It takes most people many years to complete a round of the 282 Munros in Scotland; however, today ultra runner Jamie Aarons set an impressive new record of 31 days, 10 hours and 27 minutes per hour. He was 13 hours and 5 minutes faster than former record holder Donnie Campbell.
Jamie, 43, started the challenge at Ben More, Isle of Mull, on May 26 at 6:30am and finished at Ben Klibreck, Sutherland, on June 26 at 4:57pm. His round was non-stop and self-propelled, meaning he ran every mountain and biked or kayaked in between.
The social worker, an adoptive British citizen who moved to Scotland from California in 2005, said: “It was my most difficult and most ambitious challenge to date. It was also a challenge with the more uncontrollable variables.
“So many things could have gone wrong, but I planned two years in advance to control as many of these variables as possible.”
She added: “While it was never about breaking a record, I am very happy that I did. That has been an advantage.
“My goal was always to do the best I could and that’s why I set myself an ambitious schedule.
« It was very hard and sometimes my feet hurt a lot, but at no time did I think of stopping. »
Jamie’s fastest Munro round
A Munro is a Scottish mountain with an elevation of over 3,000 feet (914.4 m). They are geographically distributed on the mainland of Scotland and on the Isles of Mull and Skye.
During his round of Munro, Jamie ran 1,315km, cycled 1,249km and kayaked 11.5km across lakes and the sea. His total ascent was 135,366 m, including 121,123 m on foot and 14,243 m on two wheels, which is more than 15 times the height of Mount Everest.
By comparison, Donnie, from Inverness, followed a route that added up to 1,422 km on foot and 1,443 km by bike. He climbed 126,143 m on foot and 14,251 m on a bicycle. He did two kayak legs.
Jamie traveled extensively in Scotland arriving at the southernmost Munro of Ben Lomond in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on the morning of 31 May.
She bagged the easternmost Munro Mount Keen on Angus just after midnight on June 8 and the westernmost Munro, Sgùrr na Banachdich on Skye on June 16. The northernmost Munro, Ben Hope, was Jamie’s second to last in her round.
He summited several Munros every day and every night. On June 7, she hit the most Munros in one day, including Dreish and Mayar in Angus and Lochnagar and 10 more in the Cairngorms.
Originally from California, USA, Jamie didn’t sleep more than four hours at a time, preferring to nap when necessary. Sometimes he allowed himself only 60 seconds of sleep.
In a 78-hour period, her total nap time was only a few hours. During this time he reached 26 Munros, including some of the most remote at Knoydart in North West Scotland, and 11 Munros on the highly technical Cuillin Ridge on Skye. Statistics show that she ran 121 km, biked 112.5 km and kayaked 4.6 km.
Micro naps are my super power
Jamie refers to his ability to go long periods on very little sleep as his « superpower ».
She says, “I was inspired to do Munro’s non-stop round when I heard an interview with Donnie Campbell after he set his record. I heard him say that he had slept eight hours each night, except for one final 48-hour push. He was in the mountains for 12 hours each day and recovered or slept for 12 hours.
“While I knew I would never be as fast as Donnie on the hills or on the bike, I have other abilities and one of them is the ability to keep going with just micro-naps.
“This was the beginning of an idea that I couldn’t pass up. It seemed like a silly idea at first, but my friends, especially the late John Kynaston, encouraged me.
“I really wanted to see what I could do in the Scottish mountains that I love so much and on a route that I thought would be as efficient as possible.
“I liked the idea of a goal that was adapted to my personal abilities and that pushed me to go further than I had done before.”
Who is Jamie Aarons?
Munro’s record-breaking round was Jamie’s third finish. In 2013, he did a round with Andy in a year while working full time. His second round was done with his rescue dogs, Pirate and Hope, and ended in 2020.
Other athletic successes include winning the 95 mile West Highland Way race in 2015. She also holds the women’s record for the Cateran Trail Ultra and has won the Snowdonia 100 twice.
In 2018, she won the 100km MaXi Race Madeira and was the second fastest woman in the 340km Tor des Geants in Italy that same year.
See Jamie in Dumgoyne.
Lows and highs in Munro’s record round
One of the main concerns of the long distance challenge was how Jamie would manage physically. She says: “It was impossible to train for the physical unknowns and predict difficulties and injuries. Instead, I focused on building resilience. He knew he needed to be unbreakable. I did my best to control as many variables as possible.
“I suffered very painful sunburns on my lips and inside my mouth.
