09:48 GMT +318 October 2019
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    Tim Finley says a prayer to his military colleagues who have taken their own lives since returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq. He named a horse on every leg of the Mongol Derby race after one of his colleagues that have passed away

    World's Toughest Derby: Running Wild in Mongolia

    © Photo : RICHARD DUNWOODY
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    Extreme sports athletes are the modern day equivalent of gladiators. They have a strong love for adrenalin-inducing, dangerous endeavours. There seems to be a desire in a growing number of individuals worldwide to be able to undertake such 'extreme' endeavours and adventurists are popping up in all sorts of unlikely places.

    The Mongol Derby is one such endeavour…  a grueling 1,000 kilometer endurance horse race re-tracking the likely journey of Genghis Khan across Mongolia riding on the back of semi-wild horses. Sounds like a hoot, but certainly not for the faint-hearted!

    The annual race is described on the organizers' website as "the toughest horse race in the world." It is also officially acknowledged as the world's longest horse race and every year groups of thrillseekers head out for their adventurist trip of a lifetime in order to make new memories and to be able to share some rather interesting tales with friends and family.

    ​The annual derby documents a fantastic array of multimedia during the full duration of the race including live blogging on Twitter and Facebook all the way to a great catalogue of photography and video content shared for others to feel rather jealous about.

    ​The Mongol Derby experience includes the chance for man (and woman!) and their "wild" beast to bond across the duration of the course, and if they don't bond each rider gets the chance to change horses after every 40km. Resting moments includes the experience of living with herders and camping under the stars and much unknown in-between.

    Each year around 40 professional, semi-professional and enthusiastic amateur riders compete for the derby crown and this year 3 riders crossed the winning line to take joint 1st place.

    Three joint winners of the 2016 Mongol Derby, Heidi, Will and Marcia
    © Photo : RICHARD DUNWOODY
    Three joint winners of the 2016 Mongol Derby, Heidi, Will and Marcia

    ​43-year-old Canadian Lawyer Heidi Telstad was crowned the top spot, alongside fellow riders, Will 'Dingo' Comiskey, 28, a cattle rancher from Australia, and Marcia Hefker-Miles, 45, from New Mexico.

    ​Speaking to reporters in Mongolia after the race, Telstad, one of the three winners said:

    "The adrenaline rush somehow makes you extremely brave or stupid. It definitely feels good!"

    Josefine Schopman after finishing the Mongol Derby
    © Photo : Laurence Squire
    Josefine Schopman after finishing the Mongol Derby

    Speaking about what the experience felt like, she went on to add:

    "Just before I started the race, I was really nervous, and my confidence was really shot. But once I got on the horses, it was exciting. I think I was the happiest I had ever been. I think my jaw was even hurting from smiling so much!" she said.

    Three joint winners of the 2016 Mongol Derby, Heidi, Will and Marcia
    © Photo : RICHARD DUNWOODY
    Three joint winners of the 2016 Mongol Derby, Heidi, Will and Marcia

    Which probably says more about the experience than anything else, as the race sustains many injuries for the riders. Telstad herself suffered a broken rib as well as a punctured lung after one of her horses stepped on her. But she used more than adrenalin to keep her motivated by also fund-raising for her chosen charity, the BC Epilepsy Society. In addition to the bruises and the scrapes, she is said to have raised $2,800 for the charity.

    ​When asked by the organizers of the event how she celebrated her moments of glory after the race and she told them:

    "The first thing I did was take a shower. I have long hair, and it took me about an hour to get a brush through my hair. It was so matted and gnarly, but it was all worth it!" 

    To stand a chance of finishing riders must balance survival skills and horsemanship. They must endure the natural elements, the unpredictability of being on semi-wild horses as well as unfamiliar food and terrain. 

    Completing the World's longest horse race, let alone winning it is certainly an achievement that very few can boast. And let's not forget the 'Equally Wild' Horses who should also get a pat on the back and some extra oats for playing their part.

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    Tags:
    sports, victory, derby, wild horses, horse racing, race, horse, Mongol Derby, Asia, Mongolia
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