Sunday, December 11, 2011

Destination Races

By Anna Boom

Have you considered traveling to your next race? There are many, many, many lovely running races all over the world for you to try.

A few of us WOOTers have done exactly this. The first destination race was just a, hey let me run this by you idea, by Kathleen Lennard. And the first destination race she chose for us to do together? Sunrise to Sunset or S2S Trail Ultra/Marathon. In. Mongolia. Yes, a place I had never desired to travel to, popped up on my radar for the excitement of the unknown. I began to wonder, could I do it? Could I run 100Km (the ultra distance), could I get to Mongolia and did I want to run there?

The answer was a quadruple yes!

As a wife and mother of two little ones, who were 3 and 5 at the time, I knew I would be traveling there alone. There was no way this was going to be the summer Disney family vaca in California. I asked my hubby what he thought of me running in Mongolia with some of my friends. Hunh? Why Mongolia and then, No. He was nervous about me going there and then when he found out it was an ultra trail run, a quadruple NO. His image was of me running lost in unknown place, not able to ever find my way home. It makes sense in that I didn't know the language, anything yet about the culture, didn't know anyone that had traveled there before. And where exactly is Mongolia again?

After a few days of gentle persuasion and discussion, I was given the go-ahead. Yay! I think. I emailed my friends and found out, they too, were all in. Here is where I reference a quote to emphasize the value of friendship: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis

Our plans set quickly in motion with 7 of us women (Kathleen bringing her two teenage daughters) traveling to Mongolia to run a trail ultra or marathon. Two of us signed up for the 100Km Ultra distance and started running early Saturday and Sunday mornings. I mean early too; Andrea and I were out at 0415 some mornings and would be out all morning. We do this now too when training for our next marathon or ultra. We will wake up and meet before WOOT on Saturday morning, get some mileage, run with our lovely running friends and get all that happy energy, then finish with more mileage. Great way to get our long run in.

With our training done, we all traveled over and met in Ulan Bataar with the race coordinator. The great part of some of the more exotic destination races, is that everything is done for you, for the most part. Once we arrived, the S2S folks took care of us. They told us to be at the hotel lobby and shuttled us to the airport, where we flew over the beautiful, desolate lands of Mongolia. Not a tree in sight the entire way. Then we grabbed our bags and got into vans, the type that are set up for four-wheeling over paths that have been driven many years but are not paved or even maintained. Those inclined to motion sickness did not fare well, especially after the prop flight we just took. It was a grueling 4 hour ride to the camp, located in a National park, on the banks of Hovsgol Lake.

After arriving at camp, we were kindly greeted by the other race coordinators and assigned our sleeping tent, called a yurt. All racers and their crews stayed in this same camp together before, during and after the race. It was like summer camp for adults and was a blast. People came from all over the world to run this race and we all had that in common. We spent our time chatting, learning about the other amazing people there and relaxing. The camp also offered other activities such as ride Mongolian horses, go mountain bike riding, or hike and run the trails.

The race was gorgeous and we all did great, but the best part was spending time with my girlfriends again, much like the slumber parties I loved as a girl. Remember your first slumber party, when you thought the girlfriends around you would always be your best friends? We spent more than one night, giggling about boys we thought were cute (Jason Statham!) and enjoying time together.

Second best was seeing a whole new place, and learning about the Mongolian culture.

Mongolia Campsite
Since then, we have also traveled to New Zealand together and then to Portland, Oregon.

One of the bonuses of traveling overseas is you sometimes meet some great runners; we met Barefoot Ted in New Zealand (read the book Born To Run if you've never heard of him)

Happy to be reunited with our fellow WOOTER Amy Hester - in Portland
Where is our next journey? Any suggestions?

I have to agree with Anna; traveling and running in other countries with great girlfriends is a wonderful experience! Granted, it's not possible for everyone, especially those with children, but if you can make it happen, it's a fantastic way to reward yourself for all of the hard work you do as a runner, a mother, and a wife. (Jannine Myers)

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