A lifelong lover of the outdoors, from blasting round his local Parkrun to skiing in Kashmir, Edinburgh-based scientist, Ian Jackson, tells us why he’s been to all 14 years of the Cape Wrath Challenge
Tell us a bit about yourself
I'm a research geneticist at Edinburgh University, working to understand human genetic disease. It's a fantastic time to be in genetics (as it has been for 40 years!). Fifteen years ago the DNA sequence from a single human was decoded. It took maybe ten years of work by hundreds of people and cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Today we have a machine that does it in a couple of days for £700! We are at the beginning of "personalised medicine", when treatment of disease is tailored to the individual's genetic makeup.
I've lived in Edinburgh with Sally for almost 30 years. It's a great place to live. It's a small city but being the Scottish capital offers a lot of culture and good restaurants. It's also easy to get out to the hills, or the seashore, or even to Glasgow.
I've always enjoyed the outdoors, from climbing Pendle Hill as a child, near where I grew up, to the Lake District hills close by. I completed all 283 Munro peaks over 10 years ago but still climb the Scottish mountains. We ski in the winter, usually off-piste or touring. We've skied in Japan, Kashmir, Canada, USA, all across the Alps and in Scotland too!
We have a lot of interests in Edinburgh. Many weekends and evenings are spent at the ballet, theatre, cinema, and art galleries. The Edinburgh Festival in August is one of the highlights of the year.
Tell us a bit your running history. What kind of running you enjoy most?
I've run since school, so my knees suffer from more than 45 years of action! Regular physio helps. I did my first marathon in 1981, when living in the USA, which is also my PB at a shade over 3 hours. I'll not see that again! I like running almost anywhere. We are regulars at the Saturday morning Parkrun 5K races, held all over the country. A quick three-mile blast early in the weekend really sets you up! I like running in the hills, especially the Pentlands near Edinburgh.
How many times have you been to CWC?
We've been every year to the CWC. In the early days, we did the whole week, now we usually turn up Tuesday afternoon. We usually do the marathon on Saturday, but if we have another marathon planned elsewhere, Sally and I will do the 2-person relay.
How did you first hear about CWC and what made you come for the first time?
We saw an article in Runners World about the "Island Race" relay, which had a Cape Wrath run as part of it, and the article said there would be an event coming up. We entered in 2001, but it was cancelled because of foot and mouth disease, so we came for the first event in 2002.
Tell us what makes the event special to you? What makes you come back?
The location is what makes us return - it is a beautiful and spectacular part of the world - plus the people we have met over the years, some now living in Durness.
What is your favourite race or run at Durness?
Although we do the marathon each year, it is really too much work to be fun! I really like the 10 mile, Around Durness run. Short enough to be enjoyable, and great scenery.
What is your favourite part of the week, or favourite thing to do in the area?
We usually stay in Ullapool on the way up; a great wee village. In Durness, we always park our van on the cliffs above Sango Bay, where you can spend hours just looking out to sea (towards the north pole!) Mixing with such a great bunch of people is the highlight, especially at the ceilidh, then the drive home along Loch Shin.
What are you most looking forward to when you return?
Seeing all the regulars, and seeing new faces
Describe Cape Wrath Challenge week in three words...
Wind. Sunshine. Rain (in any order)
Tell us about your all-time favourite run (that's not in Durness!
Too many to pick one. We run up Pendle Hill every Christmas Day in rain, snow, sunshine or whatever. I love the annual OMM 2-day orienteering mountain marathon which moves all around the country. I've done 21 of them. At home we have a favourite off-road run following the perimeter of Arthurs Seat. You are in the middle of the city but quite isolated. And when we are marathon training we take the train to Linlithgow and run 20 miles back to Edinburgh, along the Union Canal, all off-road. And many runs in the Pentland Hills, where you can go for as little as a couple of miles or up to 15 or 20, completely away from everyone, but right on our doorstep.