She says: “It was impossible to train for the physical unknowns and predict difficulties and injuries. I suffered very painful sunburns on my lips and inside of my mouth. At first, I was also worried about a knee problem and at one point my hamstring was hurting as well.
“However, my main injury was very painful blisters on the outside of the heels of both feet. In the last leg of the round, these were incredibly painful and it was agony to take each step.
“I was grateful when my medical support was able to treat the blisters and that gave me some relief in the last few days, but then I also had nerve pain in the forefoot.
“While I had no leg pain for most of the round, foot problems held me back.
« I was hoping to finish in less than a month, but my sore feet mean it wasn’t possible, which is frustrating. »
Jamie also faced difficult weather and the inevitable mosquitoes. She says: “It was very hot at the beginning of the round. At one point, it was 26C at 8am.
“Later in the round, there were strong winds and rain. I was also forced to stop for a while to let a lightning storm pass.
“The mosquitoes were also very bad at times. One day in the Western Highlands area, it was hot and completely still and mosquitoes were swarming on my face, in my mouth and in my nose. I was screaming to try to escape.
“But it was my support team that faced the worst of the mosquitoes, often while waiting for me at transitions.”
One of Jamie’s lowest moments preceded one of his best moments. She says: “One of the hardest parts was coming down from my last Munro at Knoydart. I was with a friend, it was dark and we were hitting the heather up to our armpits. We fell all the time. It was really slow and very hard and I’m surprised we didn’t get injured.
“But this was immediately followed by one of the fastest times. I kayaked solo in the dark on calm flat water through Loch Hourn. I got to see my next Munro, Beinn Sgritheall, where I would be summiting for sunrise, and it looked stunning.
“As I got closer to the shoreline in Arnisdale, I could smell a pizza that Andy was cooking for me in our outdoor pizza oven. I was more motivated to get there. It was such beautiful things after one of the hardest sections of the challenge.”
Other highlights included « so many fantastic scenery, lots of amazing sunsets and sunrises, and lots of amazing wildlife. »
an adventure with friends
While it was certainly exhausting, Jamie was looking forward to an adventure with friends. She says, “I didn’t take so many weeks off work to deal with the time in the mountains, but wanted it to be a fun experience.
“The key to this was being with friends and I made it my mission to build a community of like-minded people who would join me on the round. As the challenge progressed, I also met a lot of new people who had heard about my challenge and wanted to join me.”
A core support team handled a wide range of logistics behind the scenes, most notably his partner Andy Taylor, who was driving a support van supplied by ACL RENTAL.
Jamie says: “I couldn’t have done my round without the support, experience and generosity of so many people. Andy in particular was amazing, making sure I was through every transition, moving bikes, feeding me, and getting me up and out of the truck when he wanted to continue sleeping.
“My good friend Jenny Allen was the project manager and I am also indebted to her and many other friends for keeping the Munro machine well oiled.
“It was a goal shared with friends and for people who share a passion for adventure… It was a really beautiful thing to be a part of. I am very proud of all the work I did and all the work the team did.”
Praise from the previous record holder
Donnie, who joined Jamie at the Munro Beinn Dearg on the 30th, revealed that he was « very impressed ».
He says: “Jamie’s new record is an absolutely amazing achievement. I am very impressed, especially how she managed to keep up with so little sleep.
“It sounds like it’s been a great team performance from planning to execution. Kudos to her and hers team.”
Jamie’s Final Summit: Ben Klibreck
When Jamie reached her final summit at 3,000 feet, with dozens of friends surrounding her, she was excited. She said: “She feels very surreal. I am very grateful to so many people, especially Andy. »
The only thing he said he wanted was to sleep!
challenge for charity
By the end of his round, Jamie had raised over £12,000 for World Bicycle Relief. The charity helps people overcome the barrier of distance and improve access to education, healthcare and livelihoods in rural parts of the world.
Jamie says: “This is amazing. This means we have raised enough money for 100 bikes to help people access education and other aid and care. It fits very well because I have really enjoyed the bike sections between my Munros.”
Know more Jamie’s Munro Challenge.
The Stats: Donnie vs. Jamie
Donnie ran 1,422 km, biked 1,443 km and climbed 126,143 m. He did two kayak legs.
Jamie ran 1,315km, biked 1,249km and climbed 121,123m of elevation gain. He did five kayak sections.
Thanks to the sponsors:
- Missing Link Training @PaulMissingLink
- LUC (Land Use Consultants) UK
- Renewable SSE
- visual bike fit
- Mike Lates @Skye Guides
- Andrew Stark of Stark-Images @Weir Bridge.