Ian Stewart runs 58 Munros in Cairngorms National Park
It took Ian Stewart, of Aviemore, five days and 22 hours to run to the summits of all 58 Munros in the Cairngorms National Park. He did the challenge to raise funds for a friend Dave Hollinger, who suffered a brain stem stroke while skiing in Aberdeenshire with his family in 2018.
Ian’s Cairngorm ‘Parkrun’
Ian, who is the co-founder of Trail Running Scotland with his wife Laura, loves a challenge. He finished seventh in the Cape Wrath Ultra in 2018 and last year he was a finisher in the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race.
His latest major feat saw was a continuous run to the 58 Munros – mountains in Scotland that are more than 3000ft tall – that are located in the Cairngorms National Park. It was Laura that came up with the name for the run, the Cairngorm Parkrun.
It’s thought that Ian is the first person to do a one-off continuous round of these Munros. See his route.
He started the run on Friday July 10 at 6am at Glen Mark and headed to his first Munro, Mount Keen, which is the most easterly of all 282 Munros.
He took a broadly anti-clockwise route, heading west to the Drumochter hills, then to the Monadhliath Mountains and then back east to Cairn Gorm summit where he finished on July 15.
The route extended to 420kms with a massive 20,500m of total ascent (almost three times the height of Everest). There was a small amount of tarmac running during the run to join up some of the mountains but most of it was on trails and rough terrain.
Ian slept for 31 hours, split into short naps most nights or where there was a convenient road crossing so he could make use of a support vehicle for a quick lie down. Laura and Ian’s friend Joe Mann looked after the support.
Planning – then running
Ian, 37, describes the planning as the toughest part of the supported challenge. He says: “It took me a long time to work out what I felt would be the ideal route. I had to do a few revisions, especially when I thought I had the perfect route but then realised I’d missed out two Munros! So, the planning felt like a lot of hard work.”
Because Ian lives in the Cairngorms, he was able to do some training during lockdown, however he was not able to recce all of the journey. He says: “I’d done all of the Munros at different times before but I wasn’t able to recce all of the route I planned to take.
“I was amazed that I stayed pretty much on schedule until the final day and a half when the wheels started to come off a bit. I lost about seven hours on my hoped-for schedule then but I was still very pleased to finish in under six days.
“Of course, it was a bit of an unknown as to how long it would take me and I didn’t know how I would feel after so long on my feet. I ended up with a very stiff ankle due to tendonitis in a shin – I couldn’t bend my ankle – and that slowed me down in the latter stages. My top speed for the last 10 hours was 4kph. But overall I felt okay over the distance.”
He did not suffer any other major physical issues and, surprisingly, his feet coped well. Ian, who wore inov-8 Terra Ultra shoes, says: “My feet swelled up a bit and I got a few tiny blisters but nothing too bad. My feet looked ugly by the end but I was lucky they did not cause me much trouble.”
Although the Cairngorm mountains are typically more rounded than the steep-side west coast mountains of Scotland, they do include some of the UK’s highest peaks, such as Ben Macdui, Braeriach and Cairn Toul. The terrain can be very rough and rocky as well.
Ian says: “There is a lot of rough ground to cover. It’s rocky with heather, grassy tussocks and peat hags. It wasn’t easy running at all.”
Visibility was good throughout most of the challenge and Ian said he was fortunate to have a good weather window. He says: “Only the last two Munros were done in wet conditions, so I felt lucky.”
Running for a good cause
The key to Ian’s success was careful pacing and making sure he ate enough. He was also motivated to keep going to raise funds for Dave. Ian worked with Dave at Glenmore Lodge before the accident. You can find out more about Dave and his recovery at Inspired by Dave.
You can donate to GoFundMe Cairngorm Run. Ian says: “I have raised more than £2000 so far and I’d like to try to raise more if possible. Dave is making some progress in his recovery and that is good to see. I would like to do as much as I can to help Dave, his wife Hannah and their family.”