Interview: Donnie Campbell smashes fastest Munro round record
Scottish runner Donnie Campbell has set an astonishing new Munros record to finish all 282 mountains over 3000ft (914.4m) in Scotland in 31 days, 23 hours and two minutes. He spoke to me soon after reaching his final Munro, Ben Hope, today.
- Donnie, 35, of Inverness, completed a non-stop Munro round in 31 days, 23 hours
- 8 days faster than the previous record
- Munros are the 282 Scottish mountains with a summit of more than 3000ft
- He ran and “power-hiked” a total of 1422km and cycled and kayaked in between.
Donnie, who finished at 5:02am today on Ben Hope, the most northerly of the Munros, said: “I was speechless. There were no words to describe how I felt.
“Finishing was something I had dreamed about for 12 months and for it to finally come true in a fastest time felt surreal.”
It was Donnie’s first round of Munros.
History of a non-stop Munros round
The Munros were first defined and listed by the late Sir Hugh Munro in his Munro’s Tables of 1891.
Since then, some 6700 people have walked and climbed a round, with the average time being around two decades.
The first continuous self-propelled round of the Munros (except for the Skye and Mull ferries) was completed by Scottish mountaineer and author Hamish Brown between April 4 and July 24 1974.
In 2000, Charlie Campbell, a Glasgow postman, completed the challenge in 49 days. He summited 284 Munros as then officially listed.
It was in June 2010, that Spyke set his record, this time on the 283 listed Munros at that time.
Due to re-measurement of the Munros, the list now sits at 282.
Donnie’s record-breaking round
Donnie started his Munro round bid on August 1 on Ben More, on the Island of Mull. He then kayaked to Lochaline in Morvern on the mainland. (In total he did three kayaks, to and from Mull, to and from Skye and across Loch Lomond).
His next goal was to head east where he began a traverse of the Cairngorms.
He reached the most easterly Munro of Mount Keen and headed to the Munros of the southern Highlands, including the most southerly, Ben Lomond.
He returned to the north-west of Scotland, with the most westerly Munro of Sgurr na Banachdich to come on the Island of Skye and a finish on Ben Hope.
In total the running coach, who is originally from Skye, ran and power-hiked 883 miles (1422km) and ascended (413,854ft) 126,143m, which is the equivalent of more than 14 ascents of Mt Everest.
He also cycled 896 miles (1443km) and a total elevation of 46,755ft (14,251m).
Not only did he run and “power-hike” up and down all the hills, the accomplished mountain runner, who was raising money for British Red Cross, also cycled and kayaked between his targets.
No motorised transport was used although he did have a back-up motorhome driven by his wife, Rachael, in which he slept each night.
His original goal had been 33 days.
Donnie 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.”
Highs and lows of a record Munro round
On average, Donnie spent 12 hours every day running, walking, cycling or kayaking. He slept for around eight hours each night.
He wore out seven pairs of running shoes and burned 7000 calories each day.
His toughest days were some of his final days of the round. On Monday, he reached an incredible 18 Munros in the north-west Highlands, from Slioch near Kinlochewe to Ben Wyvis near Dingwall.
After only 30 minutes of sleep, he then cycled to Am Faochagach, near Ullapool, and then completed another 10 Munros to finish on Ben Hope.
Agonisingly, 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 Donnie 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.”
His favourite part of the round was on the Cuillin Ridge on Skye. Donnie is originally from Skye. He said: “I really enjoy the technical terrain of the Cuillin. The scambling sections took my mind off the ascents and it was great weather.
“It felt like a great day out with friends. We also had some lovely sunsets on Skye. It’s a favourite place for me.”
What’s next for Donnie?
Now Donnie 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.
Praise for his support
Donnie said: “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.”
Who is Donnie Campbell?
The Munro round record holder has a string of running successes. He was the winner of the British Trail Championships in 2016 when he ran a record-breaking time for the 53-mile Highland Fling in 6:51:06.
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.
Donnie is sponsored by Salomon Running, Run4It, Active Root, Suunto, Red Bull and Teko Socks.
He has so far raised almost £9000 for his chosen charity. You can donate.