Monday, September 14, 2015

Mongolia: Crossing the Finish Line - Full Story

Desk to Derby | August 31, 2015

It’s been over two weeks since I crossed the Mongol Derby finish line and I’m just beginning to understand what happened to me.

Twenty-eight Mongolian horses and 1,000 kilometres later I’m a much different person from the timid amateur rider who crossed the start line on August 5th. The extreme experiences I’ve had over this last month make my six weeks training in Utah feel like a dream – like overheard anecdotes from a stranger’s life.

The real Mongol Derby journey began after a bumpy four-hour bus ride out of Ulaanbaatar and two days of training out on the steppe, when we finally reached start camp. Day 1 of the Derby was a brilliantly sunny day, with few clouds in the sky. The sweet grassy smell of the open plains was almost overwhelming, choking out even the musky odour of our Mongolian bridles made of goat hide.

I think I was fifth or sixth in line to get my mount and the herders threw me up on a frisky little chestnut and we milled about for almost an hour before all 36 riders were up and organized. We clustered about the flags at the start and Mongol Derby chief Katy Willings began counting down from 10. It was only in the 10 seconds before the race began I truly began to feel calm, knowing I’d prepared as best I could. In those final 10 seconds another emotion began to build – real excitement about the adventure I was about to embark on...

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