Saturday, August 06, 2011

Owen Paterson on the Mongol Derby - Full Article
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson and his wife are saddling up for the Mongol Derby.

By Cassandra Jardine

7:00AM BST 05 Aug 2011

Owen Paterson is on a diet. Carrying a few extra pounds doesn’t matter at Cabinet meetings, but the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland won’t be able to start the longest, most extreme horse race in the world unless his weight, including boots and clothes, is less than 85kg (just over 13st).

So he says no to a slice of bread with lunch at his home in Shropshire. But that, ominously, is all he has done to prepare for the Mongol Derby, a gruelling ordeal which competitors say “takes you through the pain barrier”.

Today he and his wife Rose, along with two dozen other competitors, will be dumped somewhere in the middle of the Mongolian steppe near UB, as the cognoscenti call the capital, Ulan Bator. They then have 10 days in which to travel 1,000 miles, equipped with only a pony, GPS and an 11lb bag of equipment. By the time they reach the finishing line, they will have encountered rivers, hills, thunderstorms, vicious dogs, dehydration, sunburn and, most likely, fallen off their semi-wild steeds...

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