

Carn Liath

Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Creag Meagaidh

Beinn a’Chaorainn

Beinn Teallach

Carn Sgulain


Carn Dearg

Carn na Caim

A’Bhuidheanach Bheag

Geal Charn

Beinn Fhionnlaidh



What a great year of challenges for David’s 50th. How have other outdoors enthusiasts celebrated a significant birthday year?

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