- 5th overall, with a stage victory plus a second and a third place
- The best result in my 7 participations in a multi stages & self-supported Ultra Marathon
- Running is important here, but it is only one part in a very complex competition with different key factors
- It has been an amazing course to discover on foot a magnificent part of the steppe and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
After 6 participations in this type of adventure racing in several stages and self-supported (2 x Marathon des Sables Morocco, Jungle Marathon, Ice Ultra, Marathon des Sables Peru and Kalahari Extreme Marathon), here in Mongolia I have obtained my best sporting result. Finishing 5th of the overall final ranking among 96 participants exceeds my 6th place in the Jungle Marathon 2010 (Amazon Jungle). And also having won the stage 5 of 42.5Km., reached 3rd in the toughest and longest (76Km.), and 2nd in the final stage to the sprint with only 10Km.
I think that even the organization was surprised at my performance, and that a 53-year-old man was ahead, without having previously considered me as part of the possible favourites of the race. But it shows that these events are complex and there are many factors that influence the final result apart from running well and for many kilometres: carry a backpack between 7 and 10Kg on the back, be self-sufficient in everything (except water), have enough energy and to be well all week with the food that each one carries, to sleep on the ground, to endure small injuries such as the almost inevitable blisters, to recover well, to hydrate properly, to run in cold and very hot temperatures, to manage loneliness, have a strategy and adapt it according to the moment and circumstances, etc.
Here the pure runners or those who come very strong and used to ultra-hard marathons of many kilometres in one day, find all these small/great obstacles, and if they do not manage them very well, they can have problems or yielding less than expected. My runner profile is not super specialist, but I’m able to maintain a good pace for long distances, combined with my experience both in this type of races and in many other adventures, and a bit of luck, I use to perform well. I have made 7 of those adventure races in the last 10 years, and I have always been at least within the 10-15% better in the ranking.
The first two days I was calmer, finishing 11th and 14th, and from there I was increasing the pace as I saw that I was very well, arriving 7th, 3rd, 1st and 2nd in the following stages. Too conservative at the beginning? Perhaps having forced more and seeing the performance of the other stages, I could have aspired to the final podium. Or perhaps having forced more these two days, it would have brought me some physical problem and delayed me more in the end. But one does not live on the conditional, on what could have happened, but on what has happened. Although it is true that this will help me to reflect and see if it’s worth taking a little more risk at the beginning in a future race, or if I try to stay at this level of efficiency in general that I know it works for me. There’s always a difficult balance between risk and ambition, between conforming or aspiring to more.
Anyway, my greatest ambition in these challenges is to be able to feel happy, healthy and run in total freedom discovering magnificent and very special places on our planet. The sporting result is only a consequence and a “fun” that certainly motivates, but it is not by far the main goal. And my aspiration and personal commitment is to do it with a total respect for my body. I am aware that these efforts and the distances run are not the most advisable for health, and therefore my starting point is to do it in a completely natural way both in training or preparation, as in the race. If something hurts or I have a minimally significant injury, I give up. I don’t want my “mental strength” or my “ego” to allow me to finish a sporting challenge, but they create a major injury or harm my health. In this line I am glad that I have never taken any medication for pain or for performance improvement. Here it’s very frequent the use of “Pain Killers”, anti-inflammatory (Ibuprofen type) and other products that help recover or endure these over efforts; and I am a mega pure and radical in this.
The experience in the GOBI MARCH, organized by “Racing the Planet” has been magnificent. They have designed a spectacular track that has combined remote steppes, with zones of nomadic shepherds, desert areas with dunes, areas of historical and archaeological interest and, finally, the finish line inside the city wall of Karakorum, former capital of the Mongol Empire of Genguis Khan. We have slept hearing the howl of wolves, we have seen camels, nomadic shepherds on horseback, huge flocks of sheep, cows and horses grazing in semi freedom, and mountains and vast plains. 80 people (including doctors, organization and volunteers), to coordinate a career with 96 participants. A small but very inspiring community that allows a cosy atmosphere and exceptional coexistence with a human group from 44 different nations that share a moving camp in the middle of the most remote lands of Mongolia.
For me it has also been a very special occasion, because it is the first time that I associated my adventure with an action of charity for a cause, the protection of a centennial forest of high ecological value. Fighting for a small part of the terrestrial nature that hosts more biodiversity (see www.saveaforest.org) and promoting the need to be more connected to our natural environment, being more respectful and supportive of it. I take this opportunity to thank all those who have participated in this action, encouraging all the rest to do so, as the need to complete the objective of the campaign continues and we will continue to strive for it.
Thanks also to all my sports sponsors, and especially WAA Ultra who supports me in general and specifically in this challenge. Without them, I would not have the best material possible, nor could I defray the cost of participation in these events.
I have finished another multi-stages Ultra, but I like this modality so much, that I assure you it will not be the last one. The passion is there, the desire to work on it is there too, so I just have to catch the world ball and the calendar again, and start to get down to work towards a new challenge of this specialty of running adventures.