Behind him lay greater than 600 miles of Mongolian steppe, an enormous expanse of untamed grassland which stretches endlessly into close by China.
Not solely had the American simply navigated this unforgiving terrain using semi-wild horses, together with its excessive climate and raging winds, however he additionally did so sooner than anybody else.
“I might been pushing so laborious to get to the tip,” Lengthy instructed CNN Sport, from his residence in Idaho, US, the place he was recovering from his seven-and-a-half-day journey.
“I needed to cease for a minute and attempt to assume again by way of all the pleasure and worrying cases of the journey.”
‘I used to be actually prepared’
Having ridden horses all his life, Lengthy was impressed to tackle this problem after watching “All of the Wild Horses,” a movie based mostly on the grueling occasion.
He “hated the thought” that he would not be capable to full such a feat so set about making ready his thoughts and physique for the “hardest, hardest, most demanding factor you are able to do on a horse.”
“Preparation trumps youth,” Lengthy proudly acknowledged, as he tailored again to regular life.
“I used to be actually, actually prepared for this occasion after I lastly bought there and a number of the different riders had been a little bit bit much less ready.”
The annual 1,000-kilometer race (620 miles), formally acknowledged by the Guinness Ebook of Information in 2011 because the world’s lengthiest, takes its inspiration from the Mongol Empire’s pioneering postal service.
Genghis Khan, chief of the Mongols between 1162 and 1227, established and expanded the “Ortoo” — a messenger system that noticed riders journey on horseback between outposts, stopping to both relaxation, swap horses or go the message onto one other rider.
After touring from the capital Ulaanbaatar to the beginning camp on the steppe, the 40 riders — every of whom has paid about $13,000 to enter — are supplied with their very own semi-wild Mongolian horse on which to go out into the wilderness.
Twenty-five horse stations, or “urtuus” to make use of the Mongolian identify, now line the route with the riders altering mounts each 20 miles to stop the horses from burning out.
Regardless of years of expertise within the saddle, the mammoth nature and unpredictability of the duty compelled Lengthy to dig deep and rely solely on his personal volition.
Regardless of having an in depth assist system that will monitor racers from afar, the bodily pressure of using such lengthy distances naturally took its toll.
Leg soreness plagued the journey, to some extent the place squatting down to take a seat turned an insufferable expertise.
Nonetheless, it was the psychological check that proved probably the most tough to beat.
‘Pleaded with God’
As Lengthy solid forward, the chasing pack was as much as three hours away which meant he would generally go 25 miles with out seeing one other residing soul.
“I simply did not have anyone to work together with,” he mentioned, revealing he had hoped considered one of his fellow rivals would catch up.
“Which means I needed to make all the selections about navigation with out the power to have one other particular person’s enter.”
Spending days alone touring by way of the beautiful wilderness turned a religious journey for Lengthy. It allowed him to replicate on his life and supplied time to consider members of the family that he had not too long ago misplaced.
“I had some instances the place I would like some steerage and I truly pleaded with God to provide me path and to make me worthy of the problem,” reminisced the retired well being firm entrepreneur.
“I imagine in God and the next energy and it was actually comforting for me to make use of that as a crutch to maintain going.”
‘Gave me their beds’
Regardless of in depth preparation, there have been sure issues alongside the best way that had been out of Lengthy’s succesful management. One among which was the climate.
Situations on the steppe would swap immediately from torrential rain to sweating warmth however being totally immersed in nature additionally supplied some memorable moments.
From wading by way of massive river crossings to watching the native herdsmen, Lengthy fell in love with the nation and communities alongside the route.
With a strict eight p.m. curfew, when members must cease using for the day, Lengthy discovered himself knocking on doorways to discover a place to sleep at evening.
Regardless of an apparent language barrier, the random interactions with the native individuals turned out to be probably the most humbling experiences.
“All of them accepted me and a few of them gave me their beds and so they slept on the ground,” he mentioned.
One specific second, when staying with a younger mom and her two daughters, nonetheless stands out among the many relaxation.
“It has simply give up raining and the solar was setting,” he mentioned fondly.
“The 2 daughters had been sitting on the sting of this corral, the place they saved their calves, singing some sort of Mongolian lullaby. It was so neat to see.
“Within the morning, she [the mother] wore her ceremonial robe and milked the cow for me. I had contemporary cream milk on candy rice cereal. Man, it was so good.”
Adapting again to life
Nonetheless not bored of using, Lengthy has been again within the saddle since arriving residence and has not dominated out one other Mongol Derby.
“My private definition of success is whether or not you do it once more,” he added.
Normally happy to remain underneath the radar, he has been requested to provide a presentation to his previous workplace and has loved telling family and friends about his journey since returning to the US.
Nonetheless, he is greater than conscious that most individuals passing by will don’t know of his unimaginable feat, one thing which makes the resilient rider smile.
“I did this actually, actually laborious occasion and the remainder of the world remains to be occurring about its enterprise,” he laughed.
“I am simply conscious that there are individuals driving by proper now that do not even know what occurred.”