Andy Douglas has gone from Arthur's Seat to mountain running

Andy Douglas had to haul himself up climbs using a rope at the Broken Arrow Skyrace
Andy Douglas had to haul himself up climbs using a rope at the Broken Arrow Skyrace

From being airlifted off a mountain in Andorra in a helicopter, to hauling himself up snow covered peaks at 6,000ft using ropes, mountain runner Andy Douglas has had an interesting year.

The 32-year old has taken a year's sabbatical from his career in finance to follow his passion and became a World Cup-winner last week after a gruelling seven-event series.

The Caithness native set himself the intense challenge of competing in each of the races, being one of only two men in his category to do so.

He spoke to BBC Scotland about the falling off mountains, the escapism of the sport, and training on Arthur's Seat.

'I collapsed but it was self-inflicted'

Douglas has run races over some seriously technical mountain ranges all over the world, from Snowdonia in Wales to European Alpine ranges, and the snow covered peaks of Squaw Valley, California. Along with tackling such physically and mentally-testing peaks, come a few scary moments...

You race on some very difficult, rocky descents. Sometimes there has been heavy rain, which means wet rocks underfoot to run over as quickly as you can. I haven't had any major injuries from falling, but you do get some interesting cuts and bruises from slips. I think my family are terrified when they see some of the descents I am doing.

In Andorra last year, I actually collapsed at the end of the race and had to be taken by helicopter off the mountain to hospital. That was totally self-inflicted - a combination of heat stroke and dehydration. Even though I was having a really bad race I wanted to sprint the last little bit and that toppled me over the edge.

The Broken Arrow race in California was really interesting this year. It was near Lake Tahoe and was at over 6,000ft. The snow hadn't melted away, so they put up ropes and I had to haul myself up - that was an experience. The ski pistes were still open because of the amount of snow so you found yourself running beside skiers and snowboarders all riding down the mountain at top speed. I found myself darting in and out of them praying they wouldn't crash into me, all the while hoping I wouldn't slide back down the mountain in my trainers.

'You definitely get a buzz from it'

Andy Douglas on track at Sierre Zinal, Switzerland - World Mountain Running Cup (Round 5)
Andy Douglas has competed in each of the seven races in the series

Douglas caught the running bug at a young age while growing up in the Highlands, but in recent years has found the competitive edge that really pushed him to success. He currently runs for Inverclyde AC and has taken a year out from to focus on his demanding training regime and is reaping the benefits.

I joined my local athletics club in Caithness when I was about 11. I just wanted to try everything as a kid - every hobby I could think of, including playing the bagpipes in a junior pipe band. That one didn't stick but I found a real passion in running, particularly marathons. My initial ambition was to qualify for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but I got consistently injured from pounding the pavements and I lost the passion for it.

I first started mountain running about five years ago. I went up Schiehallion and reaching the top made me think 'yeah this is something I really want to do' because it was such a buzz. I decided to try it for a summer and loved it, so I tried out for the GB team, made it on to the European and World Championship teams, and the rest is history.

You definitely get a buzz from off-road running. It is a bit of escapism from everyday life. Being in the mountains gives you some perspective on the things happening around you, and I always end up finishing a training session feeling better about myself. It is a great social scene. You never feel like you are on your own and there is always someone there to pick you up after you have had a bad race.

'I've scaled Arthur's Seat countless times'

With an ever-growing interest in extreme sports around the globe, Douglas hopes that Scotland's mountain ranges can help the country become world-renowned as a leader in the field of mountain running. He has one more competition - representing Britain at the World Championships in Argentina in November - before heading back to his finance career just before Christmas.

It is an exciting time to be part of the mountain running scene from a Scottish perspective. Mountain running is a sport we are leading the way in.

I must have scaled Arthur's' Seat countless times now, but to have that on my doorstep is a plus. Being in the Alps and other mountains ranges across the world, you think to yourself 'nothing can compete with this' and then you come back to Scotland and you still very much have the wow factor. It is a whole different geology and personally I think there is no place like Scotland in the mountains.

Hopefully it gets more recognition [as a sport] - as a small country, you want to celebrate the things we are good at and to have the chance to shout about them.

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