A former professional rugby player has completed an impressive hill running challenge for charity. Gordon “Gordy” Bulloch, who gained 75 caps as a hooker for Scotland, climbed to the summit of his local hill, Dumgoyne, in the Campsie Fells, 24 times in 72 hours.
The aim of 24in72 was to reach the total height of Everest (8848m), which he did on Sunday afternoon, and raise awareness and funds for MND charity, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
After completing the multiple hill climbs, Gordy said: “I feel a mix of achievement. I was very pleased to have finished because I was starting to feel quite tired.
“I also felt a wee bit of pride that a little idea of mine had grown into something so worthwhile.”
So far, Gordy’s 27in72 challenge has raised more than £6,200 for a charity that is close to his heart. The 43-year-old played rugby alongside Doddie Weir early in his international career. Last year, Doddie was diagnosed with MND.
Gordy said: “I had watched Doddie play for Scotland from the Murrayfield terraces and then had the honour of playing alongside him. My 24in72 was my way of doing a little bit to help him and his foundation with the goal of raising awareness about MND and also raising funds for research into the condition.”
24in72 on Dumgoyne hill
Dumgoyne, which offers a backdrop to Lowland whisky distillery Glengoyne, is a well-known landmark – and a popular walk – in the rolling countryside north of Glasgow. The volcanic plug has a summit of 427m and a vertical gain of about 360m (it does depend on the route you take). If you start at the roadside, the average ascent is around 400m.
Although the climb starts on gradually ascending lower slopes from the roadside, most of the hike is steep. In places, the hillside sits at an angle of 45-degrees making it a short but stiff climb.
It is a favourite hill for Gordy, who has a PB of base to top of 23.23. He said: “After a professional rugby career and then some years as an amateur player I didn’t really do any sport. I don’t think I knew what sport to do after spending so much time on the rugby field but, obviously, then the weight crept on.
“One evening in the pub a friend, Steve, prodded me in the stomach and said I needed to take some action to get fit again and that’s when he suggested a walk up Dumgoyne.
“I’d lived opposite the hill for years and with amazing views of it but I’d never been up it. Not even once!”
The first ascent of Dumgoyne was on the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen’s Coronation in 2012.
Gordon said: ‘Steve said there would be a beacon on Dumgoyne summit to mark the Queen’s coronation and I decided, after a few drinks, that’s what I would do the next day.”
That first summit was to become the start of a new sport for Gordon.
He said: “I decided after that Dumgoyne walk that I wanted to get fitter and so I went up the hill as many times as I could each week. I think I now average about three times each week.
“It helped me to get back in shape and lose weight – and now hill running and running in general is what I do to stay fit. I love it.”
The 24in72 challenge
Gordy started his 24 Dumgoyne climbs on Thursday June 21 (the summer solstice) at 7pm. He completed five ascents – fast walking up and running downhill – before stopping for the night.
On Friday, between 10am and 6pm he completed another nine ascents.
Saturday saw him do seven ascents between 10am and 5pm.
He did the final three climbs on Sunday. Gordy already knew he had passed the total height of the world’s tallest mountain, but he still went on to the top.
He said: “As well as climbing the height of Everest over this challenge, that 24th climb of the weekend was my 500th ascent ever.
“I did a total of almost 9000m during the weekend and over 9km distance and although I felt tired by the end of most days I was surprised by how good I felt, too. I only really suffered a few sore toes.
“I wondered half-way through if I could have done 25 climbs in 50 hours but really it as the Everest height goal I was aiming for.
“Also, because I spaced out the hikes over several days it allowed friends and family to join me for what was a very sociable and enjoyable challenge.
“Dumgyone has come to be a big part of my life and it has been amazing to do a fund-raising challenge in a place that means so much to me.”
Climbing the 22nd ascent
I joined Gordy and friends for his 22nd climb of the challenge on the gloriously sunny Sunday. A busy weekend meant I was only able to do one summit although I felt I might have had a few in my legs.
Gordy had climbed only three of his 24 ascents on his own and on every other hike he had friends and family with him.
His dog Ted did four climbs with him.
Despite it being Gordy’s 22nd climb and having completed an accumulative ascent of more than 8200m already, the pace was fairly fast.
A group of six of us fast-hiked up, including Steve, who was on his seventh ascent of the weekend. A staff member from the distillery, also called Gordon, joined us. It was only his third ever climb of the hill.
He said: “I think I need to make more of an effort to climb this hill, especially as it’s right behind my workplace. I have been inspired by what Gordy is doing and I know it will do me good to get out on the hill more often.”
After a summit photo, we descended at a running pace right back to the distillery. Gordon said: “Glengoyne has been a great support for my challenge and they have helped with prizes for a raffle and generally raising awareness of what I am doing. I am very grateful.”
As well as donations and sponsorship, Glengoyne supported the challenge with a raffle and Gordy’s family asked people to enter a competition to guess how many steps he took over the challenge.
He added: “You know, there are times when you have an idea and you are not sure whether it is possible or what people will think but then you say it out loud and it starts to become a thing.
“It was like this with 24in72. I had been thinking about it for ages and how I could raise money for charity. Now, reflecting on what I have done, I feel very proud. It has been a fantastic weekend.”