Polly Murray’s top tips for Cateran Yomp


How do you set about taking part in a long-distance walking challenge? We asked adventurer Polly Murray for some tips for the 54-mile Cateran Yomp in Perthshire.

Every year, thousands of people sign up to take part in Scotland’s many long-distance walking events. Perhaps you have thought about doing the same, but are intimidated by the commitment or the challenge itself.

One of these events is the annual Alliance Trust Cateran Yomp, which follows a route of 54 miles  in support of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity on June 13 to 15.

In case you didn’t know, a yomp is a military term for a long-distance march with kit and although yomping is everyday fare for service personnel it’s often a huge challenge for enthusiastic civilians.

The Cateran Yomp is for teams of between three and six walkers, who can choose to sign up for the 22-mile bronze route, the 36.5-mile silver or the 54-mile gold. The choice depends on your experience and how far you want to challenge yourself, especially as walkers are required to finish in less than 24 hours.

Starting at sunrise, bronze yompers will head for the first finish line at the Spittal of Glenshee, silver yompers will continue on to Kirkton of Glenisla and the 36.5 mile checkpoint. The gold route heads back to Blairgowrie via Bamff, near Alyth.

There are checkpoints, support teams and masseurs to help ease aches and pains along the route.

Yomp ambassador Polly Murray 

The Yomp’s new ambassador, the adventurer and explorer Polly Murray, is encouraging more people to take part in the 2015 Alliance Trust Cateran Yomp.

Polly Murray descending Everest.

Polly Murray descending Everest

Polly was the first Scottish woman to climb Everest in May 2000 at the age of just 26. A world-class sportswoman and mountaineer, Polly became the first person to Telemark ski off the summit of Mount McKinley, North America’s highest mountain.

She has also competed in international ski races and participated in Antarctic and Arctic sailing expeditions.

Mum-of-two Polly, 41, of Kirkmichael, Perth & Kinross, will be doing the Cateran Yomp for the second time this year.

Polly’s top 10 tips on preparing for the Yomp

Polly Murray's top tips for the Cateran Yomp.

Polly Murray looks forward to the Yomp

We asked Polly to give us her top tips from her wealth of experience in tackling tough challenges.

Small steps: No-one can expect to walk off the street and attempt a 54-mile cross-country yomp. But that doesn’t mean that getting fit to take part should be an ordeal. The key to getting ready is to do a little as often as you can.

Make it a daily habit: For a decent level of fitness in as little as six months, it might mean dumping the car or jumping off the bus a stop or two before your reach the office or your children’s school a few times a week. Walk the last stretch of around two miles and build this up as the weeks go by.

Weekend walks: You’ll make great strides forwards if you can combine daily walks with longer walks. Use weekends for walking 10 to 25 miles. Of course, you need to build up to this from whatever level you are at to start with.

Walk with me: Friends or like-minded colleagues can provide the perfect motivation for training walks, especially when you find yourself lacking get up and go.

Pack preparation: In terms of clothing for long-distance walks, think layering and warm, breathable and wicking fabrics that can be easily dried and taken off and stored in your bag if the weather is warm. The key is to be prepared for the likely eventualities from a flash downpour to blazing sunshine. Walking poles are not for everyone but I find a long-distance walk like this is made better with them.

Booting up: My preference is lightweight Salomon boots that combine the flexibility of trainers with the endurance of a boot and a bit of heel support. Definitely don’t wear boots that are too rigid or too heavy. By the end of the course you’ll find your feet in agony. Make sure you have worn the boots on lots of training hikes because new boots and a long event will be a disaster.

Sock talk: For a 54-mile walk like the Cateran Yomp be prepared to change into fresh socks regularly. I prefer mid-weight socks that are specifically for trail walking. I’ll definitely be packing a change of socks for all five major stops along the Yomp. And whether you’re at the peak of Everest or in picturesque Perthshire take time to dry your feet, perhaps with a bit of talc and put on your socks carefully, making sure you don’t leave a wrinkle that can rub into a sore after a few miles on the road.

Banish blisters: Your blister prevention kit should include gel plasters designed to cover serious blisters. I use Compeed. And to prevent irritating rubs getting out of hand I use zinc oxide tape as a preventative measure whenever I feel the blister coming.

Know yourself: When walking in a team you can sometimes feel the pressure to keep going or to walk faster. But if you have a niggle like a blister or pain anywhere, make a confident decision to stop and work it out. It will only get worse if it’s not given attention as soon as possible.

Good intentions When you have committed to finishing an endurance walk such as the Yomp and raising money for a worthy cause, remind yourself of your good intentions when you’re feeling unmotivated or daunted by the whole thing. Knowing that you have announced your intentions to the world always works for me when it comes to delivering on my promises.

Registration for the Alliance Trust Cateran Yomp is £90 and includes the full weekend experience of camping, food, drink and activities, such as clay pigeon shooting, archery and a fireworks display, across the route.

Tel: 0845 504 6616 or www.soldierscharity.org.yomp

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