JAMIE AARONS

I am not new to adventure or endurance activities, but this is far and away the most daunting goal I have ever considered.

Image: Jamie riding off road
Originally from California, I moved to Scotland in 2005 and have subsequently embraced trail running, mountaineering, and the freedom that the Right to Roam policy enables.

I have had some success in ultra-runs (including winning the West Highland Way 95-mile race and having a top-10 all-time female time; I hold the female record for the Cateran Trail Ultra; I have twice won the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 100-miler; I won the inaugural Maxi-Madeira 100km; I was 2nd female in the gruelling Tor des Geants 340km/30,000m race in Italy – the year after having to withdraw partway with rhabdomyolysis that had me in hospital for a week.)

And I completed my first 5-day adventure race in August ’22 with a team of young lads who I met about 24-hours before we started the race.

I am attracted to challenges that I’m not sure I can achieve, but there’s a chance, even if that chance is teeny, tiny. That’s still a chance worth aiming for.

I don’t intentionally seek pain or exhaustion, though I know those things will come. I just want to push myself and do so in an environment and with people I adore.

There’s something unshakeable about the appeal of putting my resilience and tenacity to the test; being at the brink of “flow” vs being overwhelmed; teasing limits without breaking them (or myself!).

I am cautiously optimistic about my chances of completing the continuous, self-propelled Munro Round, but a lot of stars need to align!

I think I am soon to have a war of attrition with myself (and midges)...

This challenge uniquely marks a phase of emergence from covid and the restrictions that came with it. We can now adventure in Scotland as we used to, including with others.

At the start of the pandemic, I was redeployed to help manage a hospital social work team. I – like so many others – was then based from home, which is still the case (though I’ve subsequently changed jobs and working from home suits me really well).

I really struggled with the inability to meet friends for our runs, walks, camping trips, cycles, etc. I was working long hours; lost my gym routine and my social life (that revolves predominantly around sport and outdoor activities); I lost my mojo.

In early 2022 I finally felt like I was able to do things again just as before, but then got covid in March 2022 and had to cancel a visit back to the States to see my family. Covid hasn’t disappeared but hopefully our collective recovery will be a reality and I think this Munro Round can be a celebration of that.

Here we have true freedom to paddle, hike, bike, trail run and more!

I am a huge fan of Scotland’s access legislation and of following the Outdoor Access Code. One of the reasons Andy and I still reside in Scotland is because of the true freedom we have here to paddle, hike, bike, trail run and generally be outdoors with minimal, respectful restrictions. In contrast to many other places, Scotland does truly allow “wild” to be accessible if you have the motivation, kit, and enough snacks.

I’ve been so fortunate to find myself a part of the UK ultra-running community and have had incredible experiences of absolute strangers coming out of the woodwork to support me in my personal endeavours. I am hopeful that my challenge will see me joined by friends old and new – my wee survey to scope for supporters has been completed by about 90 people; over a third of those are people I’ve never met. I just find this incredible and I am overwhelmed by people’s generosity of support and spirit of adventure.

I am very aware of the connections between my physical health, mental health, and the great outdoors. I know what I’m doing is a bit extreme but people should start wherever they are. I’ve not gotten to this place overnight. It would bring me great joy to think that people will be inspired by what I’m doing and go on to do something meaningful and challenging for them; find whatever their “thing” is and go for it.

This Munro Round is, by far, the hardest thing I’ll ever have tried. But as much as it sometimes terrifies me, it also gives me focus, motivation, and keeps me active. Being outdoors for me is what I imagine going to the pub or a café is for many others – it’s my social life. It’s also distraction; appreciation; head-clearing; calorie-burning; muscle-using; and solitude (sometimes even if I’m not alone). Our public services - including the amazing NHS, social work, and social care services - are under incredible pressure.

Many people and organisations are struggling to make ends meet day-to-day; obviously going for a hike isn't going to solve every problem but I think there's merit in the healing and prevention potential of exercise and outdoor activities.

I will be raising money for World Bicycle Relief – donate via JustGiving