Some like it hot, but they would have been disappointed by the mountains of Mongolia which hosted the Genghis Khan Marathon in temperatures of minus 32 Celsius. The task was to navigate through a frozen river network, before enjoying traditional Mongolian and Scottish festivities. Nowhere can beat Mongolia for the sense of space, and remoteness, almost immediately this grabs you as we drove out of the capital Ulan Bataar.
There were multiple purposes to my visit, first among them was to further experience the charm and culture of Mongolia, which I enjoy more every time I come. The advantage of small race groups allow a genuine insight into daily life in temperatures that often dip below minus 40 in winter.
As the horn signified the start of the race, conditions were perfect. Minus 32, and very little wind was certainly a good deal more pleasant than a windy minus 40 might have. I set off at around 3 hour pace, but quickly realised that underfoot conditions (either snowy on the trail, or very slippy on the ice river) meant I wouldn’t be under last year’s time of 3hrs 7 mins.
There were certainly more husky dogs and yaks than humans on the way round, and fortunately no sign of wolves. The ice occasionally splintered a little beneath my feet, making me a little nervous until pop- though the ice my right foot went, plunging into the frozen river. Instinctively I pulled it straight out my heart racing. Wet feet at minus 32 is no joke. I waited to feel the wet and the cold, but it never came. The gaiters on top of my Merrell All Out Terra Ice had stopped anything coming through.
Race Director, and Honorary Consul of Scotland to Mongolia Dave Scott (Sandbaggers UK), was there to greet competitors at the finish. I finished ahead of Chris from England who had avoided wet feet. A special mention should be given to Audrey McIntosh who finished the marathon having the week before ran in the extreme heat of the Namib desert. Dave had some innovative recovery food lined up. Haggis, as well as traditional Mongolian delicacies such as goat and potatoes could well be ideal for recovering for the rigors of a race. It is actually not bad from a technical perspective, with carbohydrates as well as protein.
From the north, we head back to Ulan Bataar- at least I don’t have to run back this year!