Amazing Mongolian Marathon

Amazing Mongolia

By Anne Cumming

When Bob and I were planning our holiday in Mongolia for July 2015 we noticed in the Lonely Planet that there was a Sunrise to Sunset ultra 100 and 42 km trail marathon in early August. After being reassured by the race organiser that crazy older runners with not much experience (a few halves and one marathon between us) was a common profile for the 42 kms, we registered and embarked on a fantastic adventure! The advice offered was   “It will be to your advantage to do most of your training on trails and hills.”


Following a “Run with us online” program we got to the first goal of the Sydney May half and moved onto their marathon training program.  It was great to tick off the weekly goals and receive encouraging feedback and advice.  We gradually built up the kilometres, with coastal road runs to Watsons Bay, the glow worm tunnel half run in Newnes and on trails in Bobbin Head and the Blue Mountains. We “power” walked up many of the steep hills including Kedumba Rd in the Blue Mountains that we included in our 35 kms run six weeks before the marathon.


We had 3 weeks exploring Mongolia where we were able to fit in gorgeous long runs across the central steppes and in the hills of Western Mongolia. We then flew up north to Lake Hovsgol near the Russian border to spend 5 days with 60 runners from 17 countries (one other Australian from Melbourne).  


The run itself was more like a hike/run for us, over two passes with the accumulated elevation gain/loss (see the Elevation Chart) for the marathon distance of around 2,255 meters.  That took us over 7 hours!  It started at 4am with 2 hours running in the dark to be rewarded by a spectacular sunrise over the lake. We followed green dots on trees through fields of wildflowers, along streams and a mossy mountainside, with the occasional local horseman in traditional dress pointing out the right direction. Back at camp we then cheered the 100km runners in with a local Mongolian winning the 100km in just under 12 hours. See the website for wonderful photos and further details.


I’ll remember 2015 as the year I got hooked on trail running. I started out at a short course at Manly Dam, then the 22km Jabulani Challenge, Glow Worm Tunnel run, then on return from Mongolia, the South Highlands Challenge, the Coastal Classic, Botany bay and Mt Garbor. I am not very fast but just love the opportunity to get out in the bush amongst some amazing scenery – good for the soul!