Andy Murray is the new Scottish Government Physical Activity Champion. No, not Andy Murray the tennis player. A real athlete—an elite ultra distance runner, Edinburgh GP, and sports medicine expert. He leads by example. Ultra marathons in the Gobi desert, the Arctic, the Indonesian jungle, never mind little diversions like the West Highland Way, a 95 mile trail race. He runs further in a single event than most people run in a lifetime. Heaven help the Scottish public if they are expected to follow him just part of the way. And, be warned. It’s not just about encouraging physical activity in the general population, his brief includes looking at the role of his fellow GPs. Pay for performance could take on a whole new meaning.
If feeling a little smug with your occasional jog, just read his book describing his run from John O’ Groats to the Sahara. After a few chapters sharing his journey through the cold and wet of a Scottish winter, snow in middle England, and no picnic either in France, Spain, or North Africa, your couple of miles will seem much humbler. As he catalogues his injuries and illness, and the help and support from his family (including his dad, Edinburgh GP academic Scott Murray, who is pictured jogging alongside), you cannot but admire this momentous achievement. A GP like yourself, he eats half marathons for breakfast. Surely you could manage an extra mile or so.
It’s not just the odyssey itself. Anyone who has ever done a postgraduate exam or gone to a job interview will enjoy his sense of timing. During his run, while passing through Edinburgh after 319 miles in 10 days, he dropped in to take his sports medicine exam in the Royal College of Surgeons. Sadly, with the exam in the morning, he only managed five hours running that evening. On another occasion at a GP selection interview, when asked where he was currently practising, he explained that within an hour he would be on a flight to his next job at the North Pole where he was both working and competing. Indeed, he only just made it to the interview having been stranded in Marrakesh, after a cancelled flight, 12 hours earlier. But, timing is everything and on this epic 79 day run from Scotland to the Sahara, he finished with just few days to spare. And, just as well as Jennie, his erstwhile fiancé had only agreed on one condition when he first floated the idea “As long as you’re back in plenty of time for the wedding.”
Domhnall Macaulay is primary care editor, BMJ