The Checklist: Training and kit advice from a pro ultra-runner Donnie Campbell

We speak to ultra-marathoner Donnie Campbell about training, kit and his next big challenge
Ultra-advice from a pro runner

In our Checklist series of interviews, we feature amazing people doing inspirational things in the world of fitness and the outdoors.

This week, we speak to ultra-runner and coach Donnie Campbell about how he prepares for really long ultra races, where his favourite place to train is and what he wears when he's there.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am a professional ultra-marathon runner and endurance running coach, I love being out in the mountains running, mountaineering, skiing or basically anything that involves being in the outdoors.

I was born and brought up on the Isle of Skye and have always had a keen interest for the outdoors and challenges so joined the Royal Marine Commandos age 17. Then in my early twenties left to go to uni to study sports coaching and development before becoming a coach and pro ultra-runner.

What was the last thing you trained for?

Madeira Island Ultra Trail (MIUT) – a 115km trail race over the mountains of Madeira clocking up over 7000m of climbing.

The Checklist Donnie

What kind of schedule/program did you follow?

I don’t have a coach so I make up my own training plan. I very much train by feel. I don’t have anything written down – it is all in my head, but I do have a rough idea of what I will be doing, such as when my last long run before the race will be and when I will start to taper.

Training basically started specifically for this race at the start of the year and for the first two months, the main focus was building up a good base running and ski touring. March/April the focus turned more to specifically running with some more quality speed sessions and a 42k warm-up race in Mallorca.

How do you evaluate your performance of a training session?

Depends on what the aim of the session is but generally by how it felt and how I feel after. If it's a speed session then I might look at if I was training in the right zone to achieve the aim of the session. Because I train six days a week, sometimes twice a day, I am never too analytical over any one session.

What events/challenges are you looking forward to now?

The next big thing in the diary is the Tor De Geants in September, this is the main focus for this year so everything is building up to that. The Tor, as it’s known, is a 356km race around valley Astoa in Italy with over 27,000m of climbing – more than three times the height of Mt Everest.

What trainers do you use?

The trainer will depending on the terrain I am running on. My favourites are: Salomon S/LAB sense 7 (Salomon, $180), Salomon S/LAB sense 7 SG (Salomon, $180), Salomon S/LAB Speed 2 (Salomon, $180), Salomon S/LAB XA Alpine. (Salomon, $250).

The Checklist Donnie

What apparel do you use?

It all depends on the weather but I am known for always wearing shorts no matter what the weather is!

What are the key items in your kit bag?

A pair of trainers, some running clothes and my Suunto 9 watch – great for helping explore new trails and mountains.

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The Checklist: Training and kit advice from a professional ultra runner and coach

What one item of your gear would you implore someone else to use?

A survival bag if you're going into the mountains. It is something I always take with me, you can get ones that are the size of an apple – less than 100g.

Where’s the best place you ever trained or competed?

I like exploring new places, especially if they have big mountains! I like the Alps for training in the summer as there is loads of variation and generally you get good weather, but I am going to be biased and say my favourite location is the Cuillin mountain range on Skye – If you get the weather, there is no place like it.

What’s the exercise you hate doing the most?

I don’t really know – if there is something I don’t like doing I just won’t do it. I should probably stretch more – I don’t hate it, just finding the time and being lazy means I don’t stretch as much as I should.

Quickfire Questions

What’s your ultimate workout song?

Runrig – Skye

How many push-ups can you do in one go?

Ooh, I don’t know – I’ve not done any push-ups in years. Give me a min… 26 (note just finished dinner!)

If you could compete/train anywhere in the world where would it be?

The Himalayas or Patagonia – the top two places on my backlist that I want to go and explore.

Who’s your fitness/sporting hero?

I don’t really have one sporting hero, I admire many different world-class endurance athletes for many different reasons.

The likes of Eliud Kipchoge for what he has done at the marathon making sub-two-hour seem possible and Killian Jornet for what he has achieved pushing the bounders of endurance in the mountains while remaining humble.

Is there any sport you’re really bad at?

Gymnastics – I was terrible at that at school, almost broke my neck coming of the box by landing on my head!

What’s your favourite post-competition/challenge meal?

Bottle of fine red wine. Can’t beat a good Bordeaux or Rioja.

Supplement or all-natural?

Natural, as much as possible.

Donnie is an athlete who works with Suunto, Teko and Spring Energy. To read more about Donnie's amazing achievements head to

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