British Duo win first Outer Mongolian Ice Marathon

Photo Courtesy of Johnny Graham (Digitalpict Photography, adventure & expedition photographer) - E-mail:

The inaugural Genghis Khan Ice Marathon has taken place in brutal conditions in Outer Mongolia, with British athletes placing first in both the men's and women's race. The race which took place on a frozen river system saw temperatures of -34 celcius in a country with the lowest density of human habitation on earth, in an area where wolves are more prevalent than people. First place went to seasoned endurance athlete Doctor Andrew Murray who added the Genghis Khan Ice Marathon title to wins in the North Pole Marathon, and the Antarctic Ice Marathon. Murray, 35 of Scotland won in a blistering time of 3hrs 7 minutes, with Douglas Wilson of Australia 2nd in 3 hrs 42 mins, and Paul Dunstan of England 3rd in 4 hrs 12 mins. The women's race was won by Lucja Leonard (Australia/ UK) in 4 hrs 19 minutes, with Lenka Istvanova of Slovakia, and Marina Ranger (England) sharing 2nd place.

The race was organised by seasoned expedition leader David Scott, of Sandbaggers. He said

"Mongolia in winter is one of the most beautiful places you can imagine, but also one of the most hostile. Perhaps it is unsurprising that few have attempted any serious endurance challenges there in winter, given the consequences of anything going wrong out there. The times the athletes ran were impressive, and only 2 competitors sustained frostbite, which was mild in degree. One competitor did go missing for a period of time, but he was found safe and well after a search and rescue operation. Judging by the reaction there seems a real appetite for this to be an annual event, for experienced competitors. The communities we stayed with in Mongolia were hugely welcoming, and we enjoyed sharing some Scottish culture with the Ulan Batar Burns supper, and playing some wild golf on what we labelled 'the cold course'.

Murray, 35 from Edinburgh, who works as a Sports and Exercise Doctor with University of Edinburgh and is a Merrell brand ambassador actually ran a further 103km back to the capital Ulan Batar on a route utilised by Genghis Khan centuries ago explained.

"It was perfect conditions. We were expecting minus 40, and there was virtually no wind which made it feel a bit colder than Antarctica, but a little warmer than the North Pole when I raced there. The ice river was frozen solid so there was no chance of us falling through and it is a place of unmatched beauty. I guess the main thing about racing in such extreme conditions is that all the competitors were very experienced, and the organisation by Sandbaggers was absolutely first class resulting in everyone retaining a full complement of fingers and toes. I've been working with the University of Edinburgh to raise awareness for the benefits of physical activity for health. This can be walking more, taking the stairs and certainly need not be ice marathons- every step is a step to health." Lucja Leonard, 37 now resident in Edinburgh added.

"That was brutal. A total unique race- it is the first time I have had to cover every inch of flesh to avoid frostbite, and being greeted by 40 huskies at the finish was pretty special. Outer Mongolia is beyond spectacular. It goes to show that the British winters are not so bad after all. The surroundings were pristine and untouched- running along the frozen river was sensational, although at first a little unnerving as I could hear the ice shifting under my footsteps and the echoes bouncing through the woods but this soon sounded like natures music and I lost myself in the magical landscape. The race is more than an event it's an entire adventure in a vast and rugged landscape which brings a special and unique feeling of solidarity and camaraderie with the entire team of runners and supporters alike that have developed into strong bonds to last a lifetime."

The expedition is raising money and awareness for Charities Riding for the Disabled Association and the Scottish Association for Mental Health, whilst legacy work in Mongolia will see the building of gers (homes) for needy families, and the provision of scholarships.

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