With average temperatures of -40 celsius, and the lowest density of human habitation on earth, Mongolia in winter is widely considered one of the most beautiful, yet savage places on earth. Perhaps it is unsurprising that few have attempted any serious endurance challenges there in winter, but January 2016 will see a band of hardy British adventurers attempt the inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon, run not on land, but along the frozen Tuul gol river, an area heavily populated with wolves, with the route patrolled by teams of huskies to ensure their safety.
The expedition will support Scottish Charities Riding for the Disabled Association and SAMH, whilst legacy work in Mongolia will see the building of gers (homes) for needy families, and the donation of medical equipment to rural communities.
These challenges have been set by expedition leader David Scott of Sandbaggers, a veteran of over 20 trips to Mongolia, and Dr Andrew Murray, who is also Mongolian Honorary Consul for Scotland
“Effort alone will not be enough,” said Scott. “Competitors will need to prepare themselves thoroughly for the frigid conditions, have the necessary quality clothing, and need a fair slice of luck, particularly with the weather. We have several teams of huskies to resupply runners, and ensure interactions with the local wildlife are safe. And although there is a chance of failure, this is an area of extreme beauty, of vast skies, unique culture, and a rich history. It is also an opportunity for a world first. The runners are no strangers to extreme endurance, and they come from all corners of the globe. Doug Wilson and Lucja Leonard from Australia, Lenka Istvanova from Slovakia, and Shona Thomson from the UK have a huge number of impressive achievements, whilst Andrew Murray has won cold races including the North Pole Marathon, and Antarctic Ice Marathon.
It's a real privilege to be involved in furthering relations between Mongolia and Scotland. This is the latest in a series of sporting and cultural events and I'm particularly honoured to be attending the 5th Ulan Bator Burns supper with such illustrious company, in advance of the event itself.'
Murray, 35 from Edinburgh, who works as a Sports and Exercise Doctor with University of Edinburgh and is a Merrell brand ambassador added: “It is human nature to test yourself, and try and test your own body’s limits. I can’t say that my support crew has ever been a pack of huskies before, but I’ll be giving it everything I have to get to the finish and avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Conditions are expected to be -35 to minus 40, but it is likely to feel a little colder with the wind chill. But all those hours training up in the Scottish hills in winter whilst everyone else is enjoying their Christmas festivities will be worth it. Everyone will look to do well, but the principle objective is to finish, and have a full complement of fingers and toes to go home with - Dave Scott is the best in the business and will give us every chance.
“Outer Mongolia is beyond spectacular. Where else could you run down an ice river in an area so steeped in history, with the prospect of a Burns supper, complete with a pipe band to look forward to when we arrive in Ulan Bator. In this endeavour, many of us are looking to promote the value of regular exercise for health. Even walking 30 minutes 5 times per week, makes you on average happier, and helps you live 7 years longer than couch potatoes.”
Shona Thomson, who has run marathons on all seven continents and the North Pole, is heading up the fundraising for RDA. Shona, who is sponsored by Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports, said...
"I first met Andrew a few years ago at the Antarctic Ice Marathon and I met David through the National Adventure Awards in 2014. It's incredible to be involved in this expedition and I'm looking forward to meeting old and new friends. I've got several objectives for the trip. Primarily, I want to raise a lot of funding for Riding for the Disabled (RDA) and the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH). In addition to running the marathon, I'll also be riding a Mongolian pony to help raise awareness of RDA. I’ve not ridden for years so I’m hoping that at a minimum the pony has been broken in!
I'm also looking forward to experiencing a new culture and visiting a country I might never have otherwise got to see. It'll be wonderful to see the beautiful landscapes on the marathon course. With Tokyo marathon just a few weeks later (and another trip to Asia!) I'll be treating this a training run, not a race, so I’ll be able to take in the scenery! I've had tremendous support from Ellis Brigham who have been a wonderful sponsor to me for several years. Huge thanks to everyone who is making this happen!"
Kate Bennett, Chairman of RDA West & Central Scotland, said, “We are thrilled to have the support of this intrepid and brave team who are running in Mongolia for Riding for the Disabled. The much needed funds will benefit riders throughout the region and help us run invaluable training and competitions”.
Maurice Donohue from SAMH said, “The invitation to take part in the Ice Marathon in Mongolia was an offer that I could not refuse, particularly as my day job at SAMH is to highlight the benefits of physical activity and better mental health. It’s also a chance to raise much needed funds for SAMH, Scotland’s leading mental health charity along with supporting the Riding for the Disabled Association. An additional bonus is that it will take my own personal fitness to a whole new level given it involves running in sub-zero conditions. The 104 half-marathons that I did in a 104 weeks to mark my 50th birthday will be a breeze compared to this.
Jo Anderson, Director of External Affairs, SAMH said, “Maurice is a great champion for the benefits of physical activity and improved mental health at SAMH and across Scotland. A huge thank you to those runners raising funds for SAMH alongside Maurice, we salute your stamina and commitment to raising the profile and importance of mental health”
The event will be supported by expedition organisers Sandbaggers, while Paisley based Digitalpict Photography will provide event & expedition photography, and HUTC will capture documentary and news video footage.
To see more and to donate, see uk.virginmoneygiving.com