This is an adventure that will change your life. Nothing will be the same for you again. From the epic expanse, beauty and terror of the lake to the customs, kindness and hospitality of the Mongolian people, the Mongol 100 is truly the greatest adventure on earth.
It’s brutal, epic and beautiful in equal measure, but this is also a lesson in survival, bonding, lasting friendship and teamwork.
You have to experience this to understand it. The greatest race on earth. Bar none.
No amount of running or adventure experience can fully prepare you for Lake Khovsgol…and that’s the point. You go there to learn and respect; not conquer. The stunning backdrop of mountains and a lake stretching to the horizon in front and behind satisfy a desire we all have to ‘get away from it all’ whilst being surrounded by ‘your kind of people.’ Your distance run, what position you are in and ‘where is the next checkpoint’ become irrelevant in a world where you are caught up in simply beating the conditions with every step. Keep that water bottle from freezing, wipe the ice from your eyelashes and feel your everyday world fall behind to the rhythmic crunch crunch crunch of your ice spikes on the deep black marbled ice. Every breath freezes the inside of your nose and your senses are bombarded with the artillery-like noises of the ice cracking and moving beneath you.
This is the closest thing to an Ice Volcano you’ll ever experience. The landscape around you is alive.
To come here to run 100 miles is missing the point. This is an authentic adventure in a place few have trodden. The challenge brings you to live with the locals for a week; as a result you feel part of a family on the ice, not a crew ….but actual family. Many races bring rewards of distance or positions, many chase podiums and times. But here you measure achievement in experience, learning and friendship.
No race will be the same again after this.
When I was browsing the map of places to do fantastic things and considering Mongolia, I really had no idea that about a year later I’d be ice-skating the length of a frozen lake, wearing a fur hat. Still, life is indeed stranger than fiction. I have always been a skier: X-country, back-country touring, alpine, the lot. But it has been 20 years plus since I ice-skated back at the Doncaster Dome somewhere in the murky haze of the ‘90s. And that was a teenage treat, not a regular occurrence. That skiing background definitely helped and some experience of x-country skiing specifically will stand you in good stead for the skating here. But it is not outside the realm of reasonable for anyone who wants to go down their local ice-rink and strap on the skates. Have a slide, see how you feel and get used to the sensation.
Then imagine yourself gliding silently across a huge lake with the horizon ahead, mountains either side, blue sky above and a dark, pearlescent polished surface beneath your feet.
Truly other-worldly. You would expect me to say that this was incredible, amazing and totally unique of course. Rat Race is my company and I want you to come and do the event! But all I can say with hand on heart is that I have been to many, many places. This is right up there. The event will be special for many reasons; but how many opportunities will you ever have to ice-skate across a remote lake in the Mongolian wilderness. I dare say the Mongol 100 is most unique for that opportunity alone.
I love riding my bike so this was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. With mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation I jumped on and peddled away onto the lake. I had definitely been apprehensive. But as soon as I started riding, my mood lifted immediately. In fact I was grinning madly under my balaclava.
This was amazing. I was riding across sheet ice at minus 40 degrees in Outer Mongolia. Not many people have written that sentence, let alone actually done it!
The bike set-up was perfect – loads of traction and with an ability to fluently cover the varied surfaces with ease. It’s not without its own challenges though; my hands, feet and bum got really cold. Big mittens solved cold hands but made braking and changing gear near impossible and I never really solved the cold feet and bum issues. I suspect I just didn’t have the right kit with me, but that kit is out there. So progress on the bike is great fun and on the smooth sheet ice sections it is very fast, but for me it was slowed by having to walk for about 20 mins after every hour’s riding in order for the feet and glutes to warm up. It’s also much tougher on the broken up ‘chossy’ ice slab sections. Cycling doesn’t make this challenge any easier, it definitely has its own problems to solve and I would say it is worthy of the same accolade as running. As a biking objective, this is truly unique and definitely makes for some surreal photos! I will remember it forever.
Lake Khovsgol in winter is the most beautifully harsh environment I have ever been too. Perhaps a contradiction in terms but for me, that sums the place up perfectly. The opportunity to be on a vast body of ice and hear the sounds of it shifting and booming around you, your breath turning to ice on your face and your eye lashes sticking together, your sweat turning to snow both outside and inside your clothes is like nothing I have ever experienced. But the warmth of the local people supporting you means that the running is in fact just a wonderful bonus.
There are many things that will challenge you on this Event, apart from the distance itself. Previously simple tasks like cleaning your teeth (with frozen tooth paste) and going to the toilet in the middle of the night (without anything important dropping off in the cold!) bring new perspective to these day to day comings and goings that we take for granted when the mercury is a little higher. But I found myself embracing these quirks with a smile on my face as part of the adventure.
And what an adventure it is. This is one of most unique things you will ever get to experience, in so many ways.