Consider this your semi-regular reminder that age is just a number: Bob Long, a 70-year-old man from Boise, Idaho, won the Mongol Derby, a 1000-kilometer horse race stretching across the rugged steppe of Mongolia. He beat 43 other riders to win the race, billed as “the longest and toughest horse race on earth,” in just eight days of riding, becoming the oldest rider ever to win it. At the finish, Long waved away the achievement with a wry smile.
“Well, my horse just won the Mongol Derby,” he said in a Facebook Live video. “It’s nothing, you just ride 650 miles on a death march. There’s nothing to it.”
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“I’m feeling great & I’m ready to play” • This morning’s words straight from the mouth of 70 year old Bob Long as he made the final gallop towards the finish line of the mighty @mongolderby . • Over the last 8 days, he along with 42 riders from 12 different countries took on the ultimate adventure challenge in the world. They raced a top 28 semi-wild Mongolian horses as they self navigated across 1,000km (600 miles) of everything free and feral Mongolia could throw at them. • Today Bob made history at 70 years old as the oldest person to not only cross the finish line of the @guinnessworldrecords ‘longest & toughest’ horse race but also, HE WON IT. • When asked how he feels about older generations being hesitant to take on challenges, he replied- “age is just a number.” • Tag your friends below to witness this legend and to see history in action watch our footage live from the finish line, now on our Facebook page @mongolderby • 📸 @sarahfarnsworthfieldsports • #mongolderby #mongolderby2019 #horsesofinstagram #horseaddict #builtforthewild @horselovers @practicalhorseman @thegearjunkie @outsidemagazine @theadventurists @riteintherain @yeti @ospreypacks
The race, held annually for the past decade, commemorates the horse messenger system set up in the Middle Ages under Genghis Khan. Riders must navigate the course themselves, and they ride on horses borrowed from local herders and stay with local families. The horses are one of the most unique parts of the race and the landscape itself. They’re semi-feral, and are well adapted to Mongolia’s harsh climate and varying terrain. The 2016 Mongol Derby winner Will Comiskey called them “absolutely fantastic horses.”
He adds: “The country just doesn’t even phase them. I absolutely love them.”
The riders change horses every 40 kilometers at dedicated horse stations. Other than that, the course is completely unmarked, and riders must find their own way through valleys, high mountain passes, river crossings, wetlands, dunes, and open steppe. The race is organized by a group called The Adventurists, which also puts on other adventure races around the world.
Long rode for about 100 hours and cycled through 28 different horses on his way to victory, according to The New York Times. An experienced horseman, he grew up riding in Wyoming. He told the Times that he was inspired to enter the Derby after watching All the Wild Horses, a documentary about the event.
“It took me about 15 minutes to decide that I could do that,” he said.
To prepare, he spent several months training with previous Mongol Derby winners—riding different horses for long stretches of time, and practicing quick changes and transitions. He credits that training with giving him an edge over his competition.
“Preparation trumps youth,” he told the Times.
As a prize, Long received a horse, although he isn’t sure how to transport it from Mongolia back to the states. In the meantime, he left the horse with local herdsmen and gave them money to take care of it.
Even if he couldn’t return home with his prize, Long left a strong impression with the Mongol Derby organizers.
“Bob absolutely nailed it,” race director Tom Morgan told Horse & Hound. “The man is tougher than a box of concrete.”