Having found the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon both arduous and spectacular, it was with some trepidation I looked at the map plotting the route that Genghis Khan took hundreds of years ago from the Tuul and Terelj gorges at the base of the Khenti mountains, the land of his birth to the modern day capital of Ulan Batar. Estimates of the distance varied wildly, from 100km, to 100 miles depending on the route taken, and the estimation of locals.
It is a route laced with history and scenic beauty, but perhaps one also that carries an element of jeopardy. To that end, Sandbaggers had provided a vehicle, and a highly experienced driver to set off from the rugged interior southwards, with the van fully stocked by my parents who had come to Mongolia not only to help, but to experience riding huskies, playing wild golf and this most beautiful of countries for themselves. It was bitterly cold driving across a frozen expanse to the start. We were not on a road, but cutting tracks across the frozen landscape. Frozen really did mean frozen, with despite the engine having been on all night, everytime the vehicle stopped, the diesel and radiator froze, forcing our driver to defrost it with a blow torch. I didn’t say anything when I saw this, but it would be fair to say that the prospect of an immobile vehicle, off the beaten track, in temperatures below minus 40 was not attractive.
Reaching the start felt like an achievement, when I set off following the historical route south, jumping out the vehicle exposing zero flesh to the elements, and just putting one foot in front of the other until the sun came up offering up improved temperatures in the minus 30’s. It is amazing the difference that this can make, and I slowed to a more sensible rate at daylight having ran faster than I did in the marathon for the first hour simply to keep warm. 50 odd kilometres elapsed before we hit the junction for the road to Ulan Batar, a road sign that brought me more joy than any of the other road users. The fact that there was actual consistent traffic brought me some baffled looks, while I just concentrated on eating frequently, and warding off the early signs of frostnip I had in my right hand. I had the Merrell All Out Terra Ice shoes, and decent clothing on which kept the rest of me toasty. As a stiff headwind picked up, I was joined by a friend Ally, who knocked out a few miles with me and kept me sane until the high rise of Ulan Batar emerged.
Having jumped in the support vehicle to warm up and refuel a few times, I felt relatively OK at the finish. By that I mean that I was not completely wrecked but still mentally and physically shattered as the signs for Genghis Khan International Airport emerged from the dark that had fallen. I had covered a distance of 104km in a none too speedy 11 hours, although to be honest I was extremely happy with that given the terrain and conditions. It would have been a tonne slower without having my folks feeding and helping me.
This week’s adventures have been captured by Johnny Graham, and award winning adventure photographer from DigitalPict, and Rich Alexander, a TV presenter and producer who is making a film about the adventures. Having seen some of the footage already, these guys are awesome and we are all looking forward to seeing the finished products.
We have also been raising some cash and awareness for the Scottish Association for Mental Health and for Riding for the Disabled. People have been hugely generous in donating already, for anyone that would be kind enough to spare some pennies the link is below
As always these adventures are only successful with the help of many. In particular thanks to my family in Mongolia, and back home (our 1 year old Nina did not fancy the trip!), Sandbaggers for their utterly first class organisation, Merrell for providing the best kit and their support, Arnaud Le Marie for his excellent work on the website, my coach Donnie Campbell, and the many other people that make these things possible, and most of the time enjoyable.