The Mongol Derby is officially the longest horse race in the world. Arguably, it is also the toughest. 1000 km through the Mongolian wilderness on semi-wild horses, carrying a maximum of 5 kg of kit. Of the 25 riders that competed last year, only 13 made it across the finish line. Some succumbed to injury and illness, others simply were not fast enough reaching the horse stations in the given time. There were a few broken bones, but only one limb was severed. I pity the unlucky fellow who thought it safe to tie the rains around his hand.* Horses are fleeing animals, after all.
In August 2012 I will be one of 30 riders to attempt the Mongol Derby.
It’s a multi-horse race, and we will change horses every 40km. The route is secret until we get there and get handed our GPS devices. To get an idea of what the race is like, check out this video made by two of last years competitors, endurance riders Joe Dawson and Barry Armitage.
EDIT: Looks like they’re not allowing embeds anymore, to see the video go here: http://vimeo.com/31745089
Joe placed 5th whilst Barry had to pull out of the race just 100 km from the finish line. Both will be back in 2012 competing with me. When I sent in my application I never thought I’d actually get a place. I’m nobody. Some of the other people competing include a Grand National jockey and a guy who served with the 21st SAS regiment. I really need to step up my game to compete with that.
I’ve never competed in any equestrian events. Sure, I played a bit of polo at university, but only the kinds of games where you were given handicaps based on how much Pimms one had before getting on the horse. It wasn’t serious. I used to love gymkhanas and mounted games as a child, but never competed in any club events. I always just preferred a nice bareback hack out or just goofing around.
I’m not fit. Haven’t been for about 8 years (since I was hit by a car and injured my back). Certainly not fit enough to ride 12 hours per day. To kickstart my training I recently attended a “fitness bootcamp”. It was one week of exercising lead by ex-military. It was really tough but definitely worth it. I’ll certainly be needing more of those. I have 7 months to get in shape. In May I’m doing the “Though Mudder” challenge as a checkpoint to evaluate my training/fitness and mental stamina.
In August, the temperature in Mongolia could be anything from 30 degrees Celsius during the day to freezing at night. It wouldn’t be such a problem if it wasn’t for the kit restrictions they put on us. With only 5kg, I don’t know if I’ll be able to take a tent for instance. I also won’t be bringing much food, and will instead be relaying on Mongolian hospitality to survive between horse stations.
During the race you’ll be able to follow my progress trough this blog, twitter, and the live progress on a map due to GPS tracking of all the riders.
Wish me luck.
*Of course, hospitals are often successful in reattaching thumbs, but being in the middle of outer Mongolia means the nearest top quality (Korean) hospital is just too far away.