Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset
It’s supposed to bet he most beautyful ultramarathon in the world…well, it is very beautyful, but they don’t know the korean races. But what is really true: It is a race in a gorgeous country with a wonderful landscape, wide and open fields, surrounded with sandy hills or rocky mountains. The main means of transportation are still the horses, there are only few cars, mainly those old russian military busses in which you think you ride on a ship with high waves and no cussions.
The race is held on the lake of Hovsgol, which is the second biggest waterreservoir of the world. All participants, and only 100 are allowed, stay there for one whole week and live in a traditional ger-camp. It is a perfect outdoor event, more like camping. All meals are taken together in a bigger ger, breakfast with traditional yogourt and eggs and cereals, lunch comes always in a box and dinner is meat, vegetables, potatoes, rice and salad. Good enough to survive the race!
In the middle of the week, the race is held. The start for marathon and 100k is at the same time, at 4.30 in the morning with headlights mandatory for everybody, which is absolutly necessary because the fist three kilometers you run on a small trail through a forest with a lot of roots and stones. Most don’t run this part for safetyness. After that you come out of the forest and see the first daylight, not yet sunset. The trail guides you along the lakeshore, beautiful and quite. I ran together with my son this part in slow pace, just to crowl into the race. The first aid station comes after 12k, providing potatoes with salt, water, tomatoes and all served by either companions of runners or mongolians with horses. They help you to fill up your watertank and aplause for everybody.
When you leave the first station, the real race starts – the first hill is commin up with 750hm. Most don’t run that hill, because it’s really steep and you still have some distance to go. On top of the hill, you may have a great view on the lake below, this time not, because it was very cloudy and fogy. The hill is a former volcano, and you run down over not so easy to handle stones and volcano earth. 2 participants got injured in this part of the race, but they finished the marathon. Somehow you have to finish from that point, because you only can choose to go back or forward, there is no streeet or anything, and the next aid station is after halfmarathon distance in the middle of nowhere. Once you are down, you run through a very lovely vally, over green meadows on soft moss. It is very wet underground, so you feel your legs afterwards.
The vally continues for about 4-5 k along hills. We knew, that one of the hills will become ours again, but didn’t know whichone. It comes than quite surprisingly and very steep, with no trail, you have to find your own steps. Some of the marathoners didn’t like that hill at all, even it is only 370hm it is very stranuous for everybody who didn’t train in the mountains.
On the top of the hill you have one of three of the ovos (like the korean stonecairns). In there are living all spirits of mongolia. You have to make them happy with running around three times and lying down one stone in every round. So we did that and asked them for good luck during the race. The downhill is quite dangerous, over a steep meadow with wet long grass and no trail – good luck for the slolier ones in that case, because the first runners made a little trail already.
On the bottom of the hill we were expected by a mongolian rider with his son to treat us with water and apples. The last 10k to the marathon are quite easy, first over meadows and the last part mongolian street. We came in after 7 hours, discovering that this was the easiest marathon we made, because we were completely fit after that. We took time to change close and eat a lot of salty potatoes and have a warm soup. After 35 minutes in the camp, we ran out again, on the most boring part of the race – street for 12k, even along the lake no fun. But we knew, that this will also become our last 12 k, and for this part I thought it would become perfect, since you are tired and it is at least save underground
After 55k the next hill apeared, always crossing the street, directly uphill – no problem and not so long. The downhill after this is quite long and smooth and you reach the 66k aid station relaxed and easy. It is also the second cut off after 12 hours. No problem for us. Between 66k and 78k is thunderstorm surprised us in the middle of a huge meadow with no tress, only some bushes. I decided, when the thunderstorm was only 2 seconds away, to share the bushes with the rabbits and my son….so we waited about 10 minutes until it was gone far enough. But we got completely wet and were happy that we were able to run again and warm up a little bit. It was not so far to the 78 station, which was the last cut off – we made it 1.45 hours before the time. So we changed again, I even changed my shoes, because everything was completely wet.
The next 10k are very exhausting, many ups and downs and a lot of mossy underground which is wet and your feet get wet again at once. From that time on we all couldn’t avoid to get blisters anymore. But you run still through beautyful scenery, partly 100meters upon the lake with great views, which is helping you to stand that part. At 88k the last aid station comes and we knew now that we will make it until the end. The boring part after the marothon is getting to a perfect part for the end with having the sunrise and many mongolian people clapping hands for you and partly coming with you for a few meters. To make in time, we could not walk slowly, we still had to take care for the pace. One runner said before the race, just think on the part, that you do your wakeup run in the morning, relax and enjoy. We tried to follow his advise and it helped indead.
When you come close to the goal it’s a fantastic feeling and the last two kilometers are only happy moments. For me the best feeling was, that I could make it this year together with my son, next year he might be already too fast for me.
The day after the race is only relaxing, taking care for blisters and other problems, if you have. In the evening everybody is a winner, and gets a t-shirt, a cute medal and a big handshake.
All together a fantastic event, we will not forget and I might come back hopefully.