to Sunset 2005 Race Report
The 2005 Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset Race fielded the most competent group of runners in the race's seven-year history. Testimony to this was first-time 100km racer Gregory Feucht crushing the previous course record with a time of 10 hours, 33 minutes. Argentinian runner and Harry Potter illustrator Dolores Avendano efficiently crossed the finish line in 15 hours and 38 minutes to win the women's 100 km race.
The Mongolian runners were championed by runner Battulga to claim a 42 km race victory, with Battulga finishing first in 4 hours 33 minutes. Jane Jamieson of Britain won the women's race with a time of 6:42. The men's veteran race was won by Marcel Bellen with a time of 5:29, the women's veteran winner was Simone Bovin with a time of 8:01.
The 2005 race began from lakeside, at Toilogt Camp, on July 29th, at 4:30 AM, about one hour before the sunrise. The temperature was only 2C. There were 21 people running 100 km, and 28 competing in the 42 km race.
The run is staged along the shore of Lake Hovsgol, a 2760 sq km (1080 sq miles) alpine lake, with water so pure that you can drink it. To make the race a challenge as well as a delight, add a number of 2000+ m (over 6600 ft ) mountains, thick pine forest and lush meadows exploding with flowers, dotted with grazing yaks and horses. The lake itself is one of the deepest in Central Asia containing 2% of the world's drinking water. Just over the mountains from Siberia's Lake Baikal, along the border with Russia, the lake is sacred to local Mongolians, who refer to it as "mother."
The first 4.5 km through the forest is one of the most dangerous parts of the course: running through the forest in the dark by torchlight. All racers came through without harm and as they proceeded up the lake, enjoyed a breathtaking light show of pink and gold reflected on the lake as the sun began to rise. The run to the first aid station at 12 km along the lake was relatively easy.
The real race starts after this as racers start climbing the first pass from 1600 meters, quickly gaining altitutde as they climbed the mountain to 2300 meter Chichee Pass. Sergio Trece, one of the favourites to win the race, started five minutes late but quickly made up time and was running in first place by 12 km. During the mountain climb he was overtaken by Gregory Feucht. This was the first signal that this was going to be a tough race to win.
Sergio regained the lead from Gregory for a short while on the downhill toward the Ongolong Aid Station, but this did not last long. The two of them continued to run toward 100 km "90% each alone for himself, and 75% not seeing anybody else". The day unfolded with great running weather, typical of Mongolia: sunny, with blue sky highlighted by dramatic white clouds, and temperature reaching 20C by noon.
Very dry weather leading up to the race made the course this year better than usual, allowing the very competent group of runners to achieve excellent time. Gregory and Sergio were running so fast that the Modot Bulan Aid Station at 76 km had not yet been completely set up when the two of them arrived. The excellent conditions and speed with which the course was being run was foreshadowed how competently the whole group of 100 km runners were tackling the course.
Gregory arrived at 88 km very hungry and took only enough time to replenish his food supply before leaving for the final push and new course record of an unbelievable 10:33. By the time Gregory had finished, the gap had grown between the two front runners, with Sergio running about an hour behind Gregory.
The winner of the race was clear, but a struggle was underway for second place. At 88 km Sergio and last year's race winner, Hovsgul park ranger Tumur Bantyam were battling it out. Sergio made a final push to finish second with a time of 11:37, followed by Tumur finishing third with a time of 11:44.
The 100 km ladies had two strong contenders, Dolores Avendano who arrived from what seemed the opposite side of the Earth, Argentina. Unfortunately her luggage did not make the complete trip. Except for her own running shoes and bits and pieces of her running kit, she was forced to borrow everything else required for the run from other particpants. By race day her luck had changed, she won the 100 km with a time of 15:38. Second place in the 100 km women's race went to Gemma Ashwell, who with her South African running partner Jody Forrester, finished with a time of 17:19.
The 100 km race was completed earlier than any other year, led by Gregory's record breaking time and finished by an extremely competent group of runners. The bulk of the 100 km runners were cooled by late afternoon rain, and finishing while traces of sun could still be seen in the sky.
The 42 km race was run by seven women and nineteen men. Sharing the course with the 100 km runners, Mongolian runner Battulga finished first with a time of 4:33. Jane Jamieson of Britain won the women's race with a time of 6:42.
In addition to being strong runners, two of the 100 km participants from this year's race pressed an additional challenge upon themselves. James Roberts of the UK made the 841 km trip to Toilogt from Ulaan Bataar by bicycle, arriving two days before the race. A few days after running 100 km with a respectable time of 13:41, James was off again on four legs, participating in a week-long trek by horse.
Sergio Treca did the 841 km trip in reverse after the race. Sergio left two days after race, bicycling alone along jeep trails, for the first 400 km. Sergio arrived in Ulaan Bataar nine days later, just in time to celebrate the annual Mongolian Naadam Festival.
Once again as Tengri, the great god of the sky that orders the Mongolian universe, watched over the MS2S running group, we enjoyed the unspoiled natural environment, were supported by the brave and kind horsemen, and achieved new personal bests. When you raise your eyes to the sky in Mongolia, you will feel Tengri watching you through the extraordinary intense blue expanse that covers one of most spectacular, beautiful, pristine and remote places on the Earth.
All photos Copyright Clement Marin.