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Meet our Supporters – Jamie Neill, 51 Munros in 7 days

Meet our Supporters – Jamie Neill, 51 Munros in 7 days

12th August, 2022

Tell me more about yourself?

My name is Jamie Neill; I am 38 years old and live in Hamilton with my family. I have a background of playing professional badminton. For ten years, I was very committed to my sport and travelled all over the world competing in different events. I was very lucky that during that time I saw some amazing and inspiring places in the outdoors. I retired from professional Badminton when I was 33 and joined a boxing gym in Hamilton, they invited me to join the monthly hillwalking club. Shortly after joining, they invited me on my first hill walk, which was CMD arête on Ben Nevis! After that, I gradually gained more skills and experience and started doing more munros.

Why did you decide to do this challenge?

I wanted to find a challenge that you do not read about very often, something that would be challenging but just about do-able without a support team. I had previously managed to complete 40 munros in a week but I had a couple of rest days and had always wondered whether 50 in a week might be achievable for me? In the end I managed 51!

Why did you choose to support SMR?

I spend a lot of time in the hills, and really appreciate the voluntary work that the Mountain Rescue Teams do. The rescue stories are inspiring and I really appreciate the skills and dedication of the Mountain Rescue volunteers. I wanted to do something to help and support the teams and their volunteers.

How did you feel before you started the challenge?

I was quite nervous. I was spending time with my young family (I have a daughter who is 18 months old) so I did not have as much time to train and prepare for the challenge as I would have liked. My professional sporting background really helped me with mind-set for the challenge, as I am quite self-driven and determined. I took a couple of days to settle into the challenge, but I soon felt more relaxed and started to enjoy it.

Did it all go according to plan or did you have to make any changes?

The challenge was hard from day one, with poor weather. We were ready to leave the car and start the challenge at 4.30am on the first day. The plan was to complete the nine Fannichs. But it was very wet with low cloud and poor visibility and we didn’t want to risk it from a safety perspective. We had to adapt the plans from the start and drive to a different location with better conditions. This meant that the first few days were all spent refiguring plans and improvising so that I could make the most of the conditions and still complete as many munros as possible.

What was your favourite moment during the challenge?

On the sixth day I completed 14 munros on Glenshee, that was a very satisfying day because it was the most I had ever completed in a single day. I was on Broad Cairn, near Lochnagar and I had a beautiful sunset.  I was the only one up there, it was late in the evening and I just took it all in for ten minutes.

What was the hardest moment?

I really struggled on the last day on Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawyers, it came straight after finishing the 14 munros on Glenshee! Needing to complete 22 munros in 48 hours put me under so much pressure in the last two days to complete the challenge. (Of course in the end I managed 23). The day on Glenshee I had covered 37 miles and didn’t get off Lochnagar till 4.30am. I only had two hours sleep and then had to get up and going again. I felt really close to my physical and emotional limit. I was so close to finishing the challenge but not quite there. My mum has MS (from age 37), so does my aunt, and my Grampa had it too for half his life. So in a big way, it’s a constant reminder for me to make the most of my health & fitness while I have it. When I was struggling on Beinn Ghlas, I thought of them, him in particular, and the adversity my Grampa lived with. I use it as positive energy, and it spurs me on that I am able to be as active, even though it’s tough: It’s only temporary. My professional sports background taught not to panic too much too when the going gets tough so I was able to pull through it. I stopped and had some food and a rest and started to feel better and was able to continue.

How did you manage to raise such an incredible total for Scottish Mountain Rescue?

I used Instagram to share my challenge with all my friends and contacts as well as sharing my fundraising page with everyone at work. I have made lots of friendships through my hiking and they all supported me too. Each day had a snowball effect, and people just wanted to give me support and encouragement.

How do you feel now having finished the challenge?

I feel very proud that I did what I set out to do. It’s really starting to sink in now. There were times where I really didn’t know if I would be able to complete the challenge. My friend Craig Murray did half of the munros with me and I just want to say a special thanks to him, as I couldn’t have done it without him. I’m relieved it’s over now though, it was a tough challenge.

What would you say to other people thinking of setting themselves a challenge?

I would say just make a start; do not dwell on it for too long. If you sit and think about it for too long you might start to have doubts about whether you can do it. But if you just start with a challenge well within your limitations you will build confidence and learn that you can make it through the ups and downs.

Then you can dream bigger and choose a challenge that will really stretch you. You can set yourself a challenge that will help you grow, but that you will have fun doing at the same time. I would recommend breaking it down into small achievable steps and invite your friends to join you, so that you can do it together.

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