There’s sport, there’s extreme sport – and then there’s Rat Race Mongol 100.
In a far-flung corner of North-Western Mongolia lies Lake Khovsgol: the deepest lake in Asia, the 14th largest in the world and one of only 17 ancient lakes on the planet aged over 2 million years-old. And lining the lake are shores inhabited by roaming wolves. That’s right, wolves.
Introducing Rat Race Mongol 100
It’s hostile, it’s remote, it’s 100 miles in length, and it is the coldest place on earth outside Antarctica, with temperatures reaching a bone-rattling -40C. In winter, the entirety of the water freezes to around a metre thick, creating the course for what is known as the Mongol 100.
This March, 33 intrepid athletes will take part in the Mongol 100, one of the most extreme physical challenges – and mental challenges – on earth. One of the 33 is Dan Jones, a 36 year old from Chesterfield.
Dan will also be joined by his father, Mark, who is travelling as part of a team providing support for the runners, and is undertaking the outrageous challenge to raise funds for Children in Need.
On the face of it, for mere mortals like the vast majority of us, a 100 mile race across a frozen lake in one of the coldest and most inhospitable places on earth, while running the not inconsiderable gauntlet of wild wolves, is completely bananas. But Dan, with his background in endurance events like Tough Mudder, isn’t like most of us. We caught up with him for a chat about the unimaginably cold weather, the challenge, the wolves, and other assorted life-threatening dangers he seeks to overcome.
KUDOS: So, to begin with, let’s get this straight – you’re going to be traversing 100 miles across a frozen lake in Outer Mongolia, the coldest place on earth outside of Antarctica, in temperatures of around -40C? How did this come about, and why?
Dan Jones: To be honest it was only by chance. An advertisement came up on my Facebook feed with a video showing a group of people running across a frozen lake. The company advertising the clip are called Rat Race, who I had heard about before. They run various events in the UK but this was a first. I knew straight away that this was something I had to do.
With the absolute greatest of respect and admiration, it sounds hideous – what dangers are you going to be facing?
Ha! Even though it’s a well organised event and the main priority for the event organisers is the safety of the competitors and support crew but with something on this scale nothing is 100% safe. When on the ice we have to watch out for ice seams which zig zag all over the lake. The only way to describe them are veins running through the ice. These seams can split and move the ice up wards proving fatal if standing on them. The route marked out on the ice should avoid any cracks or seams. Then there are the wolves. I don’t really want to think about them, ha! And of course THE COLD. With the wind chill we can expect temperatures of up to -40. Admin is key, a kit malfunction could result in frost bite, skin burns from the wind and hypothermia.
The physical training must be intense and pretty unique – what has your preparation entailed? How on earth do you prepare for -40C or -50C over here?
Preparation has been pretty straight forward as regards to training. I’ll be covering roughly a marathon a day for 4 days while on the ice, so to replicate the hard ice surface I’ve been doing all my running on the tarmac. My running background has mainly been trail running so I’ve had to adjust my running style quite a bit. I’ve been running 6 days a week with my long runs over the weekend and shorter runs through the week to fit around my work. My long runs are at a slow controlled pace at around 15-20 miles per run. Over in Mongolia the temperatures will be dropping as low as -40, here in Britain we obviously don’t even come close to that so I cant really prepare for such conditions. Having the right kit is paramount.
We can’t imagine you’ve undertaken many, if any, challenges more daunting than this – is there an element of psychological training / preparation too?
This will be my biggest challenge to date for sure. You have to remember only a handful of people have ever made this crossing during the winter on foot so the pressure on myself to complete it is huge. When I used to serve with the Royal Marines and the rest of my Army career, a lot of the training we did was psychological so I think that will be in my favour for sure.
What is your background in terms of extreme sports and endurance?
I come from an OCR (obstacle course racing) background and have competed in the world’s Toughest Mudder World Championships in America which was a 24hr endurance event and I also competed in the OCR World Championships. The longest I have ever run at one time was at the World’s Toughest Mudder which was 50 miles. I’m hoping to fall back on my experience from those events while on the ice.
From your perspective is it an individual challenge, or are you going to be concerning yourself with racing against the others?
There are 33 competitors who are taking part and all of us will be looking out for each other but the bottom line is that I want to be the first person to complete it. I’m a very competitive person and I’m not turning up just to ‘take part’ but to do the best I can possibly do.
You’re doing this to raise money for Children in Need – what made you choose that particular charity?
As we all know, the BBC Children in Need is a fantastic charity. It currently supports 2,400 projects all across the UK helping disadvantage kids have that start in life they deserve. Having served in Bosnia with the British Army I witnessed some horrible situations that young children found themselves in and it’s always stuck with me. I feel blessed to be in the position I find myself in with continued support from my family. My Dad is actually part of the 6 man support crew. Bring it on!
We’d like to thank Dan for taking time out of his preparations for this challenge of a lifetime to speak to us, and wish him and his Dad the very best of luck. We’re delighted to be donating some kit for Dan’s adventure as a small token of our respect and admiration.
Dan and Mark are looking for companies to sponsor the specialised expedition kit that will allow them to take high-quality photos and footage of the race. Anyone interested can email: firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate visit the JustGiving page at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/danieljonesmongol100.
Good luck Dan and Mark!
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