Race Report

Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 2008 Race Report
9 July 2008, Lake Hovsgol National Park, Mongolia
Ms. Jeong Ran Kwak (Ranny)

2008 Race Results

The gift Mongolia gave to me
Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 100km Ultra Run - “Absolute!"

Graham who was running behind me shouted. I could see the faraway beautiful lake and the primitive white cloud above. Seoul to Ulan Bator, then Ulan Bator to Mureung by domestic flight, and then here,Hovsgol Lake by a jeep after 5hours of long drive.

I see these scenery everyday after I arrived in Hovsgol Camp, the base of Marathon race. The absolute view which wouldn't need any addition or deletion. On what else can we dare use the word "absolute"? 4 of us, Graham, Briget, my roommate Velle, and I were running together. Actually, we were walking fast rather than running. The only thing we want was to finish this race by arriving at finish line as soon as possible. I signed up for 100km for this race. However, it looks impossible to go further. I climbed 2 mountains which were 2,000meters above the sea level. Uphill roads of the mountains were extremely steep, needless to say downhill roads. Mountain path of 60 degree inclination looked just like cliffs. Korean mountains have lots of rocks, stones, and humps to step on no matter how steep they are. However, Mongolian mountains are just like cliffs with wild flowers and weeds with nowhere to step on. No wonder the mountain path of Mongolia are for horses and yak, not for human. My body was about to ! fall over while I was getting down the steep mountain path. The pain in my knees started from that moment. My knees were OK on flat roads, however I couldn't proceed on downhill roads because of the fierce pain in my knees. It's the rule of this race to deposit 2 bags at the point of 42km and 76km. I thought I could finish 42km easily. However, the most important and difficult course was the 42km point. I had explored this place the previous day, and I had thought it wouldn't be that hard because I didn't run like I was in actual race, with frequent rest of course. That's why I prepared for light running shoes for 42km point, and another running shoes with thick sole for Ultra Marathon after the 42km point. However, my strategy was totally shattered. The flat roads were also covered with pebbles which shocked my knees, and the 2 steep mountain roads did harm to my knees first. I couldn't proceed a step to the downhill road. I finally turned myself, and got down the hill ste! pping backward. My knees felt less pain in this way, however it took a lot of time and exhausted my energy. I couldn't believe that my high morale to finish the 100km race faded away so easily. They say that Mongolian Marathon is the world's most beautiful run. I only expected to enjoy the beautiful primeval forest, not to pay the painful cost to match it. I could see another lake next to the faraway Hovsgollake.I would be able to see 'Hovsgol Travel' signboard if I went around the lake, and then reach the 42km finish line soon afterwards. We felt a moment of relaxation hearing Graham's exclamation. But what happened to me? I was haunted by the vision of the forest I saw a couple of hours ago. I was moving to the finish line with heavy steps without releasing myself from the impression of the forest.

'Why am I so breathless?'

I couldn't know the reason. Maybe because I had gained weight after the Sahara Desert race. I couldn't believe that I was so breathless even though the mountain road was very steep. Maybe it was because of the rapidly lowered stamina resulted from insufficient training due to my devotion to writing this year. I fell into low spirit. I shouldn't be this way after merely passing Ongolog Aid Station which was 23.5 km point 1 hour ago. I had a long way to go. Then, I thought about the height of this place was over 2,000 meters. I was climbing Kirbesteg, the precipitous mountain I saw in the map. I felt a little relaxed with that in my mind.

It was mountain path covered with small wild flowers. I only imagined steppe before I came here, and that's why I was so surprised by this natural forest without any artificial work in this heart of mountains. I got into the path trough the forest looking for the green mark on the trees. Then suddenly, the scenery was changed. The previous path was beautiful of course, however, I felt different energy in here. It was just like I passed trough a invisible secret gate. It was the forest of brown weed. No, it was not brown. How should I call this color of the weed? It was the color I'd never seen. The mixed world of yellowish brown, faded light green and emerald color. Above that was sunlight which was emitting splendid color. My eyes were dazzled by the mysterious colors. It seemed I became a dumb. I coul! dn't describe these colors I was seeing with words. The colors were not in the CLUT(color look up table) that I know of. I started to see this forest with my eyes, then feel it with my whole body. I felt the energy and vibration of the forest that kept ancient mystery. The forest fascinated me in an instant, and wind around me with abstruse and mysterious lumps of power. I stepped up the path. It was very soft field of weed. The field of weed soothed my feet which had have hard time on the bumpy pebble road. However, I felt I was about to fall down due to the steep path. Each step was torturous. I could only hear my own heavy breath. I was walking not with my feet but with my breath. A runner is a human with breath. She feels the nature through her breath. She senses the world with her breath. She communicate with the world through her breath. That's why a runner changes her breathing pattern when she reaches this steep places while she is running. Before I knew it, I was a! dapting my breath to the energy of this land where I was stepping on, throwing my breathing pattern and speed of the city away. I didn't want to leave the place. I wanted to stay there more. I wanted to feel the details of the mysterious area. However, I had to go. I couldn't see Jake who was in front of me. Though I was walking up the mountain, the forest was pulling my steps with the strong rope of the primitive time. I wanted to be tempted by it even for a while, however, I shouldn't. Any runner is destined to bump into the highlight of the natural scenery, and that's why I become restless from the start of the run. What beautiful place will fascinate me in this race? I stretch my tentacle whenever I run, and snatch the scenery that attracts my soul. It's mine. It's belong to the finder who finds and takes it. It's the award and gift for the runner who runs the way stained with pain. William Wordsworth the poet called it 'Point of time'. The time when one is overwhelmed by the natural scenery. It lingers even when we come back home. It come! s and stays with me whenever I call it. The more my daily life is boring and harsh, the more I call the 'Point of time' from my memory. Then I recover my energy and feel the liberation through the lofty moment which is opposite to my shabby reality. After all, a runner is a collector who collects the 'Point of time'. I was running there far from home to collect the unforgettable moment throughout my life.

People asked me how Mongolia was. I couldn't tell them about the forest because I couldn't describe it with the language I was using. Why couldn't I forget the place? What in me met the forest? I'm still in the race even though the race was already over. The path, I'm still running through the primitive path of the unforgettable forest covered with weed. This April, I happened to read the journal of 'Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset' Ultra Race by Mr. Lee. Yong Sik, who was the first chairman of Korea Ultra Marathon Association.

I was fascinated by the journal because the race in the natural forest had a lot of challenges and it was the first Official International Ultra Marathon that Korean participated in. I found the English information on the homepage and translated whenever I had time, and looked for the people who would participate in the race together. The 2 people who planned to go with me canceled 20days before the race. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do the camping because of my inability of English. I concluded that I couldn't go there alone. Therefore, I looked for the English word 'refund', and then bitterly lamented on my incompetence. Then I changed my mind again to go. Running in the Sahara desert of the temperature over 50 degrees celsius and Climbing the Himalaya tolerating the height are not only challenges, but also participating in the strange place in spite of all the fear was the adventure I needed. Now I truly appreciate the 2 men who canceled the par! ticipation of the race. I could solve everything alone, and I got the wings to participate in any international race because of the 2 men's cancellation. All of these are the gift from Mongolia for me.

Written by Ms. Jeong Ran Kwak (Ranny)
Essayist, Regular writer for Marathon essay in Korean monthly Marathon magazine ‘Running Life'
Experiences :
Tracking : Himalaya Annapurna (4,310meter)
Climbing on top of the snow : North Alps Siroumadake in Japan
Ultra Marathon : Sahara Desert (Racing the planet, 2007)
Chungju-lake 100mile run in Korea (2008)