Australian mining operator Sam Jones has won the 2014 Mongol Derby, the world’s longest and toughest horse race.
The Mongol Derby requires equestrians to trek 1,000 kilometers across the Mongolian steppe, retracing the route of Genghis Khan’s ancient postal system on semiwild local horses. After eight days of riding, with no more than a Google map printed on paper, Jones found and crossed the finish line. She finished 90 minutes ahead of the next rider. “I feel I could do another 1,000 kilometers,” Jones, 40, said.
Riders switch horses three times a day at stations 40 kilometers apart and manned by nomadic Mongolian herders. This year’s event was more challenging than usual thanks to heavy rainfall. “I compare it to the equine equivalent of climbing Everest,” said Jones, who has been riding horses since she was 14. “It’s a challenge. It’s an adventure.”
As with any physical challenge, riders train in the months prior to the race. “You would be unwise not to physically train for this,” says Outside contributor Will Grant, who finished the 2012 race and wrote about it in the May 2013 issue of the magazine.
Forty-eight riders started this year’s race. So far, 10 have withdrawn as a result of injury, illness, or dehydration. Those who do finish will do so over the next few days. “This race is absolutely no joke,” Grant says. “It is physically the most taxing thing I have ever done. But you just have to put a leg on each side, your mind in the middle, and ride like hell. ”