This post goes to all the people that made our trip to Mongolia such a wonderful experience, all those that with a simple word, a kind smile or a long conversation left a mark in our honeymoon, making it an unforgettable adventure (PS: in this post, I won’t talk about the organisers of the race. They did a great job and deserve all our gratitude, but I want to focus on the other runners of our group. Thanks also to the organisers anyway!). You can have the most pristine and wild nature and location in the world, but if you are stuck with the wrong kind of people, well, it does not take much to turn seven days of adventure into a nightmare.
This wasn’t the case for us though: all our “partners in crime” over the last week proved to be one of the most interesting and entertaining bunch of people that we have ever met… It’s unbelievable if you think that technically speaking they were our “competitors”. It is indeed true that in trail running there are no competitors but yourself!
Photo by Enkhbat, Ms2s.org
We can start with John, an Irishman living in Singapore who came to Mongolia to celebrate his 40th birthday, started with the idea of finishing the 42k, and ended up winning the 100k, showing amazing determination whilst facing all challenges with a smile on his lips and the politeness of a Brit – even though he would never forgive us for defining him a Brit. The humility, kindness and determination of John will always be a source of inspiration.
Then there is Randy, a Canadian living in Japan with whom we did not speak much, but who became the main entertainer of the group in no time. His big-mouth lifted the spirit of everyone, even in the most dire situations, and he made each and every one of us laugh at least once, conquering the respect of everyone else in the camp.
Carolyn and Bruce were one of the other couples in our group: two Americans coming from the pancake-flat Illinois with the hobby of travelling and taking part in tough competitions that had hundreds of stories to tell, making us understand that exploring the world by doing sports can provide uncomparable emotions.
Another couple held high the colours of Poland. It was composed of Beata and Tomasz, who are probably the people boasting the highest number of “strange marathons” attended, including destinations such as Nepal or Teheran.
The day after our arrival to the camp, yet another couple joined the group, this time with a Croatian number plate: Jelena and Igor made their entrance on a motorbike that they had driven around over the last three months, ready to challenge the climbs of Mongolia with minimum training. Showing a great deal of courage and ability to always stay positive, Igor ended up completing the 100k in the direst weather conditions possibile, while Jelena closed the 42k with a wide smile, jumping with joy. (If you want to follow their adventure around Asia, take a look to their blog on FB, WheelsOnTheRun).
Photo by Enkhbat, Ms2s.org
Going from couples to trios, let’s spend some words for the South-African team composed by Warren, Tanya, and Clare. Starting with Warren, I’ll be always grateful to him for sharing with us the story of his worst trail-experience ever on the eve of the race: the emotions he conveyed in relating how despite all difficulties, accidents and problems it is always possible to come to the finish line, made me certain that we would finish also our race. And on race day, the way he just enjoyed the whole marathon is just the embodiement of trail running, selfies and pictures included. It is not by chance that he also organises trail runs in South Africa and we are already planning to pay him a visit sooner or later. Tanya and Clare are instead the most running- and hiking-enthusiast mom and daugher I’ve ever met in my life and the strength they give to each other can be felt just by looking at them. Just think that 22-year-old Clare completed all alone the 100k, the first in her life, coming in at the 42k mark only few minutes after Chiara and me and restarting from the camp only few minutes later, crossing her mum on her way out. When Tanya got to the finish line of the 42k and decided to stop there, I told her that her daughter had just left, fresh like a daisy, and she just replied with a smile “I know, she is 22”. Later in the evening, a storm hit the lake while Clare was on her last 10 or 20k, but her mum never worried too much, sure that Clare would able to keep safe and get to the finish line. After a while, she arrived, South African flag in her hand, a proud mum at her side…and still full of energy and smiles. Besides, the calmness and ability to listen that both have is so refreshing that we already look forward to meeting them again, on the trail or somewhere else.
And then there are many others: the trio coming from Japan, with Ando, Kato and Imai San, who I met in the sauna the day after the race and asked me “did you finish the 100k?” And I told him “No, I did the 42k with my wife”, to which he replied “Aaaaah, yes, family hour”. I will never forget it.
As I will never forget the determination and self-discipline of Hugo, who came all the way from El Salvador to complete his first 100k. His ability to stay focused on his goal while being so open, forthcoming and friendly with everyone is unbelievable and I wish that this will be just one of the successes that I’m sure lay in front of him.
Photo by Enkhbat, Ms2s.org
Then there are Paul, Robin, Naomi, Vladimir, Fang, Berend, Chao, Wendy, Hooi, Emmanuelle, Janie, Lewis (who could not finish the 100k because of a twisted knee but has already promised to come back to finish it), Jamie (who travels only by bike and train and came to Mongolia just to take part and finish the 100k…I guess he is a machine!), and Reanna and Bayannyam, who finished the 42k together even though none of them had never run more than 20 minutes in the park.
A special thanks goes also to Ben, the doctor, a huge Dane that took care of our health and mood with jokes, friendly conversations…and drinks.
Oh, I almost forgot Darya, the ladies’ winner of the 100k, a Russian skyrunner that for more than half of the race led the race, showing how much ladies can compete with men on longer distances. She did great and we cheered for her so much. After the race, with typical Russian spirit, she commented her performance by saying that “she did normal”, claiming that it was not such a big deal to finish a 100k race on the podium, doing better than most of the men… One can only hope that she will realize what she has done over the next weeks.
And finally there are also Stephen and Fiona, an Irish couple who did not take part in the race but stayed at the camp the same days we were there and, guess what, they live in Brussels! It seems that we had to travel for more than 8000 km to meet the neighbours, since they live only 20′ from our home… Currently they are continuing their journey in the Gobi desert, but we look forward to the day we can invite them over for dinner to see the pictures and hear the tales of their days in Mongolia.
So, this was it, a very long post to write down the names of those starring in our unforgettable honeymoon: to all of you goes our heartfelt thank you and the best wishes for your future, looking forward to the day our roads (or trails) will cross again.